DISCLAIMER: I don't own startrek or anything trek related. I am not making any profit just having fun etc.
Many thanks to Bethany and Meagan for their beta work.

Different Directions
By Ohyjo

Part 5

Commander Rixstel motioned everyone to sit down. Since he was the only one acquainted with all the people currently present in his packed office he made the introductions. "Tor, Cirroco meet Anniek Hansen and Ko Vut."

Ko Vut was a dark skinned man whose most distinguishing feature was his slightly pointed ears. Other than that Ella took little notice of him as her attention was solely fixed on the blonde she hadn't seen in years and now was suddenly in front of her. She briefly wondered if Lady Way knew her daughter was on the same planet as she. Probably not.

Cirroco watched the silent interaction between her new partner and the stunning blonde sitting in the commander's office. Damn, she wished she'd at least had a little longer to get to know Tor. She had heard some good things through the grapevine but that went a long way from actually knowing her. Maybe then she could have had a better idea of what was going on between the two women. That they knew each other was obvious.

Rixstel continued. "I am well aware there is some history between you two." This to both Anniek and Ella who where staring at each other. "And you will have ample opportunity to get reacquainted, after this meeting. Just so we are all clear on this and can get on with the briefing, Ko is one of the rangers in the outlying sector, Delta Three a. Ms. Hansen," Rixstel hesitated for a second, not certain how to introduce her, "is not a ranger, however she has assisted him on several occasions during the past few years. One of those occasions is why you are here."

A look of annoyance crossed Rixstel's face, and was quickly controlled, as he continued. "Ms. Hansen claims that she has discovered the whereabouts of a major smugglers' outfit. The evidence she has shown me is convincing, and unfortunately disturbing enough in its nature to warrant the involvement of a special assembled team."

Briefly glancing at Anniek whose expression was now unreadable, Ella asked. "How so?"

She had dealt with smugglers and pirates before, and it was never pretty. Drugs, slaves, regretfully it was the way existence for countless of humans. The truth of the matter was that both she and Anniek had barely escaped it themselves.

Anniek took over the conversation after getting Rixstel's unspoken permission. "I believe, and I do have evidence to support this that several of the more prominent organisations have banded together. I assume the names Traning and Maccana are familiar to you all?"

`Fucking shartse!' Those names were known to every law enforcement officer worth his or her job. If those notorious people had gotten over their differences and pooled resources that was some serious shit indeed. Tor's thoughts were mirrored by every one of the rooms' occupants.

Hansen continued. "There is also a strong indication, but I will admit these are merely personal suspicions, that they enjoy protection from very high up in the empire."

For the first time Vut spoke up. "We have more then just suspicions to go on. However," with a slightly disapproving look, "Anniek refused to give us that information unless you were involved." Now he looked directly at Ella Tor.

Bethany was left wondering what this remark was about but it only took Ella a few moments to figure it out.

"The Aginsdy's." she breathed heavily.

Things had moved quickly from there on. Because of the extremely delicate nature of the situation it was decided to keep things very quiet. Only the five of them, and an as yet unnamed liaison, would know about this. They would go on an evidence-collecting mission to bring down Traning and Maccana's organisation, and if at all possible they would also expose the Aginsdys' ties with them once and for all. Rixstel could not help but hope Hansen's suspicions were wrong. If they were proven correct it would have an unprecedented impact on the empire. He had the nagging feeling though that not too long from now all hell would break loose in some parts of the galaxy.

Anniek slumped back in her seat, something she didn't often do. However she had put her vessel on autopilot and everything appeared quiet. It had seemed like the right thing to do, involving Ella in her schemes to get her parents back. She had orchestrated the Rangers interest in Ella's case. Calling in a favour here and a favour there, and with the help of Mereldos, she had gotten the Rangers to take a look at Ella's situation. That had really been all they had needed to do. Things had worked themselves out from there.

Now all the years of planning were coming to fruition. She was certain she had located the whereabouts of her parents a few months ago and had been smart enough to realise she could not rescue them on her own. She needed the help of her current companions who believed they were `only' going to after some extremely elusive bad guys. She had been able to ward off their questions so far but this evening she had promised to tell them everything she knew. Everything depended on her ability to convince them to help her. She had the sneaking suspicions that it wouldn't be easy. Ko Vut alone would need a lot of reasoning but if she used logical and to the point arguments she could probably persuade him. They had worked together in the past and she knew the older man trusted her completely.

