Chapter 1: Survivors
Archer tapped a nail absent-mindedly against the side of his command console. Months. It had been months since their last lead on the weapon, and he was frustrated.
He had tried keeping himself occupied, but the mundane daily requirements necessary to run the ship only took up a fraction of his time. The rest left him waiting for something to happen. Anything. And when it didn't, he wasn't sure what to do with himself.
"Captain," T'Pol prodded quietly.
Archer sat up immediately and turned towards her. She was standing next to him.
"Yes?" He asked eagerly.
"We can handle things here if you would like to perhaps, rest?" She glanced at the crew members around them, seemingly not wanting to be overheard.
"No, I'm fine," he replied. He was needed here. "If something should come up..."
"We would let you know over the com," she assured, almost eagerly.
Archer gave her a questioning look, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Are you trying to get rid of me?"
T'Pol's shoulders straightened some, a strange allusion to unease. "I believe you're making everyone uncomfortable," she muttered.
Archer glanced around. The crew was seemingly busy at work, though he did notice how they seemed to avoid his gaze. He briefly wondered if T'Pol had become more adept at reading the room than him.
"Your frustration has been steadily growing the past couple of weeks," she muttered. "I believe the crew can sense it."
He sighed. It was true. He’d been on edge lately. He hadn't realized how it would affect his crew.
"You're probably right," he said, standing. "I think I'll try and get some rest."
T'Pol nodded, apparently satisfied with his reply, and headed back to her station.
He nearly made it to the lift door before a beep sounded at T'Pol's station.
Turning on his heel, he headed straight towards her instead.
"We've picked up a small craft that’s just dropped out of warp .02 light years from here," she said, her eyes locked on the screen before her. "They're heavily damaged."
"Biosigns?" He asked.
T'Pol shook her head. "I can't get a proper reading."
There was another beep from Hoshi's station. He turned to her.
"They're sending us a transmission, Sir," she reported.
"What does it say?"
"They're transmitting in several languages," she paused. "I don't recognize any... wait. One of them is Andorian.
"Emergency assistance required. Were attacked. Injured crew. No medical staff."
"Attacked?" Archer turned to T'Pol. "Anything on long-range sensors?" He asked.
"Negative," she said without looking up.
"How long will it take us to get there?" He inquired.
"Fifteen minutes at warp 5."
He nodded. "Ok.”
"Keep an eye on those sensors. I want to know if any other ships show up."
He turned to his helmsman. "Travis. Take us there."
"Archer to Phlox."
"Phlox here, Captain." Came the reply.
"We're responding to a distress call. Be ready to attend to injured."
Turning back to his com officer, "Hoshi, send the following reply in Andorian.
"We have received your distress call and will be arriving to help in less than fifteen minutes."
He watched as she sent the reply. Not soon after came theirs: a simple, "Understood."
Once that was settled, Archer spent the remaining minutes hovering over the sensors, hoping the aforementioned attackers wouldn't show up.
When they finally dropped out of warp, T'Pol spoke up.
"Captain, there seem to be three biosigns aboard. Two are erratic. They might be seriously injured."
"Understood," he said.
"Hoshi, I'll need you to translate."
She nodded. "Aye, captain."
The view screen turned on. He didn't recognize the species, though the entity before him was humanoid.
"This is Captain Jonathan Archer. We are ready to take on your wounded and can offer engineering assistance if needed," he began.
Hoshi translated and waited for their reply.
There was what he could only describe as a puzzled look on their face.
"You aren't Andorian. I had hoped, from your reply…" There was a pause. "It doesn't matter. We're glad for the help. My name is Thelano."
"You mentioned you had injured?" Archer inquired.
"Yes. My two colleagues were damaged-" Hoshi paused, "hurt," she corrected, "in the attack."
"We can send medical staff to you if they are unable to move." Archer offered.
Thelano wasn't able to reply before an explosion sounded from behind them. Looking frantically at the consoles, Thelano muttered something Archer couldn't understand. But he *could* recognize the expression of dread that crossed their face.
"Captain." Thelano said after but a few moments. "This ship isn’t going to make it. If you would, I wish transport my crew to you. I ask that you send me the coordinates to your sickroom."
The view shook violently.
Without pause Archer nodded to T'Pol.
"Do it," he instructed.
Reed was at his side almost instantly. "Sir, I must protest," Reed muttered to him.
Archer raised his hand to interrupt. "I gave my order," he said.
"Sir." Reed insisted.
Archer ignored him and turned to T’Pol, "I said do it."
"Aye, Captain," T'Pol acknowledged.
"Aye." Reed relented, moving back to his station.
"Thank you," Thelano replied. "I'm doing what I can but this ship won't survive much longer. Its core is unstable. And after the Reptilians attacked..." Thelano trailed off as another alert sounded.
"Xindi?" Archer asked.
"Captain." T'Pol urged from behind him. "As soon as the crew is on board, we must polarize our hull and back away."
"I can buy you time." Thelano said.
He looked from Thelano to T'Pol for a moment while the blaring of sirens sounded through the viewscreen. He nodded.
Thelano was speaking again. He turned to Hoshi.
"Please tell her, my captain, that it was an honor."
"I will," he promised.
Chapter 2: First Impressions
Archer strode quickly through the corridors with Reed and Hoshi to either side of him. Thelano had mentioned a Xindi attack.
Their sensors hadn't picked anything up, but they hadn't stayed very long after the craft exploded. He couldn't risk an encounter with them. Not yet.
"At least we know we're in the right sector," Reed broke the silence. "There are Xindi somewhere out here."
He nodded. It was the information they had been waiting for. Where to find them. It was the first step.
But at the moment, the question at the forefront of his mind was why the Xindi would attack the small craft in the first place. Had they wanted the ship? T'Pol, who was currently reviewing what scans they had been able to get, had called it a highly intriguing craft.
Or was it these crewmen that they had wanted? He sighed, maybe they simply didn't like whatever species it is they are. He wouldn't put it past them.
When the doors to the sickbay opened, they were greeted with a chaotic sight.
He spotted the female captain Thelano had mentioned. She was shouting at Phlox in what his untrained ear figured for Andorian.
For a moment Archer was simply confused. She didn’t look anything like Thelano. But it was hard to tell. Her face and shirt were lacerated and stained in what he could only assume was green, or perhaps blue, blood. None of it seemed to slow her down although she must have been in excruciating pain.
When Phlox spotted them, he sighed in relief. "Hoshi. Thank goodness, please come help me here. Apparently my Andorian isn't very good as she won't let me help her."
The woman quieted at his words and looked from Phlox to them. She seemed to be studying their faces.
"Pi - Humans," she said, "I never thought I'd see another one of you," she laughed and then cringed at the effort. For a moment he thought he'd seen relief on her face.
Archer looked from her to Reed and Hoshi.
"You speak English," Hoshi said.
She nodded and turned back to Phlox, pointing to her crewman. "Him first," her tone was earnest.
Archer noted her elongated ears. Decidedly different from Thelano. He wanted to ask her species as she looked suspiciously Vulcan, but the sight of her crewman stopped him. He was Xindi.
Phlox looked at her incredulously. "My nurse is tending to him, he will be fine," he raised his scanner slightly and pointed at the readings. "You, however, need immediate attention," he said.
She shook her head. "Your equipment is incorrect. This wound isn't serious."
"I have done scans of his species before..." Phlox began.
"He's Xindi!" Archer just about blurted out.
She gave him an anoyed look and shook her head again.
"He's Andorian," she said, turning back to Phlox. "His injury will kill him if you don't help him."
He and everyone else looked perplexedly at the man on the cot, a distinct tension in the air.
Phlox seemed to change a few settings on his device before he scanned him. "You're right. His appearance is purely cosmetic."
Andorians? Archer thought. None of this made sense.
"This wound is dangerously close to a few major organs." He turned to his nurse. "Get the tray. We need to operate."
The man on the cot turned to the woman. They exchanged a few words.
Hoshi leaned towards him. "He doesn't think he'll make it." She paused. "I was lucky to serve under you. Tell..." She dictated.
Archer watched as the woman hushed his next words.
"She's telling him he must remain strong."
Phlox grabbed hold of the man's bed and pushed it to the other side of the room, moving a partition between them and him.
Before disappearing behind it, he turned to the woman. "Keep pressure on that wound," he ordered. "If she loses consciousness, Captain, let me know immediately."
The woman laid her head back on the pillow of the upright cot. From that position she looked down her nose at Archer, literally. Whether or not figuratively as well, he wasn't sure. His few experiences with Andorians had shown him how arrogant they could be in the best of situations. And this one was beyond the ordinary.
"I assume you're in charge here," she said.
"I am," he replied. "Captain Jonathan Archer."
"Captain," she nodded weakly. "I'm Cey. Cey Varo."
Archer had so many questions running through his head. He wasn't sure where to begin.
After a moment, he settled on the first one that came to mind.
"Why impersonate a Vulcan?" He asked, motioning to her ears. "I thought Andorians disliked Vulcans."
She looked perplexed for a moment, then laughed and cringed, grunting as pain lapsed.
"You assume I'm impersonating another species. Maybe this is what I look like," she grinned at him.
He chuckled despite how strange it was to see a smile emanate from a Vulcan face.
“I hear a sense of humor is a good sign medically,” he said.
