The Mystery Woman
Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Typhon's Tower, Unknown Location
Timeline: Following "A Lukewarm Welcome"
The bizarre half-day of Typhon's tower was moving toward half-night. Time was bizarre in this place, and Charlotte was beginning to find herself unsure exactly how long she'd been here. She could believe anywhere from a few hours to days. She'd been spending the last few minutes searching various levels of the tower for the woman her other crew had reported seeing. A woman who wasn't part of their crew, but had found herself trapped here as well. Charlotte couldn't help but wonder if this woman might know something...or if she was part of Typhon's game.
The distant glint of the Defiant in the sky seemed to highlight her situation: trapped, with escape in sight but unreachable. The long dress that had replaced her uniform made her feel uncomfortable. It wasn't unflattering, but playing the part of a damsel in distress wasn't exactly her style, and she didn't like being toyed with by this being. She made her way through the tower much like she had since her arrival, but this time she stopped and noticed something in the distance. Firelight coming from the now darkened rocky desert outcrops. Her officers, she hoped.
She began searching the scenery, looking desperately for other signs of life, anything that would let her know that some of them were alive. She'd distracted herself so completely that she didn't at first notice the approaching footsteps headed her way.
Ceci walked carefully through the tower, taking in the tower as she explored. Her bare feet weren't making much noise on the stone surface, and the occasional rug looked like the place was kept up, but it didn't take away from the one thing that kept intruding into her mind.
Her feet we're getting cold.
Somehow, she'd arrived here sans her normal spacer attire and those good, comfortable boots she'd gotten on Way Far. Now she was wearing a black cocktail dress, of all things. And the shoes....
Well the shoes were pretty cute. Red round toe platform stiletto heels with a white silk ankle strap. The color, according to a mirror she had passed, matched her lipstick and the garnet and silver jewelry she was wearing.
Overall, she looked hot and grudgingly approved of the makeover.
The question was, why was she wearing this. Here.
Then she caught site of movement, the first she'd seen and decided that the situation called for boldness.
"Hello," she called out, stopping. "Who's there?"
Charlotte didn't immediately recognize the voice that had called out, but it easily could have been one of her crew. She settled for a broad greeting as she stepped toward the corner the voice had come from beyond. "Captain Charlotte Reynolds, Captain of the USS Defiant. And you are?"
CeCi stopped, and waited until she saw this Captain Reynolds approach. "I'm Cecile Cashwell, Captain of the Tramp Freighter Paydirt." Eyeing the blonde for a moment, she continued, "If you're a big-time Star Fleet Captain, maybe you can tell me where we are and what we're dressed for?" She looked askance at herself and looked the Defiant's captain over carefully.
Charlotte gave the woman a once over as well. She was clearly dressed up for the same sort of charade. “Well, Captain, I wish I could. We’re on some strange world which is a construct of this entity we’ve called Typhon. He seems to have manifested this place. As for the dress, I think a lot of this is a bit of a display to put me off guard. I don’t particularly care for ultraformal settings like this. This all seems very calibrated to irk me. This dress included,” Charlotte said, gesturing to herself. It wasn’t an ugly dress by any means. It was quite flattering. But it’s design was anything but practical. Combine that with the literal stone walls around her and she got the idea it was some sort of cage built to keep her from acting...or to motivate her to do something stupid.
CeCi churned that all over for a moment, then got an outraged look on her face and her hands moved to her hips as she asked incredulously, "Wait. I'm here because of YOU? How and why do I play a part in YOUR drama?"
Charlotte gave her an exasperated look, spreading her arms with a shrug. "How the hell should I know? I can't exactly read this being's mind. For all I know, you're here to distract me."
The brunette blinked at that. "WHAT? NOW you're saying I'm unimportant. A mere pawn set here to distract the great Star Fleet Captain...what was it. Reynaldo?" CeCi crossed crossed her arms over her chest at that, an exasperated look playing over her face. Red shoes still dangling from one hand.
“Reynolds,” Charlotte corrected sharply. She felt another barbed reply well up in her, but noticed the woman’s attire again. If Charlotte was right, this woman had been dragged here against her will to literally be a pawn in Typhon’s game, just as they had. She didn’t need to make her feel worse. Her voice came out much more conciliatory. “Sorry. I don’t meant to snap at you. You’re clearly in the same situation I am. Hell, maybe I’m a pawn in your drama. All I know is, this entity has captured my ship and my crew. And a few of my officers are out there and there’s nothing I can seem to do to help them.” Her hand pointed toward the varied biomes on the horizon.
CeCi didn't say anything at that as she looked out at the Horizon. "Makes me wonder where my ship, the Harrison is," she said finally. "I hate not knowing what's going on," she CeCi said, then looked at Charlotte with a shadow of a smile, "Especially with us all dressed up with no place to go. You've met the joker that put us in this fun house...is he just playing hard to get or what?"
"You clearly haven't been to the top of the tower yet. He's got the whole place decked out like some medieval kingdom. Throne, suits of armor, the like. And everyone's in this formal wear too. It's like we're all in some big game of dress up, so he can play king. I've been wondering around the tower trying to see if there's a way out. Most of my senior officers have been scattered out there. If I could get them back together, maybe we could do something about all this."