She believed it wouldn't be too difficult to persuade Ella. A slight grin appeared on Anniek's face as she considered her friend. The woman would not believe her if told to her face but Ella had a sense of honour that would make her do the right thing no matter what. Especially if she showed her a few of the images she had collected.

Bethany Cirroco was the unknown factor, and Anniek just hoped she could convince the woman as well. She suspected she would need all her diplomatic skills this evening, it wasn't going to be easy at all.

As she sat there a wet nose suddenly thrust itself under her hand. She smiled as she looked down on her friend.

"Your head itching again or do you just want a petting?"

Feelings of contentment hit her as Yorik sent his approval of her head rub through the empathic link the two of them shared. These pleasant feelings however were combined with a deep sense of worry for her.

"Don't worry my friend. One way or another things will be over really soon."

Yorik was not happy with that reply at all and he made that amply clear as he sent his irritation through their link.

"I promise I won't do anything stupid but you know I have to do this."

She had no trouble understanding his feelings of disapproval. With an almost human sigh the canine gave her hand a quick lick and went away again, not understanding but accepting her need to be alone at that very moment. He probably went back to Ella, from the moment the brunette had set foot on her ship the canine had taken a liking to the woman and was rarely far away from her. She wondered why that was because Yorik was even more of a solitary creature than she herself. A trademark for all tendas who despite being canines were not at all gregarious.

Tendas were genetically engineered dogs designed to be perfect companions. With enhanced empathic abilities they had been designed to bond with a specific person. This had failed because the engineered animals even when bonded with only one person picked up the emotions of every living thing around them. Gentle creatures as they were all those conflicting emotions drove them crazy and the tenda hype was very short lived because of this.

Most humans believed tendas were just a legend. So had Anniek till she actually met one. She had taken a few days respite on a rather sparsely inhabited planet. Taking the opportunity to do light maintenance on her vessel she had been working outside when she heard some disquieting noises. Deciding to investigate the matter she had ended up saving Yorik's life while he was still a puppy. He was being attacked by two large predators and really hadn't stood a chance.

Whilst knowing she shouldn't interfere with the hard but fair laws of nature Anniek hadn't even thought twice. Stunning the predators with her stun rod she had saved the little creature and was very surprised when she found herself holding the heavily breathing puppy. He had been bleeding from several wounds and it had taken a lot of work from both her and the ship's artificial doctor to nurse him back to health.

She hadn't known what hit her when the empathic link between herself and Yorik established itself. Unfamiliar emotions of pain and distress rushed through her yet they didn't overwhelm her and she immediately knew they weren't coming from herself. However it had been disquieting to say the least and the doctor had to put the little pup into a deep sleep before the barrage ended. That it came from the pup was then the only conclusion they could make.

A quick study of the computer's database told them just what this little pup had to be; a tenda. The pups needs kept them ground bound far longer then the blonde originally intended. However by the time his wounds were healed he simply refused to leave. He had grown too close to her.

Luckily she lived a solitary life so there was no reason why he couldn't stay. Even though the doctor had some choice remarks about the inferior life form staying on board. To this day Anniek didn't know if the fact that Yorik, as she had named the little pup, chose the tiny sickbay as his toilet in the beginning was on purpose or simply coincidental. After a lot of early, mutual, annoyance the two had learned to tolerate each other.

It didn't take long to figure out just how intelligent her new crewmember was. It was difficult to put an `intelligence tag' on him but Yorik quickly learned some basic things. He could operate the light sensors on the Seven, without ever being thought. After a few tries and modifications to the operating board he had even learned to order his own food from the computer. Only one dish which required a repetitive command but still Yorik continued to surprise her in many ways.

She had worried that when she had offered her vessel, as the means of transport during their current mission that there would be problems for her furry friend. However so far there didn't seem to be any cause for alarm.

No the problems wouldn't arrive till that evening, which was approaching more rapidly than she cared for it to.

Back in the small sleeping cabin which Ella and Bethany shared the two occupants were once again speculating about the upcoming conversation.

"I tell you that woman is hiding something." Said Cirroco.

Rolling her eyes her roommate answered. "She hardly made a secret of that."

"No, not the evidence bit. I don't know why but I have the feeling she is operating on a personal agenda."

Taking a moment to mull over this statement Ella finally nodded her agreement. "I think she has been working on a personal agenda for years now. Even when she was helping me on the Carintia I had the feeling that everything she did was for one goal only. I just hope she will open up to us this evening."