She shrugged a shoulder, never losing the grin.
“So what are three Andorians doing out in the Expanse disguised as other species?” He fully expected the run-around, but figured it was worth a try.
Her grin faltered as she took another look at those who had walked in with him. "Where's Thelano?"
He hesitated, not having expected the question. He should have mentioned it sooner.
He opened his mouth to say something, but it was obvious she could read the expression on his face.
She shut her eyes and sighed heavily.
"I'm sorry," he said.
She said something under her breath that sounded like a curse.
"How did it happen?"
"Something went wrong with your ship's engine. He transported you two over and bought us some time to get away before it… exploded."
She nodded and muttered something in what he assumed to be Andorian.
"She said he was a good soldier," came Hoshi's whispered confirmation.
The statement wasn't lost on him.
"He wanted me to tell you it had been an honor."
She nodded. "Thank you."
"So you're soldiers? Andorian soldiers?" He prodded again. Facial reconstruction. By Andorians. They were prideful to a fault. To change their appearances, making one of them look Xindi... He had to wonder what they were up to.
"Mm," she muttered noncommittally. "No and yes. Thelano was a soldier," she muttered. And after a moment, "Sor over there," she motioned to where Phlox had taken her crewman, "is also a soldier."
"And you're not?" He asked, somewhat confused. "Thelano called you his captain."
She tried to laugh, settling instead for a grimacing grin. "I hated when he called me that."
Her expression turned melancholic for a moment. Then she swallowed hard and the expression vanished. "You could think of me as a kind of contractor. These men were in my employ for this... job."
"Job," he repeated. "That makes you what, a mercenary, then?" He ventured.
She lazily shrugged a shoulder. Her expression was that of mild amusement.
"And the Xindi?" He tried.
Varo looked thoughtfully at him. She opened her mouth to say something but seemed to change her mind at the last moment. A thought had seemed to occur to her.
"Have your sensors picked up signs of other ships?" She asked. There was what seemed to be genuine concern on her face.
"No Xindi, if that's what you're asking."
Her brows furrowed and she shook her head vehemently although it seemed to cause her pain to do so.
There was that Andorian condescension.
"Scan for *any* ships. Anything unfamiliar."
He was about to ask her why when Phlox appeared from behind the curtain.
"He's stable for now," he said, taking off his gloves. "Now as for you."
"I have more questions," Archer objected.
"And you can ask them later."
Phlox peered under the bloody towel Varo had been holding to her side. "I need to tend to this wound and she needs to rest."
"Captain," Reed muttered, pulling him aside.
"I think at least two of my men should remain here at all times."
Archer glanced at the woman on the cot. She had mentioned a job. One concerning the Xindi. And although he and Shran were on good terms, it was no secret to him that that goodwill didn't exactly reach up to their top brass. It was quite possible that they were following their own interests out in the expanse. Until they knew what exactly that was, he knew it was best to keep an eye on them.
"Agreed," he said. "Post two men outside the doors. Two in here."
Chapter 3: Inconsistencies
Archer sat at his desk going over T'Pol's report on what had happened.
He found her assessment of the craft most interesting. Its configuration didn't match anything in their database and the materials it was made of were either very common or so rare that Starfleet had never come across any of them.
The end result was that they hadn't the faintest clue as to where the craft came from. And that, at the very least, likely meant it wasn't of Andorian origin.
Which raised another question; why hadn't they known there were three Andorians aboard when they scanned for biosigns?
There was a buzz at the door.
"Enter," he said, rubbing his eyes. He hadn't slept much that night.
"You wished to see me, Captain?" Phlox asked. He seemed quite chipper - much to his own sleep-deprived annoyance.
"I did. How are our guests?"
"Yes. Yes." Phlox nodded. "The male is currently stable, although he isn't quite out of the woods yet, as you humans say."
Phlox sighed. "She is a difficult patient," he admitted.
"How so?" He asked.
"She doesn't much like medical instruments, it seems."
He paused, handing Archer a datapad he had been holding behind his back. "And I believe I've figured out why."
Archer took the pad, feeling oddly vindicated in his growing suspicion.
"What am I looking at here?" He asked.
The pad depicted an outline of a humanoid. Male. On it were several dots placed about the body. Phlox pointed to them.
"I found several sub-dermal implants on the male. Several of them were damaged, but the others proved to be quite informative."
The look on his face told him he was quite pleased with his discovery.
"What are they?" Archer asked.
"Well, it seems they're designed to give out false readings."
"What do you mean? What kind of false readings?"
"Biological ones,” Phlox replied. “With one of these, I could make sensors think you're a Klingon. It's quite remarkable actually. You see, what it does is..."
Archer thought of his earlier conundrum.
"Could these be used to *mask* biosigns?" He interrupted.
Phlox considered the idea for a moment. "Absolutely. Although, they couldn't make you *invisible* to sensors. There are always heat signatures and all sorts of other ways to detect biosigns-"
"But one could, say, make it difficult, if not impossible, to tell what species one is."
Phlox nodded. "Certainly."
Archer stared at the datapad.
"And you think the woman, Varo, has these as well."
"I've checked and she does."
"Do you think she wanted to hide them from you? She must have known you'd find them on her crewman."
Phlox nodded. "The thought did occur to me."
Archer had a bad feeling.
"Are we sure they're actually Andorian as they say they are? They could be Xindi for all we know." The idea began to anger him. Maybe they'd been fooled.
He was glad he'd ordered so many security officers to keep an eye on them.
"Well," Phlox began.
There was a hesitancy in his demeanor that Archer often associated with concern. And to his annoyance, it seemed directed at him.
"Despite how the male appears, he is most definitely Andorian," Phlox continued.
"But you said these devices mask biosigns," Archer insisted, holding up the pad, "changes them."
Phlox nodded. "However, " he paused, seemingly contemplating how best to formulate the rest of his statement, "there are other ways to be certain, other tests. Such as DNA sequencing," he said, "which I have done."
He paused. "That having been said, I do believe I know why she didn't want to be examined."
Archer looked back up at him.
"She's not Andorian," he said. "She's not any species I know of."
Archer's brows furrowed. If she wasn't Xindi... "Why would she want to hide that?"
Phlox inhaled sharply. "Well, there was something unusual about her scans."
Archer offered him the pad. Phlox took a moment to call up the correct file. It was an image of the skeletal system of a female humanoid. One Cey Varo, he supposed.
"You see this here?" He asked, zooming in.
"Her skull? Yes?"
"Wrong? What do you mean it’s wrong?"
"If you compare this to what she looks like..." Phlox paused, pointing to a few regions. "Look at the narrowness of her mandible, the elongated maxilla, the slightly protruding eyebrow region. Does this look like the woman you met?"
Archer wasn't sure. He was looking at bones right now, it was difficult to compare.
"You did say they'd had cosmetic alterations."
Phlox nodded. "Yes. But what she looks like doesn't match this bone structure. According to this, she should have a longer face, a narrower jaw..."
Archer looked back down at the pad and tried to picture the woman he'd met. She had had a rounder face. And she most certainly hadn't had protruding brows.
"How is this possible?" He asked.
Phlox shrugged, "I don't know."
"Have you asked her about this?"
Phlox shook his head. "No. I thought it would be best to let you know first, Captain."
Archer nodded. "Good."
He looked down at the pad again. "I think it's time I spoke to our guests."
Chapter 4: Confrontation
Cey stood next to Sor's bed. He was asleep. Sedated. She had been reluctant in allowing it, but the doctor had insisted it necessary in order for his body to recover properly.
She relented, but suspected that the main reason for keeping him sedated lay more in security than medicine.
She only hoped Sor would forgive her. She knew what Andorian pride was like and knew he would rather have suffered while he recovered than have slept through it. He would think it made him look weak - regardless of how untrue that was.
She pushed back his hair, revealing the small nubs of antennae that were beginning to grow back. They were proof of just how strong he and Thelano had been.
In order to maintain their cover, they had constantly had to use measures to keep them from regrowing. They had routinely cut them down and used some sort of medical device to hamper their re-growth. The risk, as she understood it, was great that they'd never grow back fully. It was a lot to ask. They were, without a doubt, a credit to the Imperial Guard. To Andorians.
Glancing up, she eyed the guards as they once again changed shift. She'd been watching them for the past day. Two inside, two outside.
Each looked at her with curiosity. And suspicion. None had been willing to talk to her. It was obvious she was being treated with extreme caution, mistrust even.
She rubbed absent-mindedly at the sub-dermal implant in her left wrist. The doctor had insisted on a thorough check-up to make sure he hadn't missed anything after his foul-up with Sor.
The check-up had included many scans and she was certain it was only a matter of time before an irate Archer would walk through that door demanding answers to any number of peculiarities.
She sighed, wishing she had run into the Guard before the Pink Skins. This wasn't how she had wanted to deal with the Humans of the Earth ship.
The sickbay doors opened. One glance at the look on Archer's face and she knew she had been right.
"Captain," she greeted unenthusiastically.
He wasn't alone. He was followed by the doctor and was flanked by the security officer and a new face - a Vulcan.
"Explain this," he said, holding a pad before her.
"What?" She asked. "No introductions?"
The look on his face said he wasn't amused, but he introduced each of his crewmates in turn. Then once again, he held out the pad before her.