"Sounds like chess," CeCi said thoughtfully. "It's hard to play when you can't see the whole board. "It sounds like you've been here longer then I have too. Don't tell me you've been here for a year or more. That would really kill my delivery timetable. If I get back to my ship."
"I honestly, don't know how long I've been here," Charlotte conceded. "I think it's been a few days, but I could believe hours too. The daylight makes things...odd. Things have been hazy, and I feel like he's in my head. That's another reason why I need to get out of this place. Maybe some distance will let my thoughts clear up."
"It seems odd," CeCi commented, looking out the window. "Like we're part of an ant farm, being watched. But, why...we're not doing anything fascinating but waiting." She took another look and said, "We can't even refuse to play the game. It doesn't feel like one is being played, since nothing much is happening."
Nice shoes, Charlotte get herself think. She shook her head again, trying to clear her thoughts. Why was her mind so hazy? Was he making it harder for her to concentrate? “Well, I’m about through sitting here. Care to help me find a way out of here?”
CeCi nodded simply, "Why not. I've got nothing better to do, apparently. And waiting around does not appeal to me." She supported herself against the window frame a moment and slipped the red shoes back on, fastening the straps and smiled a sly little smile at Charlotte, "You're much more appealing, Captain Reynolds. And I have a suspicion you'll find something interesting to do. If not, we can probably find some trouble at least."
"I do seem to have a knack for getting myself in trouble. Keeps things interesting," Charlotte said with a wink. "So...we're in a giant tower surrounded by wilderness and we're in cocktail dresses. Thoughts on how we might avoid instantly dying?"
"A good question. My first answer to that is to let you go first," CeCi grinned impishly. "After that, we don't push any buttons that have signs saying to do just that. Then, avoid any Thomas' or Adrianna's for that matter."
Charlotte began to laugh at her initial comment, but the second part caught her off guard. "Alright, you lost me there. Thomas and Adrianna?"
Cecile fell into step beside Charlotte, despite her words and smiled ruefully. "Bad relationships, Captain Reynolds. In the histories and annals of my life, those both will be in the Cautionary Tales part. Parts. Hell there might be several chapters for those. But I am overly wary of Thomas's and Adrianna's."
Charlotte led them down one corridor, then the next. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for. She just had the idea she’d know it when she saw it. “Well, I have a few sections like that myself. But my name’s Charlotte, so I think you’re probably safe.” Charlotte assessed a window as they passed it.
"For all this trouble. These games this...entity is playing. You'd at least think there would be music and waiters with drinks and those little sandwiches," CeCi grumped. "I mean, I didn't have to try and fit into this dress...so there must be some room and I'm starving."
“Speak for yourself. Mine is basically a second skin,” Charlotte said with a laugh. “Besides, I get the feeling Typhon is...”
“Saving up for something fun? How right you are.” The man appeared as if from nowhere. He was decked out in royal garb. “And lucky for you, your wait is over. I’d been planning to just make you watch, but you’re too stubborn for that. So...I suppose I’ll lean in.”
"Hey!" CeCi broke in. "What about me? Why am I here? I'm not part of her crew."
Typhon laughed and turned to face her. "Oh, Captain Cashwell. Does me ignoring you make you uncomfortable? Fair enough. You're here because you're different from them. You're independent, perhaps to a fault. You're brash like Captain Reynolds here, but without the Starfleet polish. In short, you're here because you're unpredictable and I find that amusing."
CeCi's face went livid and she took a half step toward the entity before she restrained herself, folded her arms across her chest and smiled sweetly at Typhon. "Bite me."
Typhon laughed what appeared to be a genuine laugh. "See that is exactly what I mean. Captain Reynolds over here is holding her tongue. Looking for that perfect little diplomatic answer which will make me sympathize with her. She wants to say what's on her mind. And its taking a lot of will to hold herself back. But she's worried I'll retaliate on her crew. But you? You just say it."
He stood there assessing the two for a moment, as if trying to decide what to make of them. "You know, I was going to play on your restlessness. Dress you up all formally and make you wait while the Defiant crew suffered. But I think there's a more fun approach. I wanted to put you in your place and show you why you're not qualified to be exploring. But maybe the opposite is more fun. Reynolds' senior officers are facing a challenge right now which is tailored to make each of them uniquely uncomfortable. I'm going to let you enter that challenge to assist them. Provided that Miss Cashwell agrees of course..."
"Unbelievable," CeCi responded. "You're bullying us. You're stronger so to prove to us, you're running us through some sort of fun house. You claim to be putting us in our place when all you've proven so far is that you're powerful. That doesn't necessarily mean you better than we are. And somehow I get dragged into the test you're giving them? Tell me this, then. If I go along, what's in it for me?"
A dark smile ran across the man's face as he snapped his fingers. "Survival."
An instant later, the floor opened up beneath the two women and they found themselves falling into darkness.
CeCi's first reaction was to push her hands down as her dress threatened to flare up around her hips, "Bastar...." was all she could say as she fell.