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Pretty Maids All In A Row, Part One

Posted on Sun Sep 8th, 2019 @ 4:59pm by Captain Jane Saulitis & Lieutenant Lilith Sullivan & Cassandra Leblanc-Reed

Mission: For Whom The Bell Tolls
Location: Arcana Lounge
Timeline: MD07, shortly before 1800 hours

Cassie arrived at the lounge a few minutes before her dinner date, waved at the people she was acquainted with. When she didn't spot Alta, she chose a table near the far corner of the lounge, ordered some water for both of them, and settled down to read up on High Matriarch Ho'sidia. She had a meeting with her in only a few days, and the more Cassie knew of her, the better prepared she would be. Learning more about the High Matriarch beyond her first impression of her would enable the young diplomat to determine how she would need to act around her.

She had already decided she'd wear all black for the meeting, in contrast with the matriarch's white plumage. Picking out the appropriate outfit, however, would present a challenge. Black being a dominant colour in her wardrobe, Cassie would need to be dressed somewhere between business smart and formal. She was meeting what was considered royalty, after all. She was confident she'd find something suitable.

She highlighted certain passages on her PADD related to various accounts of the matriarch's intimidating, piercing gaze, her authoritative tone and presence. She had dealt with such before, and that first impression a few days before was not much to go by, but Cassandra had the feeling that she'd have to muster a lot of energy just to be able to assert her own authority as mediator.

Alta slipped into the lounge and looked around. He really wasn't that hungry thanks to a late lunch Lily had made him but he'd come for the conversation not the food. "Hey," he said hurrying forward. "Sorry I'm late. I hope this is okay with you, but I sort of invited someone to our dinner." He looked back at the doors and waved to Lily then turned back to see Cassie's expression.

"No worries. Someone I know?" Cassie asked as Lily came in, then looked over Alta's shoulder. Here she was with newly braided hair, looking like royalty even as she wore casual clothes. She even looked more rested than when Cassie had seen her last, and her skin almost glowed.

Cassie rested an elbow on the table, propped her chin in the palm of her hand, and smirked. Nothing needed to be said, not at this precise moment: her eyes said just as much, if not more, than any words that could be uttered. Damn, that woman was hot.

"Oh hey there stranger, fancy meeting you here," Lilith smiled at the table's sole occupant. "I got myself a new hair guy, and he does great work. Uh, Cassie? Cassie?" she playfully snapped at the air between them, trying to break Cassie's gaze. "I guess he's so great that you've been rendered speechless by the very sight of it."

"Hmm?" she uttered, suddenly taken out of her reverie. "No, not exactly speechless. Just admiring. Turn? I wanna see the back of it," she requested, pointing a finger downwards and twirling it.

Lily obliged the request, slowly twirling in front of the table without much regard to what the other guests in the lounge were doing. The half-pirouette caught the attention of a few onlookers, but most of them just glanced for a moment and went about their business. With her back to the table, Sullivan looked over her left shoulder and winked. "So, what do you think?"

"Love it," Cassie said, still kind of in her dreamlike state, admiring the braids coming into a neat bun at the base of Lily's head, exposing her neck. "It suits you." Cassie momentarily blushed, realizing how embarrassing the situation might be. "Sit! Sit!" she exclaimed, gesturing to the empty chairs around the table. "Have you eaten?"

"Sort of, it was my fault. I let her sleep in my quarters and she took pity on me and offered a meal. But I could eat a little again." Alta sat as she requested. In a moment of spontaneity, Sullivan completed another half revolution before taking her seat.

It was at the moment that the waiter came over to take the order. "I'll have your biggest plate of nachos, with lots of salsa piquante and extra cheese," Cassie told the waiter, who nodded in acknowledgement. She turned back to her friends when the waiter. "I'm famished, I haven't eaten since yesterday's lunch."

"Oh man, nachos sound so good right now. Wanna share?" Lily asked. "Please? Pretty please?" she batted her eyelashes.

"But...but..." Cassie hesitated, then sighed in resignation. "Fine. One nacho, with a bit a of salsa, and a bit of cheese. That's it."

Alta smirked, these two were really cute together and would totally make a great couple. He sincerely hoped what they were feeling was not the result of any implants.

"One of these days, you'll have to let me cook for you sometime. I think my culinary ability is passable as food, as long as you use a liberal definition, " Lily shrugged, playing things coy for the moment. "I tried to talk my way into using Patrick's kitchen from time to time, but that man is protective of his space. Oh I know! We should open a shop. Alta does hair. Lily does food. Cassie's our client."

"She is a very good cook," Alta nodded. "I never considered braiding women's hair for a career. Could be my second wind," He joked. "I can practice on Mariame. That woman also has lovely long hair."