She took it casually from his hand, her expression carefully neutral. She had expected the hostility, but she still didn’t appreciate it.
Examining the displayed image, she found herself surprised. There were two images side by side. On the left was a skeletal representation of herself - the location of most of her sub-dermal implants marked. The right side was of her face. Her skull, to be exact.
She had had no doubt that they'd find the sub-dermal implants. Although they had been carefully tailored to subvert most sensors and scans, the lacerations she and Sor had sustained during the attack had most certainly damaged them. But this. This she hadn't expected.
"Huh," she muttered to herself. "So that's what I look like."
Archer visibly bristled.
She sighed. "I wasn't actively hiding anything, Captain."
It was difficult to keep the condescension out of her voice.
"Actively," Archer repeated. His eyes narrowed, accusingly.
She rolled hers. "Oh, come now, Captain. What did you want me to say? Should I have simply *handed* you Andorian secrets?"
The Vulcan looked perplexed. "If you didn't wish for us to learn of Andorian secrets, why allow Phlox to examine you in the first place?"
Typical Vulcan. She thought.
"The doctor had already discovered the implants," she said. "I couldn't have hidden that if I'd tried. Not if I wanted Sor to live. And as for this," she briefly lifted the pad she'd been holding, "I never expected you to see that."
She handed it to the doctor who took another look at it. He seemed pleased with himself.
"I admit, there are similarities to Vulcan and - what I assume to be - your natural bone structure," he said.
She raised a brow and shook her head. "Not enough, apparently."
If she had known he would be so observant... She resisted the urge to rub at her temples.
Archer was staring at her, expectant. "The discrepancy," he said.
She sighed. She knew what he was referring to. This was not a subject that would ease tensions.
"Ok,” she relented.
“This," she gestured vaguely at her face, "is an illusion."
She could already see the confused looks on their faces. "You see me as a Vulcan because that's the image I'm projecting."
"Projecting how?" The Vulcan asked.
She sighed, already knowing how the Vulcan would react. "Magic," she said.
"There's no such thing as magic."
Cey waved the comment off. "Fine. Then think of it this way. I have the ability to influence how you see me."
She had had this conversation before. She knew what would inevitably follow.
"Wait," began the security officer - Reed, was it? "Are you saying you can manipulate our minds?"
"Technically." She said, reluctantly, "but only how you see me."
That was a lie of course; she was a rather talented illusionist. But knowing as much wouldn't put them at ease.
"I don't much like the sound of that, Captain," he said.
"Neither do I," Archer agreed.
"You know," the doctor chimed in, "I'm reminded of the Earth creature with a similar ability. The cuttlefish. It changes its color to blend in with its surroundings and to avoid becoming prey. Quite remarkable actually. And it's not the only creature of its kind. Countless planets have something similar. In fact, on Donobula..."
"This is different, Phlox," Archer interrupted.
The doctor raised his eyebrows. "I suppose on some level that's true."
"Look," she said, "I know this ability of mine seems threatening. It's why I don't advertise it." She sighed, agitated. This conversation always took so much time and rarely ended favorably for her. "I don't expect you to trust me. But your being caught up on *me* is just distracting from what's actually important."
"And what is that?" Archer asked.
Archer turned his attention to the still-sleeping Sor.
She nodded. "My job, our job, was infiltration and information gathering."
Archer's gaze traveled back to her.
"You expect us to believe that you and two Andorians infiltrated the Xindi?" The security officer questioned.
"Yes. And we succeeded."
"You know where their homeworld is then," Archer said.
She shook her head. "It was a research base. Nowhere near any of their planets. It seems they don't like to wage war where they sleep." She scoffed.
"We were on our way to rendezvous with an Andorian ship when we were attacked. We fled and wound up deeper in the Expanse than intended. It was luck finding you, Captain, but it was always my intention to inevitably do so."
Archer's look said he was unconvinced. "Assuming that's true, I somehow find it difficult to believe the Andorians would willingly share their intel with us."
"Not without strings attached," the security officer agreed.
She shrugged. "I don't know what the Andorians intend to do with the information. But I never intended to ask them for permission to share it with you," she smirked, "I'm not a member of the Guard, Captain. What they *wish* is none of my concern."
"Then what is it that *you* want in return?"
She found the suggested accusation oddly insulting. Even if she did understand their suspicion. "Nothing."
"I find that hard to believe," said the Vulcan.
"From what I understand, you are a mercenary. Why would you have undertaken such a dangerous mission just to receive nothing for it in return?"
Archer nodded. "I have to agree. Why would you help us?"
The question caught her off guard. The answer was long and involved, and far too personal.
Her voice was much quieter when she finally spoke, but she didn't bother to try and hide the bitterness she felt. "It wasn't just humans that were killed that day, Captain."
The room went quiet.
Cey glanced at them, then away. She took a deep breath and turned to the doctor.
Holding out her left forearm to him, she pointed to a spot a couple of centimeters above the wrist. "I'll need you to remove the sub-dermal implant located here."
The doctor nodded. "Certainly."
She turned back to Archer. "It contains all the information I gathered. As I said, It's yours."
Chapter 5: Trust
It only took a few minutes for the doctor to perform the simple operation and extract the device from her arm.
During that time, the room had been eerily quiet. She knew that they didn't know how to react to what she had said. Should they ask further questions or respect that the topic was sensitive? She rubbed at her forehead. She wasn't sure what to do. She needed them to trust her.
"Does it hurt?" Phlox asked her, tweezers in his hand as he went to pull out the device.
"No. It's fine."
The device was small and circular, visually identical to the other sub-dermal implants that Phlox had found on her and Sor. Once removed, he used a medical instrument to regenerate the incision and seal the wound. Then he cleaned and sterilized both the incision site and device itself before handing it back to her.
She flipped it in her hand and moved a finger over its mostly smooth surface.
Reed inched closer to her.
She tapped gently on its surface. Once followed by a slight pause, then two more times in rapid succession. A white light illuminated the device from within.
She turned back to Archer.
"Here," she said, "It's been activated. You will now be able to access the information it contains."
He took it from her, nodding, then turned to the Vulcan.
"Scan this and download it."
She watched as everyone but the doctor turned to leave.
"Wait," she said despite her better judgment.
They stopped and turned back to her.
She shook her head slightly and laughed at herself. "All those years among Humans and I'm still terrible at communicating with you."
She smiled sadly. "A good friend of mine once said, 'Truth is a seed that sprouts trust.' And as someone who lies for a living, neither comes naturally to me."
It probably wasn't the best thing to say, but it was true. "So, if I may, Captain, I think I should show you the real me."
Archer nodded. "If that's what you wish to do."
She nodded though she knew he was just being that frustrating kind of polite humans sometimes were when they'd gotten precisely what they wanted.
"I *am* rather tired of looking Vulcan," she smiled. She took a breath to relax. It had been many months since she had last been herself.
Once she felt calm, she held out her hands before her. The action was purely unnecessary, but she always enjoyed watching the illusion fade away. From the tips of her fingers and toes, up her arms and legs, the illusion began to vanish. She watched as light brown faded into an ashen gray. It was a welcome sight.
And when it was done, she wasn't at all surprised at the blank faces around her.
"Your eyes," she heard from Phlox, who had leaned in to get a closer look.
She blinked her momentary confusion. "Oh, yes," she said. She'd forgotten how unusual others tended to find them - what with their ice-like facade.
"You haven't a pupil," he muttered, mostly to himself.
She smiled. "I do. It's simply difficult to see."
Aryon had - oh so very long ago - surmised that her eyes were encased in a magical layer of ice. To most, the effect was unsettling.
"Does it impede your vision?" He asked.
"No," she said simply.
"Fascinating," the Vulcan remarked.
Cey turned to Archer, who had yet to say anything.
"So this is what you look like," he said.
She nodded. "Yes."
He nodded. "Alright," he held up the data device she had given him, "we have work to do."
She could tell she hadn't quite put his unease to rest. But for the moment, it would do. She knew that once they were able to verify what she had brought them, they'd likely be more receptive to her. Until then, all she could do was wait.
Chapter 6: Meeting
It had taken several days for her to receive a summons from Archer. She couldn't say she was surprised. There had been a lot of information to sift through.
In that time she had been given quarters of her own. She was allowed to leave them, accompanied by an escort, but wasn't left with many options as to where to go - she was, after all, not a member of the crew and couldn't simply go where she pleased. That left the mess hall and the infirmary as her only two options.
She had spent much time by Sor's bedside. He was well on the road to recovery - as Phlox had put it. He was doing so well in fact, that they had even begun treatments to restore his Andorian appearance. Albeit a slow process, it had had a dramatic impact on Sor's spirits.
Even so, she wasn't allowed to spend more than a few hours a day with him. He needed his rest, apparently.
Walking to and from her room every day, she noticed a change in the crew. They had become far more animated than before. She doubted it was because of the human-like appearance she had adopted. It was as if they had found a renewed purpose.
She suspected it meant that they had found something useful in what she had brought them. She found the thought satisfying.
"We're here," the security officer accompanying her said. She watched as he pushed the button that would alert Archer of their arrival.
"Enter," she heard from within.
He pushed yet another button that opened the door for her.
She nodded her thanks to him before entering.
"Archer," she said in greeting.
