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.
5 YEARS LATER
Satisfied with her work Ella took a moment to look over her domain. Let the power that be come and visit if they wished, they would find nothing out of place in here. Recovering from wounds she had received in the line of duty, Ella had spent the last few months working as a mechanic at H.Q. and in that time had belted the place into something resembling `shipshape'.
She suddenly realised she'd better change into a clean set of coveralls. If there was one thing those hotshots hated it was the sight of dirt. One speck on there fancy clothes and no telling what the consequences would be. Unfortunately they were the people who decided what funds were allocated to them, and to where.
After changing Ella heard the noise approaching people. Probably the base commander with whomever the sector governor saw fit to sent this time.
`Right El, time to get diplomatic.' Of all the days for the chief mechanic to fall ill and his assistant to take a few days leave. That still didn't account for why she of all people had to be today's tour guide. There were at least fifteen other employees working at the moment. Still, after three months there she'd gotten a good understanding of how the place worked, and it really shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes, and then she could go home.
As always this prospect brightened her day. Jenna would be waiting for her. Jenna Erics, a second cousin of Donja's who was one of the most special people Ella had ever met.
With Donja off on the Carintia again, when she had been serving her sentence, she had been surprised to find an Erics' registered on the visitor's list for her one day. Donja had basically blackmailed Jenna into visiting the inmate and making sure she did everything possible she could for her best friend.
Neither woman had ever told Ella just what power Donja had exerted over her cousin but the end seemed to have justified the means for all parties concerned. After a rocky start the Ella and Jen had gotten friends and by the time her sentence was nearly over they were well on their way to becoming lovers.
The lively, spontaneous Jenna had taken the quiet, brooding Ella under her wing and Ella had learned just how good life could get. They became lovers but after nearly three years they discovered, to their mutual disappointment, that their relationship had slowly changed into a very special friendship.
Because of the dangerous nature of her work Ella had moved out of their shared home after a few lengthy conversations. They still stayed in very close contact, and the engineer missed not living with the older woman anymore. When Ella had been injured Jenna hadn't thought two seconds about it before moving herself into El's one room apartment, to look after her.
Despite not being lovers anymore both women had missed living together very much and happily enjoyed each other's company again. Jenna just had this way about her that made everyone around her happy, and Ella had grown quite addicted to feeling that way. Weird that she had to go to prison in order to learn how to live.
Before she could go home and relax in the company of her best friend she had a job to finish. The reason why she had to be the one to show this particular group around became clear when she saw the red head who undoubtedly headed the party of three people.
Commander Rixstel, accompanying the group, introduced her, aware that at least Lady Way was already familiar with his subordinate. She had been pretty insistent about wanting to see her.
"Lady Way, Mr. Harry, Mr. Okada, meat ranger Tor. She will be happy to show you the workplace."
An eerie feeling of deja-vu fell over Ella. Having to guide the noble lady through engineering had coincided with Atay's death. An event that still hurt every time she thought about it. She was not a superstitious person but she could not help but feel the woman's presence here meant trouble for her. Keeping these thoughts well to herself she nodded cordially to her guests
"Right, welcome to the shop as we call this place. This is were we maintain and fix our ships."
Fifteen minutes proved to be an optimistic estimate about the duration of the little tour. Ella was impressed by the questions the group asked, for once people had done their homework. It was mainly Kim Harry who asked most of the questions. It wasn't difficult for Ella to recognise a likeminded person in the young man.
Both Okada and Lady Jane listened with interest to what Ella's answers but after a while Way interrupted. "It's getting late people, and we still have to discuss several matters with Commander Rixstel. Ranger Tor, thank you for showing us the shop."
With regret on his face Harry said his good-byes and walked after Okada and Rixstel towards the exit. Ella was not surprised when Jane Way lingered behind, despite her statement of having to discuss things with her superior.
"Ranger Tor," a warm smile appeared on the noble's face, "Ella, a lot has happened since we last met."
`Understatement of the year.' Ella thought, vaguely amused, while verbally agreeing with the red head.
"I really have to get going but I was hoping you could join me for dinner this evening. I've haven't had the opportunity to thank you in person for what you did."
At this Ella looked surprised. "Ma'am you did plenty for me."
After three months in jail she had received a personal letter from the woman which had made her jaw drop. The woman had first thanked her for saving Anniek's life. Further she had apologised for not being able to do so in person, her duties prevented this. Then Lady Way had told her not to worry about her future, she would be taken care of.