"Backstory time! You should fill Cassie in on the details," Lily grinned before accepting a glass of water from the returning waiter. "Cause if you don't, she's gonna hear my version of the story with embellished details."

"What details? No juicy details here, I don't remember any of it." He chuckled. "We woke up, I almost died of embarrassment, she was gracious and invited me out for breakfast after I may or may not have accidentally kicked her off the bed. No juicy details, as I said."

"Yeah, no juicy details at all Cassie," Lilith whistled a little tune to maintain some semblance of innocence. She slid her chair closer to Alta and put her arm around his shoulders. "Nothing scandalous at all here in the story of Alta Saulitis and Mariame Hale. Nope, nothing at all."

"You think you're so cute," Alta chuckled. "What about you two love birds?"

"I heard the most scandalous things this morning while I was arranging for an escort for my meeting with High Matriarch Ho'sidia. Apparently, we," Cassie said, leaning on the table and pointing back and forth between Lilith and herself, "stayed at Wilfred's last night. Goodness knows what we did in there..."

"Held hands and discussed plans for galaxy domination, duh," Sullivan giggled. "Seriously, he's such a cutie, it's kind of a shame he doesn't have a little more confidence. Imagine if he actually got you or me or both to his quarters!"

"I know! Poor thing, he wouldn't even know what to do with us!" Cassie shook her head. "He is so shy, it'd be cute if it weren't so painful to look at. Anyway, we only took him home after he got that nasty bump on his head, told him to get some rest, said good night, and went on our merry way."

"You two picked on some poor defenseless man and then went back to Cassie's quarters huh? And people are gossiping about me and Mariame . . . "

Cassie grinned when she noticed the waiter returning with a huge platter full of nachos slathered in salsa and multi-colored cheese, thanked him profusely, and promptly took a nacho and biting into it. "Well, that much is true. We did meander back to my place. I mean, it's on the same deck."

"Uhuh, and what happened after that?" He leaned on the table grinning.

"We had tea," Cassie deadpanned, feigning shock. "God forbid we should do anything inappropriate!"

"Yup, we had tea and cried - that's all," Lilith shrugged, though the smirk on her face belied her words. She scooched her chair over beside Cassie and grabbed a fully loaded chip from the platter. This nacho was taken straight off of a magazine cover, perfectly covered with cheese and toppings. She started to feed it to Cassie before diverting at the last moment and eating it herself. Lily snickered, clearly pleased with herself, before laying her head on Cassie's shoulder.

"What?" Lily asked, flashing an innocent smile.

"The love is purely sickening. I'm going to go find Mariame." Alta moved to push back his chair. "I think we should postpone this dinner until we've figured out our feelings. Try not to miss me too much," He smiled down at them. "Don't let it go to your head, but you two really are a cute couple."

"Wait, don't go," Lilith protested, sitting back upright. "I feel bad - this was supposed to be a dinner date for the two of you, and I came along and ruined it. Alta, please stay."

"You didn't ruin anything," Alta assured her. "I invited you, I just thought the two of you might like to be alone. But I will stay," he sat back down.

Lilith took another drink of water, placing the glass back down on the table before retrieving her PADD from her jacket pocket. "Ah, would you look at that," she mused. "Staff meeting tomorrow morning to go over some things before the negotiations. Looks like we'll be busy in the morning Cass."

"Indeed. I'm still doing research on the representatives I'm meeting when we get there. I've been so caught up with that, I forgot to arrange for a security escort," Cassie said, smacking her lips in frustration. "I should've done that as soon as I made the appointments. At what time's the meeting?"

"Oh nine hundred."

"Thanks," she replied, typing in a request in her PADD for a meeting with Lieutenant-Commander Sommers the next morning, then set it aside and grabbed another nacho. "From what I can tell, High Matriarch Ho'sidia of the Felev is quite the character. So's the Bordere chancellor," she said after she swallowed her bite. "They'll probably keep me on my toes, and I might learn a thing or two from them."

"Know anything about the Claddin Empire, Alta?" Lilith was looking towards him, but her right hand was sneaking along the tabletop in search of another nacho. A quick slap of the hand forced her to retreat, but it didn't interrupt her question. "Diplomacy is your forte, I'd like to hear your take on it if you've even had a chance to read the dossier," Sullivan smiled towards the elder diplomat seated at the table.

"Oh I don't want to give Cassie here any ideas. She might try to take over the empire or something. Honestly, no, I'm not very familiar with them. Their admittance into the Federation was after my time."

"Moi? Conquer the mighty Claddin Empire? I would never dare! On the other hand, Empress Cassandra Leblanc does sound nice," Cassie jokingly said, grinning. "Besides, they don't teach you... oh wait. They do."