"Varo," he replied, motioning to a seat before his desk, “please, have a seat.”
"Judging by your crew, I'm guessing what I brought you was useful," she prodded. She wanted confirmation.
"Yes. I'm sorry to not have said anything sooner."
"I understand," she said casually, almost dismissively, although she meant it. They were in the middle of a war after all.
There was a pause and a look on his face that said he had more to say. A question?
"Yes?" She asked.
He let out a laugh of a breath.
"I sent everything you brought us to Starfleet. All the schematics, the notes - everything."
Everything. She had only recovered information concerning the weapon's power conversion system. A crucial part of the weapon, granted, but the division she infiltrated hadn't had access to anything else. The Xindi were surprisingly paranoid, even among themselves.
"And?" She urged.
"And naturally there were questions as to where we got the information," he paused.
And? She wanted to repeat, but she let him continue.
"When I told them, Admiral Forrest contacted me almost immediately."
She raised a brow in mild surprise at the name. Forrest. She shook her head and grinned.
"I'm sure he had much to say."
"He did," Archer said carefully. "He seemed to have mixed feelings about you."
She wasn't surprised. It was no secret to her that he didn't care for the Vulcans and their child-like treatment of humans. She could understand that much. And her past associations with them, albeit inevitably inamicable, were damning in his eyes.
"But he did say he thinks we can trust you."
Now she genuinely *was* surprised. Somehow she hadn't expected that.
She wanted to ask why, but Archer's expression seemed to answer her.
"I'm sorry for your loss," he said.
So he had said *that* much. She couldn't help but feel a pin-pick of annoyance.
"He said you and Admiral Garcia were close. I understand he was visiting the Academy in Florida when it happened."
She nodded curtly. Thinking of what happened to Garcia brought back feelings she didn't care to feel.
Archer paused, seemingly unsure as to whether or not to continue.
"Is he who you were referring to the other day?"
She knew what he meant. When she first arrived she said she had lost someone during the Xindi attack.
She could see the question forming on his face. At the time, she had implied she meant a fellow alien. Garcia had been human. There was a simple reason for the fallacy.
"I lied," she said simply. Then she sighed and rubbed at her brow. "It was easier, somehow."
It was hard to explain. Humans felt an innate bond with one another. If she had told them the truth, there might have been more questions. Questions she didn't feel like answering. Questions she couldn't answer. Not without having rage begin to boil inside her again.
Thankfully, he didn't inquire further, simply nodded. Maybe her thoughts were plain on her face.
Turning to his desk, he picked up the datapad lying on it.
"We found a set of coordinates in what you gave us," he said, handing it to her.
She glanced over the display. She recognized it as a trade manifest from the station's only supplier.
"It's a facility where the fuel for the weapon is being made," he continued.
She nodded. "A kemocite refinement facility. I don't know much about it, only that it's important."
"Good," he said. "We're headed there now."
She understood. If the humans could somehow stop the production of the fuel, they could deal a devastating blow that would take the Xindi many months to recover from. It would buy them the precious time they needed.
"I'd like you to go with us," he said.
"Me?" She asked. "I know nothing specific about the site that would be helpful to you," she said. She had considered her part in this over.
"Perhaps not," Archer replied. "But your abilities could be useful."
She grimaced slightly.
"Even disguised as a Xindi," she was already shaking her head, "I wouldn't have any legitimate reason to be there."
"You already have a legitimate identity, don't you? From having worked on the research station?"
She shook her head. "I'm afraid that identity was compromised."
Archer seemed to consider her words, however briefly. "Even so - a distraction, however short, would be useful."
It was true. She did have a distinct advantage here. She understood the Xindi better than the humans. And she *was* an adept liar. And if that didn't work, she could easily make short work of them.
She nodded, begrudgingly. "Alright. I'll do it."
"Great," Archer said. "Lieutenant Reed said if you agreed, he'd want to run a few scenarios with you. You should expect him first thing in the morning."
Chapter 7: In Retrospect
Cey stared at her face in the mirror. Her actual face. The face she had worn for most of her life. Her skin was dark, ashen, and unlike that of the humans around her. Even those among them with dark skin had a warmer, earthy, hue to them. *Her* skin had more of a cold, blueish undertone.
The complexion made signs of her aging more evident that she liked to admit - thin lines and soft creases of the skin. She traced them with a finger, a roadmap of her life created with years of frustration, sorrow, and anger.
Even so, she knew she looked much younger than her actual years. The humans might judge her to be in her mid to late thirties. That was, what? Just about a third of a human lifespan? It seemed fitting. She supposed she was at a third of her own as well.
That was the literal beauty of magic. It rejuvenated cells and kept the body young. The more magical ability one had, the longer one's lifespan tended to be.
She sighed and lowered her hand from her face and stared into the ice-like facade of her eyes, watching as they faded into a more human-like appearance. Her long and pointed ears seemed to shrink, and her skin faded into a light shade of brown.
This was the face Garcia had known. Or rather, Alex, as she had called him. They met long before he was an Admiral - when he was still but a lowly Commander.
"How is it *you* can get the Vulcans to listen to you while the rest of us receive nothing but blank, perplexed looks when we try to speak with them?" He had asked her after a particularly difficult day of meetings.
At the time, the humans were trying to push forward their Warp 5 plan. They were met with nothing but resistance from the side of the Vulcans who thought they weren't ready.
She herself had been invited to the talks by the Vulcan High Council. They meant to use her abilities and knowledge of humanity as a way to monitor the still fledgling society of humans. That was the intention, but not how it would inevitably pan out.
She had spent many years among the humans, before and after either first contact. From the perspective of the Vulcans, they had rescued her from the poor, backward, barbaric planet and had elevated her back into civilized galactic society. That wasn't, of course, how she saw it. To her, they had simply been the next place to go.
"You think so?" She had asked, knowing that he'd mistaken her for human - as had been intended. "Hm. The Ambassador must be having a good day." She paused and made a show of glancing around her. "Or maybe he has a soft spot for me."
This was, of course, very far from the truth. Ambassador Soval actually saw her presence as an insult, as if the Council didn't trust him to do his job properly. The truth was worse. They very much wanted the humans to fail.
He laughed. "If that's true, *you* should be the one lobbying for us. Then we might actually get somewhere."
He held out his hand to her. "Alejandro Garcia. You can call me Alex."
"Nice to meet you, Alex. I'm Cey Varo."
"Likewise, Cey," he paused. "I know you're new to Starfleet Headquarters. A few of the senior officers are getting together this evening and I think it would be great if you would join us. Get to know some of your new colleagues. I think you and my friend Maxwell would get along famously. What do you say?"
She had found him genuinely likeable, even back then. And even through the lies they became fast friends. Good friends.
He introduced her to Maxwell, and she introduced him to her roommate - Alicia. The four of them were a tight-knit group. A constant. And at Alex and Alicia's wedding, she and Maxwell were honored to be their maid of honor and best man.
When the truth was inevitably found out, there was a backlash. Nothing could be proven, of course - the Vulcans were quite good at subterfuge. Not that it mattered, much of it was buried, classified on both sides in order to save Human-Vulcan relations.
That was the official reason, anyway. In actuality, the Vulcans wanted to save face and weren't yet ready to relinquish control of the race they had spent so much time trying to mold in their image. And the humans, well, they still needed their guides - for better or for worse.
This of course left her as the odd man out. She was thrown out of Starfleet and shunned by the Vulcans.
She no longer remembered if she felt angry or betrayed. She supposed not; it hadn't been the first time she'd been cast as the scapegoat. But she did remember that Alex had refused to speak with her for years following the incident. He valued truth. He believed it fostered trust and she had betrayed that fundamental belief.
Maxwell never forgave her. Rightly so, perhaps. But thankfully, Alex did - in time.
He said she couldn't have been so good a liar. That he had certainly seen the core good in her. Whether or not that was true, she didn't know. But it didn't matter. Theirs was a friendship she cherished. And now he was gone.
She found a pair of angry brown eyes staring back at her through the mirror and she soon realized that her hands were beginning to cramp as they gripped tightly to the sink before her. She let it go and massaged at her wrists. If there were ever a morning that meditation would be useful, it was this one.
Chapter 8: Abridged Meditation
She focused on her breathing. In and out. Slowly and repeatedly until she could feel her heartbeat start to slow.
She had never been a fan of meditation during her years on Vulcan. But lately, she found herself turning to it more and more. If there was one thing Vulcans knew how to do, it was how to suppress emotions.
The sudden voice broke her concentration and her eyes shot open. The face that greeted her had a confused look on it.
"What are you doing here?" He asked.
Her head cocked slightly to one side. "Daniels?"
His attention turned to the device in his hands.
She stood. "Why are you here?" She tried again. She had wanted to ask how, but she knew how. And it bothered her that she hadn't sensed or heard him before he'd spoken.
"What's the stardate?" He continued as if she hadn't said anything.
"I don't know," she was about to suggest asking the computer but he waved her off.
"Never mind. If you're here it's not the right date anyway."
He turned back to his device and began punching in what appeared to be formulas.
"Oh, by the way," he said as an afterthought, "don't forget to have those implants I gave you removed from the Andorian." He smiled to himself. "Can't let them have *that* technology."
"I already did," she said, feeling somewhat insulted. She wasn't a fool.