This had come at a time when Ella still felt very bad about taking a life, so she couldn't bring herself to respond. Also she'd thought that by the time she got out the woman would probably have forgotten all about her.
Ella had barely served half of her sentence when her life was to take a different direction yet again. She was led to one of the visiting rooms; rarely a visiting day went by that she didn't have at least one person coming by, mainly Jenna. This time however it wasn't a visitation day, and she was very curious who would be waiting for her.
A man, dressed in a uniform of some sort albeit one she did not recognise, was waiting for her. He stood up and introduced himself as Ranger Mike Martinez.
Ella shook his out-strechted hand warily, having no idea what this guy wanted of her she was a bit suspicious of him. The uniform aside he looked rather nondescript. Average height, black skinned, dark brown eyes and clean shaven. What set this guy apart was the quiet confidence that simply radiated from his entire being. She didn't like admitting it to herself, but this last bit unsettled her a little.
He quietly invited her to sit down at one of the two chairs standing on opposite sides of the table that occupied the room. Sitting himself across from her he cut right to the chase.
"I am sure you are wondering what I am doing here."
The man must have read her mind. "I guess you could say that."
If the ranger recognised the sarcasm in her voice he didn't show it. But then everything was difficult to read on his face.
"Do you know who the rangers are?"
A piece of long forgotten knowledge managed to wriggle its way to the forefront of her mind. "Some sort of military organisation."
Martinez shook his head. "That is what many people think and even though we often cooperate with Space Force, we are an independent law enforcement organisation. As a matter of fact our mandate allows us authority over any local planetary agencies wherever we go. This makes us one of only three organisations in the empire with this amount of clearance. Unlike the Hardomian imperial guard who concern themselves solely with the protection of the highest of the noble families and ILA, Imperial Lawenforcement Agency, who concentrate their efforts on the planets that are part of the empire, the rangers focus on the border sectors. A large part of our job is tracking smugglers and other so-called `bad' guys. Is this all clear to you?"
Ella frowned. `What did this guy want? Information or something?' At the beginning of her sentence a couple of Space Force investigators had questioned her a few times. One of them had even believed she had ties to the pirates aside from having known Olan. Of course he had nothing to base his suspicions on, so pretty quickly those visits had stopped. Assuming this `ranger' was here for some similar reason she decided to just cut him short.
"Clear enough, look I really don't know what information you people think I can give you. I've told everything I know a hundred times over already." She didn't quite manage to keep al the irritation she felt out of her tone.
Martinez allowed himself a small smile, and though it was barely visible it was enough to increase Ella's irritation by a large degree. She struggled to hide it though. She wasn't going to give Martinez or anyone like him the satisfaction of knowing how they were getting on her nerves.
Martinez saw right through her and was pleased to see the fire in the woman's eyes. The reports of her recent behaviour had stated that she had withdrawn more and more into herself, refusing any help. Her irritation with him was a good sign that maybe, with his help, she would soon be her old self again, whoever that might be. His musings were interrupted as Ella spoke again.
"Instead of staring at me could you please answer my question."
Time to drop the bomb. "We are always looking for new personnel and you were brought to our attention." Oh, yes that got a reaction all right, Martinez wished he had a recording device with him as he saw all the different emotions run over her face at his little announcement.
"What?" followed a few moments later by an incredulous, "How, by whom?" She didn't know what to think of this.
"I don't know how or why our recruiters got interested in you." he shrugged his shoulders, "There is usually a good reason. What I can tell you is that an extensive background check was done on you before I was sent here."
The engineer looked sceptically at him; she had trouble taking everything in, reeling from one surprise to the next. "Well if you did an extensive background check on me, I am sure you know you are wasting your time."
"On the contrary, you are a very suitable candidate. You grew up on one of the poorest planets of the empire yet managed to get away from it on your own merit. You have shown you can take orders as well as work independently. You managed to make up for a lack of schooling in less than three years while working under Captain Atay. Even with the advantages of high tech learning this is impressive. Thanks to your early, um lets call it street training, as well as your training under Donja Erics you are a formidable fighter. Your killing of Oginsdy was unfortunate but your subsequent reactions showed you are not a `trigger happy' person. Now I am not saying you don't need a lot of additional training but that is natural for any newbie. All in all I would say makes you a good recruit."
Hearing her life neatly summed up by the man sitting across from her boosted Ella's irritation up to anger. `What right did these people have to butt into her life anyhow?'
Martinez continued. "Our profilers make a pretty thorough assessment of every one who potentially could join us. Usually voluntary but once in a while mandatory recruitment."