"Huh?" Lily sported a confused look.

"Empire Building 101. It's just spread out between multiple classes. Professors and lecturers drop hints here and there all the time."

"Oh gosh - and here I was all hung up over the fancy, schmancy title of High Matriarch. Cass, when you take over the quadrant, can I be the High Matriarch of something? Oh, and put Alta on my staff. Ah ha! I've got it," she snapped her right middle finger against her thumb while pilfering another laden tortilla chip with her left hand.

"All hail the high matriarch of nachos!" Lily made a hand gesture as if she were taking a bow.

"I hope, for the sake of the universe, you two never end up in charge. Not that you're not lovely people, but the implants are making you both goofy." Alta replied, stealing a nacho for himself.

Cassie blinked, sat up straight. "Implants? What implants?"

Whoops. "Oh, you hadn't heard." Alta looked to Lily and wondered if he had stepped on toes here. "Well some of the crew, it's been discovered that they have implants in the brain. Most seem to be fairly benign." He added quickly. "But they may be producing emotions that people don't normally feel."

"Well, no. I hadn't heard. I've been a bit busy," she responded. So busy she kept forgetting to eat, which in retrospect, was unlike her. She was usually always munching on something.

She turned her attention to Lilith, still trying to process the information she had just received. "Do you have one?" she asked, suddenly realizing how paranoid she must have sounded.

Lilith made a sound not unlike a deflating balloon before taking another drink of water from her glass. Her grip on the vessel was vise-like. She took a deep breath before beginning to speak. "God, this sounds like a child from an old relationship or a hidden divorce, but yes, I have one," she nodded, "which I think is most of the reason sleep has been so difficult to come by. That, and I've had some wild emotional swings both up and down, something that both of you have had to deal with," her voice trailed off for a moment. She turned and looked Cassie in the eyes before taking another deep breath.

"Cassie, I should've told you, but... well," she hesitated for a moment, "I was kinda distracted. For me? My feelings?They are genuine. I know we haven't put a label on anything yet, and we don't have to. Still, I think it's fair for you to have some time to process this."

Her eyes searched for any hint of a reaction, one way or the other.

"I'm sorry, Cassie." The words hung like a thick, early morning fog.

Cassie's brain was a slew of emotion, mostly bewilderment and confusion. She didn't have the right be angry at Lilith for not telling her; they had only known each other for four days, after all. She hadn't expected to be told something this personal so early in their relationship. She wasn't even sure how she could label their relationship, if it needed labeling at all. And she had no reason not to believe that Lilith's feelings for her weren't genuine, if only from body language.

It would also make sense that she hadn't been made aware of it. She was only a civilian, and not always privy to that kind of information. But now that she knew, she wondered if she herself had one.

" And why? And who else has that implant?" she asked, the questions swirling in her head confusing her even more.

"I wish I could tell you more, but at this point, I'm just as much in the dark as you are. It's not that I'm being silenced by my job or by my rank either, I just honestly don't know," Lily shrugged in frustration. "All I know is, when I went for my on-boarding physical, Doctor Adamson found it. If I'm being honest, I don't think medical or science knows what's going on yet, ergo the lack of information. Maybe they'll have more at the staff meeting tomorrow."

Sullivan readjusted her posture in her seat. Even her favorite jacket seemed a little less comfortable in wake of the uncertainty surrounding her condition. Somehow, giving voice to it seemed like the right thing to do.

"It's kinda terrifying if I think about it for too long. What if this thing just, I don't know, shuts me down somehow? I'm scared," Sullivan admitted, looking at both of her friends. "But I'm glad I have both of you. Alta, your wisdom has helped in more ways than you know, and Cass," Lily turned to her, "I feel like I can do anything as long as you're on my team. I know we've only known each other for a few days but, uh, them's the facts girl," she broke out into a smile.

"I haven't been to sickbay. I don't know if I have one either," Alta assured Cassie. "But I doubt at this point they're anything to worry about. If they were to kill us . . . well there are easier ways. We should just enjoy our dinner and not think about it." He wanted to start asking them questions but he couldn't really think of anything that wasn't personal.

"And I highly doubt anything has changed since my last medical anyway," Cassie theorized, scooping up a healthy dose of salsa with a nacho. But then, her last physical examination had been months ago, and she hadn't paid sickbay a visit since her arrival. It wasn't an excuse, but work had taken up much of her time lately.

She looked up from her salsa-laden chip, and noticed the older man's hesitation. "You've got something on your mind, Alta. What is it?"

To Be Continued

Lieutenant Lilith Sullivan
Chief Flight Control Officer

Cassandra Leblanc-Reed
Diplomatic Officer

Alta Saulitis
Jane's Father


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