He paused and looked up to regard her. "You did? When?"
"Three days ago."
One of his brows raised in surprise. Hers furrowed in confusion.
He checked his watch. "Computer. Time," he instructed.
Both brows raised this time. "I have to go," he said hurriedly, inserting what seemed to be more calculations into his device.
He paused. "Don't forget-," he began.
"Don't leave any behind. Yes. I remember."
He smiled and nodded.
She was about to make a snide remark about how perfectly capable she was of following simple direction when the door chimed behind her.
She turned to it, annoyed at having been startled for the second time that morning, then back to Daniels. He was gone.
Her lip curved into a slight frown as she shook her head. Time travelers.
So much for morning meditation.
Chapter 9: Silver Lining
It was 0600 on the dot when he pushed the chime to Varo's quarters. Ten seconds later, it opened.
"Good morning, Lieutenant," she greeted as she glanced momentarily back into the room.
"Good morning," he replied, following her distracted gaze. He spotted a recently-extinguished candle on the floor.
"Are the lights malfunctioning?" He asked, slightly puzzled.
"Hm? Oh." She shook her head briefly. "No. I was meditating."
His brows raised slightly as he suppressed a laugh. "How very Vulcan of you."
She rolled her eyes; although he thought he spotted a small upward pull at the corner of her mouth.
"Vulcans aren't the only ones that meditate," she said.
He tilted his head in assent. True enough.
"Well, in any case, I'm glad to see that you're up and ready." He had objected to her joining their mission. In his opinion, this was a Human matter. Not that he had anything against her - she and the Andorians had risked their lives in helping them - he simply felt it was something they had to handle themselves. But the Captain's order had been final.
She nodded. "I am."
"Good. Then we'll begin with a short run. It shouldn't take more than, let's say twenty minutes," he estimated. If she was going to join them, he needed to be sure she was up for the job. She wouldn't get any special treatment from him.
"Shall we then?"
"Not bad," he said when they had finished their last lap.
She had had no trouble keeping up with him. He was surprised. Her job had been espionage - somehow, that had conjured images of her spending most of her time lurking in shadows and sifting through papers.
Now that he thought about it though, he realized how foolish a thought that had been.
She laughed. "I could say the same about you."
He couldn't help but grin and shake his head.
"So when do we get to these 'scenarios' Archer mentioned?" She asked.
"Next week," he replied, now headed towards the direction of the training room. They were still a few weeks away from their destination. "First we need to see how your close-quarters combat is. Then we move on to phasers and rifles. And *then* we look into running scenarios."
"Do we have that kind of time?" She asked. Her expression was that of vague annoyance.
"We'll see once I assess you. Hopefully you won't need much instruction."
"What?" He asked.
She shook her head. "It's just the thought of you training *me* in unarmed combat-" The grin on her face widened. "It's amusing."
He stopped walking and faced her, feeling somewhat amused himself.
"Are you doubting my training ability or my skill?" Now he had a grin on his face as well.
"The latter. Most definitely," she said, having closed some distance between them.
He recognized it as the challenge it was but he couldn't help but feel a little insulted as well. He was Chief of Security. Of course he could handle his own in close-quarters combat.
"And perhaps you could learn a thing or two from me," she added, her tone casual and indifferent.
"Well, we'll see now, won't we?" He replied. Pleased to accept her unvoiced challenge.
Her grin turned into a wide smile and she bit at the tip of her tongue with her left canine. The look caught him off guard.
He turned and continued walking. Maybe that had been her intention. To unnerve him. But he swore there had been something feral about her gaze.
"I suppose your people are masters of unarmed combat, then? Is that it?" He asked, hoping to shake the image from is mind.
He heard her chuckle from beside him.
"You could say that."
He turned his head to look at her. "Well, I think you'll find Starfleet's training to be excellent."
She seemed to regard him at first with skepticism before her expression softened some. "Well, I look forward to assessing you myself."
He scoffed. "*You* are going to assess *me*?" He asked as they entered the room. "Whose OP is this again?"
"I believe it's a joint venture," he heard Hayes say from off to his right.
Reed hadn't noticed him before entering the room. It immediately soured his mood.
"Why are you here, Major?" He asked, his tone not lacking in barely-concealed resentment. He hadn't been invited and he certainly wasn't welcome.
Another man coughed to bring attention to himself. Reed recognized him as another of the MACOs. Rodríguez.
"A happy coincidence, it seems. Rodríguez and I were just going through our morning workout."
'Bollocks,' Reed thought.
Hayes turned to Varo.
"You must be Cey Varo," he shook her hand. "I'm Major Hayes. On behalf of my team, I would like to thank you for your service and your sacrifice." He said it with that smile Reed had come to detest.
He rolled his eyes as the Major continued.
"What you've done for us is no small thing," he was saying, "and we are lucky to have you join us on this mission."
Varo nodded, though her thoughts were hard for him to read. He did notice, however, that she had lost the casual rapport she had exhibited with him. For some reason that seemed to ease his annoyance.
Reed cleared his throat. "We were about to brush her up on some unarmed combat," he said, meaning to hint that he wished for the two of them to leave.
"Is that right?" Hayes replied. "That sounds like a great idea. Mind if Rodríguez and I join you?"
Reed sighed. "I really don't think we need-," he began, but the floor jolted out from under them and flung them across the room. Thankfully, they landed on the padded material of the wrestling mats at the other end.
"We've been boarded by Xindi." They heard over the com. It sounded like the Captain. "All-" Then the transmission cut out.
"N'wah," he heard from Varo.
"Xindi? How did they get on the ship?" He growled, standing.
"Transporters," she said. "Very experimental."
He looked at her. She seemed momentarily lost in thought.
"The things that could have gone wrong-," she shook her head.
"Travis to Malcolm?" He heard through the com.
"I'm here. Go ahead."
"What the hell is going on? The bridge won't answer me."
"It's the Xindi. They've managed to board the ship," he said.
"Shit," Travis muttered. "They'll no doubt head this way as well. Any chance we can get some backup?"
Reed and Hayes looked at one another.
"My team was in the mess but they should be able to reach one of the emergency equipment lockers as per our emergency plan," Hayes said. "Then they'll head for key points around the ship, including Engineering. Rodríguez and I will head straight there." He paused.
"It might take them a little longer to get to the bridge, I suggest you and Cey head there first."
Normally Reed would have resented being ordered around by the Major, but in this case - he nodded his agreement.
"You have a couple of MACOs headed your way," he finally replied to Travis.
"Alright. Tell them to hurry up, will y-." The transmission cut out.
"They've taken out all communication," Varo noted. "Took them long enough," she laughed bitterly.
He gave her a questioning look.
She shrugged. "Means they're slow. Or haven't figured out the systems. Or both," she grinned.
"Glad you're finding humor in this..."
"Call it a silver lining."
Chapter 10: Xindi
The four of them turned and headed towards the far end of the room. There he could see several lockers next to the door that housed the equipment and weapons they would need for their upcoming task.
Before they could reach them, however, the doors slid open.
Unarmed and defenseless they were greeted by two Xindi Primates wielding large riffles of their own.
The sight of the two made his blood boil. If their rifles hadn't already been aimed at them-
Instead, he could only watch as one spoke into a communication device and the other motioned for them to put up their hands. They did so, careful not to make any sudden moves.
Varo, who had been standing behind him, took a few steps towards them. He was shocked to see that she no longer appeared human. She now had the appearance of a Xindi Primate.
"It's me you want," she said, moving forward once again. She seemed to be attempting to block them from the rifle's line of sight. "Don't harm them. They're unarmed."
The Xindi closest spat at her, his face contorted in disgust. "Not just a traitor. A Human lover," he replied in English.
Reed almost laughed at the irony.
He watched as the first Xindi reported back into his device, presumably to inform the others that they had found their target.
"I have to admit," Varo began, "I'm a bit insulted that they sent a Primate contingent to do what is so obviously a Reptilian job."
This angered the two Xindi, and made him wonder if she were out of her mind. She was going to get them killed.
"I like to think I warrant the attention of the best."
The Xindi closest to her made to move but the other held him back, whispering something to him in their language. Perhaps they needed her alive.
He pulled himself from his companions grip, but straightened himself and hit his chest once with a closed fist.
"We are Mazeti," he said, proudly. "We are *far* more efficient and capable than any Reptilian contingent."
She nodded, taking another step forward. "Ah, yes. Mazeti. I do believe I've heard of you. Supposedly an elite strike force." She cocked her head slightly to the side. "But with a team of, what, fifteen? ‘Elite’ hardly seems accurate," she laughed. "Reptilians can get the job done with much less."
Her tone was condescending, but he thought he understood her gambit.
The man's brows furrowed and he scoffed. "We do the job better, and with only ten."
"Ah, ten," she nodded. "I see."
By this point, Varo had moved close enough to them for the lead Xindi to reach for her - and he did. Lowering his weapon, he grasped at her upheld arms and twisted her around roughly as he aimed to bind them behind her back.
Reed locked eyes with her as soon as she was facing them. She had lost the grin that her cheekiness had caused him to imagine he'd see there. Instead, he found her expression was cold, calculating, and her eyes held a hint of rage to them that made him shiver.
A moment later, the man behind her grunted and fell to the floor.