Cirroco was just about to answer this when she saw that the dog had entered the room. Reaching down to pet it he once again ignored her and walked straight to her partner. Where he put his head on her leg and looked hopefully at Ella, who immediately replied by stroking his ears.

"Do you have meat hidden in one of your pockets or something?" muttered the ranger, quasi irritated.

Grinning at the other woman Ella was just about to reply when Yorik jumped on her bed and made himself comfortable. She took a moment to take a good look at him. "What type of breed do you think he is?" she half wondered, half asked.

"He looks like a German Shepherd, a rather old race if I remember it correctly." Cirroco answered. "Now to get back to the conversation we were having. I have been wondering about this for days. How did you two meet? You and Anniek, not you and the dog."

Startled, Tor replied. "You mean you don't know about that?"

"I heard a few things but I…"

"Why don't you join us on the bridge I will tell you the entire story from beginning to end and then you can make up your mind." Anniek interrupted them. She had decided to just bite the bullet and to get things over with.

`Finally some answers,' thought two female rangers at the same time.

"… So after I left Ella I went back home to collect my, this, ship. I boarded the first passenger ship that would leave for my home planet. I knew my mother would assume I needed some time on my own so I could just go home. I arranged a few things with Mereldos and I was set to go. I…"

Everyone was hanging on her lips, even Ella who for the first time got to hear the story from Anniek's point of view. At first she hadn't understood what exactly those events had to do with their current situation but Anniek had simply started to tell her life story. Right from the beginning when her parents had been killed, to the part where she had found out that maybe there was a very slight chance they weren't dead after all.

Anniek Hansen, or Anniek Way as she was called when she was sixteen, had been attending one of her grandparents' social functions. After three hours she was rather bored and was aimlessly wandering among the gathered guests. Suddenly she caught a flash of a conversation that made her heart skip a beat.

Three men and a woman were having an intense discussion and didn't realise they had someone eavesdropping in on their conversation.

"…Rimablion, I am telling you there is no way we can be certain every one of those researchers is dead. They didn't find a thing."

"Exactly," the tallest of the men agreed. "Not as much as a DNA trace, why go to trouble of removing every bit of human organic material if your only going to kill those people. Besides there were survivors."

At that point one of them noticed the sixteen-year-old staring at them after which the conversation quickly turned to a different subject. However those few remarks shaped the rest of Anniek's life.

Before two years had passed she had read all the material she could lay her hands about Rimablion. Even then she had a way of getting what she wanted. What she couldn't get via her mother and Mereldos she got through less legal ways. Computers had never posed any problems for her. More and more she became convinced of the fact that indeed her parents were very much alive. Wherever they were it probably wasn't a good place to be.

The first thing she had done after collecting the Seven was return to the place where her parents had been taken from her. She spent weeks compiling the information she had gathered over the years trying to find over looked clues. Finally she had to give up, there really was nothing left.

So she started to look for signs of the pirates who had purportedly murdered her parents. She had come up with some vague theories over the years to start looking at but one proved to be as useless as the next.

Two years passed and she worked doggedly on, venturing further and further into uninhabited space. Finally though, and it was through chance, her luck changed.

Today was one of those rare days she was beginning to lose her patience. Checking her gauges again she found she was nearly out of fuel. In two days she didn't have a choice but to return to the supply station. Why the hell couldn't she find anything?

She had better return now. If she was starting to get irritated she needed a bit of human company. All of a sudden her radar started beeping, quickly she ran a programme to identify, if possible, the vessel that was approaching. It didn't surprise her when the computer came up with little more then the basic design schematics; a small planetary hopper normally only used for short interplanetary flights. In her opinion it was completely unsuited for deep space travel and yet here it was.

Running every sensor available to her she couldn't find any traces of other vessels. In her current mood this was almost a disappointment, nevertheless she decided on caution. In all likelihood this was one of those lone explorer ships. People who set out to find their fortune in the unexplored regions of space. She had run across such explorers before, even talked with them in the hopes of finding out more, but never this far out.

With her hands placed near the weapons system she decided to continue on her current course and wait to see what would happen.

Approximately half an hour later a cheerful voice came loudly over the com system.

"Hey there unknown vessel, what are you doing in these parts of nowhere?"

Blinking in surprise Anniek turned the volume down a bit before she answered. "This is the Seven, please identify yourself?" Preparing for the unexpected she held her fingers near the weapons system.

"The name is Lee Nix. Just call me Nix, everyone does, and you have no idea how mighty good it is to come across you in this part of space. It is a very fortunate coincidence for me because I am afraid I need some help. I hope you can help me… er… what is your name?"