"No, fucking way!" the dark haired woman hissed as she jumped to her feet.
Surely this idiot didn't think she was going to join his little organisation. The thought alone went against her grain. She'd grown up learning to only keep her own council and to keep her nose out of other people's business. Add to this the fact that a large proportion of the lawmen on Kertra were corrupt and it was no surprise that she should be suspicious of Martinez well. Four years away from Kertra and she had discovered that not every planet was like her place of birth but old habits die hard, and her instincts screamed at her to avoid the rangers all together.
"Don't you want a chance to get back at the people who killed your Captain?"
The engineer scowled at him. "Getting revenge on them is what put me here, or did your background check fail to notice that?"
Martinez remained calm and answered. "I'm not talking about randomly killing off pirates. I am talking about bringing them to justice, letting the courts decide their fates after you've brought them in. Take my word for it, there is nothing that brings as much satisfaction as wheeling in the baddies."
The woman across from him looked far from convinced, unfortunately for her she didn't have a choice.
"It doesn't happen often that we force someone to join as usually we simply don't have that right. However all the rules change when a potential recruit is in the custody of the state. On planets like Dillbachs we have an excellent working relationship with the representatives of the justice system. We've talked with judge Allemein, who is basically in charge of your life until your prison term has been fulfilled, and he agrees that this is a very good opportunity for you. Any protest will have to be taken up with him but for the remaining time of your sentence you are ours. If by its end you still don't want to join us you will be free to go. Now I suggest you pack your belongings as we will be leaving in one hour, right after I've processed your papers."
At this he left the room leaving a dumbstruck Ella behind.
Because the training facilities were also at Dillbachs and she now had more freedom of movement she continued to see Jenna whenever she could. Naturally in the end she did join the rangers, realising that this offered her the challenge she had been looking for all her life.
Another surprise followed for Ella Tor when she realised Lady Way hadn't forgotten about her at all. On her graduation day at the academy an official looking person had been waiting for her. He didn't say much beyond stating his name and saying he worked for Way Industries. He turned right around after handing her some data pads. The letter that accompanied the data was short and written by Lady Way.
Dear Ranger Tor,
I regret that you will not be joining us at Way Industries. I wish you good luck in the career you've chosen. I still feel like I owe you more then I can ever say. Please accept this little token of my appreciation.
Lady Jane Way.
Ella now owned a huge house in a lovely part of Dillbachs capital Ronex, as well as a large amount of money. As uncomfortable as she was in the beginning with this grandiose gift she couldn't give it back. She was mysteriously thwarted in every attempt and finally she and Jenna had just moved into it together.
Now, years later, she was standing in front of her beneficiary and the woman still wanted to thank Her? At her reply the red headed woman moved her hands indicating it had been nothing.
"Nonsense, I will never be able to repay you for what you have done. I don't want to hear another thing about it, do you understand me." Jane said unexpectedly vehemently.
"Okaay," Ella drew out the word thinking about a suitable reply. An idea crossed her mind, "Look, I already have plans to join a friend of mine for diner. Why don't you join us at my home after your business has been taken care of? I do believe you have the address."
The noble woman readily agreed.
Jenna did not grumble at receiving another guest and just set an extra plate. Dinner was unexpectedly pleasant for all people and the evening went by quickly. Yet Jenna sensed correctly the noble woman, the first `Lady' woman she had ever met, wanted to speak to her ex privately. At some point early in the evening she feigned exhaustion and went to bed.
"A lovely woman," Way said as Jenna closed the door behind her.
Ella couldn't help but smile at the comment. "Yes, she is. Now what did you want to talk about."
Anniek. Now why was she surprised that she wasn't surprised?'
"What about her?" Ella wondered if the woman sitting in front of her knew she had been in contact with the blonde woman over the past five years. Only sporadically via letters but she knew that was more then Lady Way had.
"I know you are the last person to have seen her, before she took off to god knows were."
Blinking her eyes she looked her noble guest in the eyes realising what Jane Way was referring to. At the end of her trial she had been placed in a room to await her transport to jail. Anniek had somehow managed to get permission to visit her for a few minutes.
To Lady Way she simply said. "That is correct, she visited me immediately after the trial. I take it you want to know more about it?"
Ella let her thoughts roam back to the last time she'd actually seen Anniek Hansen.
The blonde woman had been mad as hell but, exhausted as she was, Ella simply hadn't had the strength to react to it. Seeing the slumped down figure of the once energised engineer had a very calming effect on Anniek. Sitting down next to the woman she didn't know what to say, but somehow the words came.