Before he had time to process what had happened, she was moving for the second. She grabbed his rifle and it discharged, badly singeing the ceiling above them.
While the Xindi was distracted, she elbowed him in the ribs, pulled the weapon from his grip, kicked him to his knees and leveled it to the back of his head.
Reed glanced away as she fired.
Before the Xindi even hit the floor, she was examining the weapon - checking its display and going through its menus as if she knew just how it operated.
"Seduced one of their armory specialists once," she said without looking up.
He'd have to be sure to remember that.
Reed walked up to the two bodies, still processing what had just happened. His gaze fixed on the first man. He was lying in a pool of blood - a giant icicle skewered right through his head.
Rodríguez walked up beside him, his mouth agape. "What?" He asked aloud before he himself could form any words. "How?"
Varo, who had just pulled a dagger out of the second Xindi's leg sheath, looked up. She appeared human again.
"Magic," she said. And for the first time, he noticed that her hands seemed to be frosted over.
Reed shook his head - in disbelief or distaste he didn't know. Perhaps both.
"Reed," he heard her say. He looked back up in time to catch the rifle she'd tossed to him. "This one's in perfect working order," she explained.
She turned to Rodríguez. "You can take the other one."
Hayes cleared his throat, getting their attention. "Take these instead," he said, having recovered their own riffles from the weapon lockers on the other side of the room. "It would be better to not have to fiddle with unfamiliar technology."
Reed nodded his agreement, taking the one Hayes offered him. "Besides," he added, "we need them alive."
Varo shrugged. "Suit yourself," she said, hanging the strap of a rifle over her shoulder and sheathing the knife she'd taken from the Xindi to the hilt in her right boot.
Hayes handed them earpieces as well. "There are at least eight more of them out there. Possibly more. Take it slow and keep each other informed."
Reed put the device in his ear.
"Alright. Let's move out."
Chapter 11: Xindi pt.2
"We've got a problem," came Hayes' voice through her earpiece.
She and Reed had been making their way through a corridor. They stopped.
"What is it?" Reed asked while she kept a lookout.
"All the doors we've come across are sealed. It seems we're not going to get help from either of our teams," he noted.
"I guess that's one way to keep the damage to a minimum," she thought aloud.
"What do you mean?" Rodríguez asked.
"The Mazeti," she explained, "they're primarily a strike team. They're the ones that are called when something needs to be handled quickly and as quietly as possible." She sighed. "The ten of them were meant to get in, find me, and get out."
Reed watched her, a slightly puzzled look on his face. "Ten Xindi against an entire ship doesn't seem like a well-thought-out plan."
She nodded. "Something certainly went wrong." She paused for a moment. "One of them must have jumped the gun. An operation of this size... They should have arrived with a larger contingent that would have acted as both the distraction and the main threat."
"The tremor from earlier wasn't part of the plan then," Hayes remarked.
"No. Certainly not." They weren't fools. "They no doubt went to the bridge first to knock out communications... and leave us dead in the water... perhaps they screwed up the controls, or..."
"Travis," Reed interrupted.
She gave him a questioning look.
"He must have caused the jolt - to alert the crew that something was going on."
"It worked well enough," Rodríguez said.
This Travis had undoubtedly saved them. Without them, she had no doubt that most of the Mazeti would have descended on the four of them quite rapidly. Getting out of that one with the humans in one piece would have proven difficult.
"We've spotted three headed for engineering," Hayes muttered.
"Only three?" She asked. Without the element of surprise on their side, it seemed like a large risk for them to take.
Reed glanced at her. "Engineering has a skeleton crew at this time of morning. They must think three are more than enough."
She shrugged a shoulder. They *were* *particularly* arrogant. Almost akin to the Reptilians.
"But they're not expecting *us*," Rodríguez said. She could practically hear his grin.
"We're going dark; will check back in when it's clear."
Reed turned to her. "We need to stay alert. There could be as many as five Xindi walking these halls."
She nodded. "Though one or two must have stayed on the bridge. The others are either coming for me or looking for stragglers."
Reed frowned. "Surely they think the other two have you in custody."
She almost laughed. "I'm a traitor, remember?" They no doubt wanted a shot at her before turning her over to their superior.
Reed stopped in his tracks and held out an arm in front of her. "I heard something."
They took cover in a small alcove and listened. There was the definite trodding of boots a ways off.
Reed chanced a peek. "Three headed this way," he paused, taking a look around them.
Cey did the same. There was a cross-section up ahead, but it was closer to the Xindi than to them.
"We don't have much cover here," she noted.
"We'll have to go from here then," Reed whispered, pulling her a few paces back into an alcove. He gripped his rifle and took a knee. "You aim high and I'll aim low."
She bit at her lip. The Xindi could easily take cover in those corridors. The last thing she wanted was to get pinned down, or worse, be flanked. They needed to get to the bridge. "I've got a better idea," she muttered.
He looked up at her with a raised, questioning eyebrow.
"Is this ship moving?" She asked.
He gave her a confused look.
She knew it was an odd question, but she needed to know.
"Reed," she urged.
"No. It's not. Why?"
"Are you sure? It's important."
He nodded. "I am."
"Ok," she said. "I'll distract them."
"Wait. What?" Reed asked, "I can't let you just walk out there," he said.
"Relax, Soldier Boy," she said with a half-smile. "I'll get them to turn their backs to you and then you take them out."
She raised a finger and frowned. "But do *not* make a move until I whistle to signal you. Understood?"
Reed watched as the Xindi drew nearer. He undoubtedly knew they didn't have the time to discuss it. "Understood," he relented.
"No matter what," she urged.
Setting down her rifle, she walked out into the corridor, her appearance once again that of a Xindi. It didn't take long for her to be spotted.
"Who are you?" One asked her in Xindi. The soldier raised his weapon and moved towards her a few paces before he finally recognized her. His eyes widened slightly.
"It's her!" He yelled, getting the attention of the other two who had stopped to peer down the corridors.
She watched, slightly amused as their heads poked out of the halls.
"It's the traitor!" One of them exclaimed.
"Oh, no. You've caught me," she replied, her voice dripping in sarcasm. This seemed to anger them. She couldn't help but smirk.
The one that had stopped her, approached. The look in his eyes said that he meant to hit her.
'Imagine that,' she thought, nearly shaking her head in amusement. How predictable.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," she warned as he drew nearer.
He scoffed but said nothing, instead taking his rifle and turning it quickly in his hands - thrusting the butt of it into her stomach.
She grunted as she doubled over. She had no doubt that it would leave a mark.
She heard a small cheer from the other two. It made her think of Alex. Made her wonder if they had cheered after the attack on Earth. The thought made her blood frost over.
Quickly, but without being noticed, she pulled the stolen Xindi blade from her boot. Then she stood. And as she did, she reached for the Xindi who had been cheering with his crew - as apes did - with fist to chest.
She took him by surprise, pulling him back into her arms, her grip on him firm, and setting the blade to his neck.
A moment later, the other two had their weapons trained on them.
"We need them alive," she heard through her earpiece. It was Reed.
She ignored him.
"I warned you not to do that," she whispered with mock sweetness into her captive's ear. "Now drop your weapon."
He complied, reluctantly, and with a scowl on his face.
She looked pointedly back up at the other two. "Now you," she said, all allusion to affection gone.
There was hesitation between them. They exchanged glances, seemingly caught between protocol and wanting to help their crewman.
One nodded to the other and they began to lower their weapons.
"Don't you *dare* put those down," came a voice from behind the two Xindi.
"Aye," they acknowledged in unison, instantly bringing their weapons back up and to the ready.
She tilted her head slightly to get a better look at who'd spoken. The man was somewhat taller than the average Xindi when he came into view. His face and expression were stern. He walked towards them with all the authority and air of a man with rank.
"Ceyla, isn't it?" He asked. When she didn't reply, he continued. "It seems Dehl and Talin have failed to bring you in." He let out an annoyed breath. "I assume they're dead?" He looked pointedly at her. Again she said nothing; he nodded. "I see."
The two Xindi with the riffles gripped them tighter and the man she held grit his teeth in anger.
"First Rolik gets us into this mess and now this." The man sighed.
Rolik? Her brows furrowed slightly and she nearly lost her grip on the man she held.
"Oh, yes," the man continued, reading her expression. "He's here. The fool." He laughed. "You did quite a number on him, you know."
He paused and cocked his head ever so slightly. "Tell me, how does it feel to know that your actions have condemned him?"
Her brows furrowed. She was inexplicably angry at the statement. She didn't care what became of him. The bastard had worked under Degra for years. Helped him to build the weapon that killed her friend.
"Let him go and we'll be lenient," the man continued.
She scoffed. The Xindi. Lenient. Because nothing says leniency like killing millions.
Her expression turned cold. "How about this," she countered. "You surrender and I won't kill you, too. Why don't we try *that* for leniency."
It was the man's turn to laugh. "You've the heart of a true soldier. It's a shame you turned traitor. You would have done well in the service."
She gripped the blade tighter at his words and the man she held hissed.
"Varo," came the warning voice in her ear.
"That's a no, then?" She asked, already beginning to feel the magic begin to swell around her. "I can't say I'm disappointed."
The words had barely left her lips when she sunk the blade into the man's skin and pulled it across his throat. He grasped at the fatal wound as she pushed him forward and the magic took hold.