Anniek blinked twice at the barrage of words that came over the com, and was momentarily indecisive but after some thought said: "You can call me Seven."

"All right Seven it is. Like I said I am mighty pleased to meet you… ehm I don't suppose you carry a spare micro-charger you'd ehm… be willing to trade. I'd just spotted the perfect mineral deposit when mine broke." Suddenly he sounded somewhat suspicious; "You're not a miner yourself are you?"

"No… I…" Anniek tried to say a bit more but Nix took charge of the conversation again. If this guy was connected to the pirates in any way he was sure using unorthodox methods. Since her state of the art equipment still didn't detect anything else she became inclined to give this garrulous guy the benefit of the doubt.

A micro-charger was often used for mineral delving. It both located and extracted the raw minerals. Well equipped as Anniek was for every contingency she indeed carried one. She wondered what this man with his rundown ship would want to trade her for it.

Honesty compelled her to admit that meeting him was a welcome change from the boredom that sometimes got to her.

Lee Nix was still talking when she realised she had missed some of what he had said but the next bit caught her attention. "… I've been travelling through this sector for years and I had finally found a very, very promising site, and then my charger breaks down. Can you believe that! It would take me weeks, maybe months to travel to the nearest space station and find another."

Maybe this man could give her more information about this sector. You never knew, and a charger would be a very small price to pay for some useful piece of knowledge. She decided to take a chance.

Lee finally stopped his non-stop chatter when he asked her. "Do you have a micro-charger?"

"Yes." Expecting another onslought of words she didn't say more.

Silence followed before a now hesitant voice sounded. "Are you willing to trade?"

"I might, why don't you join me onboard my vessel, and we will see what we can work out."

"I'll be there." Came the cheerful reply.

Anniek guided the Seven's retractable tunnel towards Nix's ship. Deftly she attached it to his exit hatch so he could easily make his way to her ship. Upon his entering she scanned him but couldn't find any concealed weapons however that could simply mean he was a clever person.

Still the contents of the backpack he was carrying baffled her. What the hell was he planning to do with those, trade them?

The Seven was not the biggest ship in existence but it could house six people very comfortably. Nix was eyeballing all the details of his surroundings and seemed very impressed. In the kitchen unit she had already put the charger on the table where she motioned him to sit down. Carefully he put his backpack down and took one of the seats.

He was a small man, with a big bush of curly yellow hair that seemed to match his unusual eye colour. Anniek couldn't remember ever running into such a character; he hadn't stopped talking since arriving on board.

When he saw the micro-charger his eyes lit up immediately al though he tried to hide it. His host was more successful in concealing her smirk. Instead, she assumed a business like appearance.

"So what did you think to offer for trade," she inquired seriously.

"Right, right of course. I was going to offer you ten percent of the profit I will make on the mineral mining. That should more then pay for the charger. I've got some standard contracts right here…"

He started to reach for his palm pilot when Anniek stopped him. "I only have your word for it that there really is a mineral deposit. What guarantees can you give me?"

"Well I have the survey results right here if you want to take a look at them," he ventured.

"Those can easily be forged," she countered immediately.

He slumped back in his seat, he really didn't think he had anything else he could offer. The ten percent had been a very generous deal in his eyes.

Anniek didn't leave him sop in his misery for long, that wasn't like her. She had never sat down which meant Nix had been looking up at her the entire time. So now she put her hands down on the table and leaned on them. Thus effectively towering over Lee.

"Mr. Nix, I require information about this space sector. You claim you have been spending years in these regions. Give me as much information as you can and let me pick your brain for a while, and it won't matter if the information you can give me is useful or not. The charger will be yours."

Enthusiastically he jumped to his feet, grabbed her hand and started shaking it. "It's a deal, my brain is your brain."

So she downloaded the information he ordered his onboard computer to send. At the same time, she started asking him all sort of questions. In the process, she also learned why he had brought the entire foodstuff a long. In his culture it was customary to seal a bargain with a well-cooked diner. Meaning that he was going to cook. Unfortunately the only product he had a large quantity off where swedes, coincidentally his favourites.

Anniek Hansen had never liked eating swedes but she didn't have the hart to tell him that. Lee obviously put a lot into his cooking. It became irrelevant anyhow when he told her that…

At that point in Anniek's story Ko Vut interrupted her. He suggested that they should get something to eat before she continued. The Seven's captain had been talking for two hours straight and her voice was starting to catch.

To Be Continued

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