"My first reaction was to bust you out of here. I can do it you know." Anniek had said softly.
Despite her exhaustion this had made Ella chuckle. "I don't doubt it, glad you didn't though." More seriously she continued, "I don't want either of us to end up as fugitives after this mess. `Sides I only have to sit out eighteen months."
"It's not fair," the anger finally left the blonde as the futility of it hit her.
"Maybe not." Her dark haired companion agreed. "Life rarely is."
After this they sat in silence for several moments until Anniek stood up and took Ella's hand. A piece of old fashioned paper she had been holding in her hand the entire time was now in Ella's possession.
"I am going now, if you ever need anything at all that will tell you how to contact me." At Ella's nod of understanding she turned to leave, finding it unexpectedly difficult. Somehow she felt she ought to say more; she didn't want to say goodbye.
"Can I write you?"
This earned Ella a small smile from Anniek but as to why neither woman completely understood.
Anniek had realised if she wanted to avoid her mother she had to leave immediately. However after finding a real friend for the first time in a very long while it was very hard to depart. She managed to get a step closer to the door but was again halted. This time by Ella, who was now staring intently at her, worry slowly clouding her dark brown eyes.
"I know you said you're not going to bust me out of here but please promise me you're not going to anything which could be considered just as stupid."
Anniek jerked her head in surprise, then nodded. "I promise to be as careful as I can." Another step closer to the door.
"Please promise me you won't tell my mother how to contact me. She has to stay out of this."
The dark haired engineer hesitated at this but all that it took for her to change her mind was a whispered. "Please."
Suddenly Anniek was besides Ella again, and the two of them hugged, both sensing the other needed it. Finally they stepped back from each other and then the tall blonde haired woman left.
"You aren't going to tell me how I can get in contact with her are you?" Lady Way stated rather then asked.
"No ma'am." Ella agreed.
"Tell me, is she all right?"
"As far as I know, yes ma'am I think she is, but I haven't heard from her in long time." As much as she liked and respected this noble woman she wasn't about to break her promise. "I can try to contact her if you like, I just ain't certain how long it will take for her to get back to me."
Sighing, Way nodded. "It wasn't what I was hoping for but please let me know as soon as you hear anything from her." Standing up she said. "I've got to go. Give my regards to that lovely friend of yours."
"I will, thanks."
"Ranger Tor, it really was good to see you again." Way's smile was genuine. "Perhaps we can do it again before I return home."
Two days later Ella was finally declared fit for active duty again. After her last mission that had wounded her so severely her old partner had decided to retire. Having lost two other partners he was unwilling to see yet a third die. This meant Ella was going to be assigned a new partner.
Knocking on the door of the personnel manager's office she wondered what her new partner would be like. Working with Hancare had been good but she was no longer a rookie, so she hoped that she wouldn't have to prove herself to whoever she would be working with.
Upon her entrance to the office the haggard looking personnel manager, a retired ranger, motioned her to sit down without looking up from whatever he was doing.
"Sit down, sit down, your new partner will be here any minute now."
So she sat down and waited, and waited a few minutes more. Finally, as she was growing a little restless, the door opened and a young woman stepped inside, without bothering to ask for permission.
Disturbed, the clerk looked up disapprovingly but Tor felt a grin coming up as the woman walked directly towards her, stopped, studied her for a moment before a mischievous grin appeared on her face, and she held out her hand. "Tor this is your lucky day, I am your new partner. Name's Cirroco. Bethany Cirroco."
Answering the infectious grin with one of her own, she shook the proffered hand firmly, introducing herself in return.
"Come on, Commander Rixstel himself is waiting for us with our next assignment. We are expected there in five minutes."
At this she gently but firmly pushed Ella out of the tiny office, ignoring the startled exclamation from the clerk. "Hey, you two need to sign." the rest of what he said was lost as the door closed behind them.
"By the way," Cirroco said, "There is one thing you have to remember about being my partner. If you do that I think we can work together without a hitch." She said, a little ominously.
Ella tried to sound neutral as she asked. "Oh yeah and what would that be?"
"Never ever call me Beth, I hate that."
Ella grinned. "I think I can manage that."
"Good," came the satisfied reply.
Ten minutes later the new partners were admitted into the Commander's office and Ella's jaw nearly hit the floor as she saw who was sitting in one of the chairs. Anniek Hansen had returned into her life, and it was about to take a different direction once again.