A moment later she heard the beginning of phaser fire. But she was no longer standing where she had been. She was now behind them.
For a brief second, she was relieved. She had never been very good at Alternation magic; and teleportation, while difficult, was even more dangerous in space.
Her attention back on the Xindi, she took a moment to find pleasure in their confusion. They had stopped firing.
"Where is she?" One asked.
She whistled and they began to turn.
Her gaze was fixed on the one in charge. She could feel her left hand begin to frost over.
She raised the frosted hand to his face as the sound of phaser fire rang through the air. To her right, she heard two perfectly-placed shots, and the men with rifles fell.
"Varo, don't!" She heard from Reed as he neared.
Her eyes were locked on the Xindi, but she paused all the same. It would be so easy to kill him. She *wanted* to kill him.
"What are you?" The Xindi asked as he stared at her hand in horror.
She smiled darkly. "Not a traitor. At least, not of your people."
His gaze shifted from her hand to her. She let the illusion fade away, enjoying the expression on his face as it did.
"You were a spy," he realized. "But." He paused, shaking his head. "You're not Human. Why would you align yourself with *them*?"
She took a single step towards him.
"Varo," Reed said more sternly this time.
She exhaled in frustration but didn't take her eyes off the man in front of her. There was so much she wanted to say. She wanted to tell him that his people had made a grave mistake when they had attacked Earth, when they had killed so many; that they had incurred her wrath and that she wouldn't stop until they paid.
"Your people killed a good friend of mine with that weapon of yours," she said.
"Your friend?" She could see his annoyance turn to frustration. "Your *friend*!? These humans plan to eradicate my *entire* race!"
"Whoever told you we wanted to kill your people were lying to you," Reed said.
The Xindi ignored him. She knew he didn't believe what Reed had said.
His gaze was still fixed on her. "*Five* species of Xindi at risk and you're worried about the death of just *one* of *them*." There was anger on his face now.
Her other fist clenched. "Careful."
"What of *my* men you killed, Ceyla? If that's even your name. Do you not care that *they* had friends and families?"
She didn't bother trying to keep the malice out of her voice. "They were the enemy." She shrugged, "besides, you don't seem to care about the families of the millions your people killed."
The man's eyes were pure hatred now, mirroring her own feelings.
"Like you said," he began, "they were the enemy."
She lowered her hand and swung her right fist, catching him square in the jaw. She watched with immense satisfaction as he fell unconscious to the floor.
She looked at Reed. "I didn't kill him. I hope that pleases you."
He seemed to glance at the man she *had* killed and seemed about to say something to that effect when she heard the click of her earpiece connecting.
"Engineering level is clear. There were only the three." Hayes came in.
"We've got four. Three unconscious. One dead. Reed will give you the location. We're headed to the bridge."
Chapter 12: Rolik
There was only one way onto the bridge and he insisted on going first. There were two more Xindi from what Varo had told him. At least one was a soldier.
He was the threat. And although he knew Varo was capable of handling it, he wasn't sure if she could do it without bloodshed.
When they emerged from the lift, he was ready. With his rifle raised, he quickly scanned the room for the soldier. After but a moment he spotted a man lying on the floor. Dead or unconscious, he didn't know. But he was certainly Xindi. So where was the other one?
Then he saw Travis standing before him, hands in the air.
Travis' face was pale, his eyes glued to the floor before him. He looked up at him just as a man stepped out slightly from behind him.
Reed made to raise his rifle.
"Put that down or I'll shoot." Warned the Xindi.
It was then that he noticed Captain Archer off to his left. They locked eyes and the Captain nodded.
"Do as he says."
Reed wanted to protest, but looking back at the Xindi, he noticed the man's lack of military uniform, how his hand shook, and how his eyes blinked. He was unaccustomed to holding a weapon; he was nervous. It meant he was unpredictable. It also meant they might be able to reason with him. But not with the threat of a weapon in his hands.
So he nodded and set it down slowly.
"And you," he said, referring to Varo. "Do you have any weapons? Let me see your hands."
She raised them. "I have no weapons, Rolik."
The man paused. "How do you know my name?"
"It's me, Rolik," she said.
Again he paused. After a moment he shook his head, saying something in what he presumed to be Xindi.
It was then that he realized she hadn't changed her appearance. She looked human. He supposed the man didn't recognize her.
"It's me," she said, taking a few small steps towards him. Her voice was soft, caring. It sounded odd to his ears.
"It can't be," the man said, this time in English as well. He squinted as he regarded her. Then his eyes went wide and his brows raised - in sorrow? He couldn't tell.
"No," he nearly whispered, "Ceyla?"
"But, your face." He paused as a kind of realization seemed to dawn on him. "They were right. You betrayed us." He paused. "I didn't want to believe it. But-" He motioned to her face. "How could you?"
Reed watched as she took a few slow, careful steps towards the Xindi.
"You know I had to," she said. Her hands were stretched before her as she tried to talk him down. "You know what you've been told about them is wrong. Deep down, Rolik, you know."
"No!" He growled. "They're the enemy!" His weapon was pressed right against the back of Travis' head now. Travis shut his eyes.
"Look at them, Rolik," she insisted, gesturing to the few of them remaining on the bridge. "You're holding their man hostage. If they were anything like you've been told, they wouldn't care for his life. You'd both be dead right now."
Her words seemed to antagonize him. Reed was afraid she had said too much.
The man shook his head violently. "No."
"Let him go, Rolik." Her voice was stern yet pleading.
The man's eyes glanced around, looking at nothing in particular. There was a look of hurt and betrayal on his face.
"Rolik," she said, firmer this time as to get his attention. "Point the phaser at me. It's me you're mad at. Not this man. Not them."
The man hesitated for a moment, his hand shaking in obvious anger and uncertainty. But as his eyes locked with hers, Reed thought he saw the man's anger take form, solidify, and direct itself on her.
Still, she moved toward him, slowly pushing Travis aside and in moments taking his place.
"How could you do this to me!" Rolik yelled. "You've taken my research. My work. You've ruined me. I have nothing left. Nothing except this." The man gestured around them.
"This is my last, only, chance to redeem myself, Ceyla. I have to take you back."
She nodded. "How far behind us is the fleet?"
"Two hours. At most," the man said, seeming suddenly embarrassed. "They told me to stay near. But you were so close I could feel it." He paused, his eyes beginning to water. "I thought I could fix this somehow, you know? I hoped it wasn't true."
"Rolik-," she said. He ignored her.
"I thought surely the humans had coerced you somehow. Or-," he sighed, "but look at you. You've already changed your face."
"Rolik-," she repeated.
"I loved you, Ceyla!" He exclaimed, his eyes watering.
"And I love you, Rolik," she said.
Reed thought he could see tears in her eyes as well. He couldn't help but wonder if she meant it.
The man's hand shook. His brows furrowed and his lips narrowed.
"Liar!" He yelled, bringing his weapon closer to her face. "You never loved me. You used me to get to my work!"
"That's not true," she replied, softly.
Reed was astounded by how little fear she showed. It made him wonder if she were brave, foolish, or suicidal. Maybe all three.
"It is!" Rolik insisted.
Reed could see the man's anger push aside his sorrow.
"The men I brought with me are soldiers. They'll rip this place apart in finding you. You'll all pay for this!"
"Your men are dead, Rolik."
"What?" The man asked, stunned. "No. That's impossible."
"Try to contact them."
His free hand moved to the device in his ear. He pressed it. "Hanar?" He tried. There was no answer.
"How?" He asked after it was evident that there would be no reply.
She said nothing, simply broke her gaze. The look communicated regret, remorse even. Reed couldn't tell if she meant it or not. And that unsettled him more than anything.
"You?" Rolik shook his head. "No. They were Mazeti. Ten highly trained soldiers and you... just like that?" He studied her face for a few moments more.
"Oh, god," he whispered to himself, pulling the phaser back slightly with the weight of it. "You're not Xindi are you? - that's... that's your actual face, isn't it?"
She didn't reply, but she avoided his gaze all the same.
What could she have said? That she was neither Xindi nor Human? Reed wondered if her silence meant she truly did care for this man.
Tears began running down Rolik's face. He looked defeated. "When they find out I let a Human- Oh, god."
"Rolik. Please, put down the phaser," she pleaded, setting a gentle hand on his arm.
"I loved you." His tone was more disbelief than declaration.
Now there were tears running down her face as well.
"And I *still* love you, Rolik. Please."
He watched, relieved and baffled as Rolik lowered the weapon and dropped it to the floor. Reed moved for it and picked it up while Rolik and Varo dropped to their knees together; Rolik buried his face in his hands and she wrapped her arms around him.
"You know what the Reptilians will do to me if I go back there," the man said, almost too low for Reed to hear.
"I know," she replied, her head resting briefly on his.
Reed felt his muscles relax, relieved now that the ordeal was over. He rubbed at his eyes and took a deep breath, aiming to have a short moment of peace before taking the man into custody.
Looking over to Travis and the Captain, he could see the relief on their faces as well.
He turned back to Varo and Rolik who had retreated back into speaking Xindi. He was all at once in awe of and perplexed by the woman before him. She seemed so unlike herself, what little he had seen of her, as she gently caressed the man's hair and face. Maybe she *did* love him.
The thought gave him pause. How could she love a man that had had a part in killing so many of them?
'She's not Human,' he had to remind himself.
He mentally shook his head. No. She had lost someone to them. Like they all had. He'd seen the malice there. And yet...
He turned back to the two. They murmured quietly to one another. The man's eyes were pleading and hers were sorrowful.
Then he saw it - her hand disappear into her boot. Color drained from his face.
"Varo, no!" He exclaimed as he rushed for her. But it was too late.
The blade had already sunk into Rolik's chest.
The man's grip tightened on her shoulder, briefly, but long enough for him to mutter something to her in Xindi. Then he was gone.
Her face lingered a moment longer alongside the man's head. He thought he saw her kiss his temple before she pulled the blade from his chest but knew he must have been mistaken.
She stared at the crimson-stained weapon in her hand; she seemed transfixed by it. Then her eyes seemed to refocus as she let the weapon drop to the floor.
She stood. To his surprise, and begrudgingly his relief, he noticed that her eyes were dry and clear.
She took a look around them. He did the same, noticing that Travis was no longer on the bridge.
Instead, the Captain and one of his own Security team, Hernández, stood wide-eyed and muscles tense as they stared at the body on the floor.
He guessed they hadn't seen what he'd seen - not completely, at least. They had probably only turned when he'd yelled.
Varo turned to Archer.
"I want his body cremated," she said, her voice detached.
Archer straightened himself and his eyes narrowed. "Would you care to explain why you just killed him?" There was a dangerous edge to his tone.
She cocked her head slightly to one side. "Does it even matter?" She asked.
"That Xindi worked on the weapon," he nearly hissed at her. "He was one of the *lead* scientists." He moved closer to her in his anger, a finger dangerously close to her face.
Both he and Hernández inched closer to the Captain, unsure of how she might react. He didn't think he trusted her.
But she simply stood there, her expression blank and unphased.
"The intel we could have gotten from him-" Archer continued.
"You already have everything he knew," she interrupted. "He had nothing left."
"That wasn't your call to make." Archer was gritting his teeth now.
Varo turned from him and glanced at the viewscreen that still showed the small ship the Xindi had arrived on. It was oddly reminiscent of the one she and the Andorians had used.
"My ship," she said, gesturing to it, "have it brought on board."
"The Captain was speaking to you." He said, his tone not lacking in anger as he moved even closer to them. He didn't much care for her dismissive attitude. Especially towards the Captain.
Even before he spoke he noticed a small tremor to her hand.
Her gaze followed his. And when she noticed it herself, she clasped her hands tightly together but said nothing.
"Hernández," Archer said as he glared at her.
"Confine her to her quarters."
"I suggest we get out of here before the rest of the Xindi fleet catch up with us," she muttered as she allowed herself to be led off the bridge.
Chapter 13: Alcoholic Remarks
For the second time that day, Reed found himself standing in front of Varo's door.
He was angry. He understood that under current circumstances casualties were inevitable - on both sides. He knew there would be times where impossible choices would have to be made. Where the success of the mission would have to come before all else. This hadn't been one of those times.
She had murdered that man, and in the process, had robbed them of an important source of intel.
"Lieutenant," one of the men standing guard said, pulling him from his thoughts.
"Hernández," he returned the greeting.
"Anything to report?" He asked.
"I haven't had any trouble from her, Sir," the man replied.
He nodded, decidedly relieved to hear it.
He took a breath, composing himself before he moved his hand to the buzzer. Before he could press it, however, a loud growl - no, an angry scream - and the sound of shattering glass came from within.
At once his two men were beside him, phasers drawn, as he entered his override code into the door's panel. He drew his own phaser as the door slid open. What he saw when it did wasn't at all what he expected.
The room was dim, unlit. Varo was kneeling on the floor, her shoulders hunched over, and her hair a mess before her face.
Next to her sat a mostly empty carafe of what was undoubtedly a sort of liquor. And on the wall and floor opposite her were the remnants of a drinking glass and its former contents.
She looked up at him then away. He could tell from the uneasy sway of her head that she was intoxicated. He holstered his weapon and motioned for his men to stand down.
"Varo," he said as his men resumed their post.
She sat herself fully on the floor and pulled her legs out in front of her. Leaning back against the wall behind her in the process, she rested her head against its undoubtedly cold surface.
"Reed," she nearly whispered.
The reflection of starlight on her face revealed streaks of recent tears. He wasn't sure what to say, caught between his anger and concern for her state of being. Somehow, this was the last thing he had expected from her.
"Care for a drink?" She asked, holding up the carafe.
He noticed the added tremor of her hand to her already unstable gesture. Whether or not it was due to the alcohol, he didn't know.
After a moment she lowered her arm, seeming to have realized where his gaze lied.
She shrugged. "Surprisingly, It hasn't helped." She turned to the still wet wall before her. "If anything, it's made it worse."
"Made what worse?" He asked, suddenly having the impression that she meant more than just her hand.
She said nothing for a few, long moments. He was beginning to wonder if she'd heard him.
"I was in love once," she said simply.
His reply was a sneer. After the Xindi, he somehow doubted she was capable of it.
"I mean really, truly in love," she said, having seemingly understood what he'd meant.
She picked up the carafe from the floor and made to take a drink, but instead simply held it between her hands whose elbows now rested on her knees.
"I couldn't have been more than thirty at the time," she continued, seemingly lost in thought. "Those were the happiest six years of my life."
He thought he saw her smile before it faded. The genuine look of sadness it left behind gave him pause.
"What happened?" He asked, taking a seat beside her.
Gently, he pried the carafe from her hands. She didn't seem to notice.
She glanced at him and shook her head slightly. "Murdered." She was staring at the wall now. "The assassin..." She gestured before them, her expression lost, as if she could see him now. "He came out of nowhere. I didn't see him. His blade." Her hands fell into her lap.
"I'm sorry," he said. He didn't know if he meant it.
She shrugged. "I was young. So naive. I thought that fate had no bearing on me."
His brows furrowed.
"We make our own fate," he said.
She half-heartedly laughed. "That's what I thought, too. And who knows. Perhaps for most that's true."
"But not for you?"
She stared before her.
"Everything I touch turns to dust." She whispered it like one might a mantra.
"That can't be true."
Now she really did laugh. "If you only knew."
She looked at him then, and her eyes faded and iced over.
"This is my curse," she said. "I can run and hide from it, but it doesn't matter. In the end, it always finds me." She smiled a sad smile. "Always takes something away."
His gaze traveled back to the shattered glass before them. He did feel somewhat sorry for her then. There was a weight behind her words that he couldn't help but believe.
He thought back to Rolik. He remembered the look she had had on her face as she had stared at the bloodied knife in her hand. He hadn't known what to make of her expression - but thinking back, perhaps it had been remembrance that he'd seen there.
He shook his head and turned back to her.
"That's not an excuse," he said, suddenly remembering his anger.
She turned to him, a hazed look of confusion on her face.
"For what you did," he clarified. The look on her face said she understood. "You murdered that man."
She shook her head and stared at the ceiling. "I'm not giving you an excuse, Reed. I'm telling you what ran through my mind when he asked me to do it."
There was a long silence between them before he spoke again.
"Pardon?" He asked. "He *asked* you to kill him?"
Her eyes were closed. She nodded lazily.
She sighed, "It's complicated."
Reed's brows furrowed. "That's not good enough. Not for killing a man." He was getting tired of her self-pity.
She said nothing for a moment. Her eyes were still closed. She seemed to be falling asleep.
"Varo," he demanded.
She sighed but opened her eyes. "What does it matter?"
Reed's brows furrowed. His mouth was a sneer. "What does it matter!?" He stood. "A man is dead because of you. Several men."
She had killed four. He knew the first two could be argued as self-defense, as casualties of war, but not the last two. And certainly not Rolik. There was a line and she had crossed it.
She seemed unmoved by his anger. It left him oddly disheartened.
"Maybe you really are just a sadist," he muttered.
She said nothing for a moment. Simply regarded him. Her look turned quizzical at first, as if she were trying to decide if he were joking.
He wasn't. He hadn't imagined the perverse pleasure he'd seen on her face as she killed the first man, had he? The extreme anger - no, hatred - she'd exhibited for the others, *that* had been real.
There was a sudden softness to her gaze then, followed by a small furrow of the brow before her look ultimately hardened and turned dismissive.
She sat herself up a little straighter than before. "Believe what you want, Reed. Your precious Starfleet won't care either way, so why should I?"
He bristled at the statement.
She turned her gaze back to the wall before her.
He'd had enough.
"You know what, Varo?" He said before he made to leave. "You say everything you touch turns to dust. And you blame fate. But do you ever stop to think that maybe it's not fate? That maybe it's you?"
She didn't move. He sighed in frustration.
"The choices here were yours to make. You made the wrong ones."
Chapter 14: The Morning After
Cey sat on the edge of her cot staring out the window across from her. The stars passed by as white streaks on a black backdrop. She would have thought the view beautiful if it weren't for the slight throbbing of her head.
As headaches went, this one had grown quite mild over the past half hour - which in itself was inconvenient. It was dull enough now as to leave her with nothing to distract from thoughts of the night before.
She remembered pouring herself a glass of - something. Several glasses.
The first had been intended as a means to quell the slight tremor of her hands. But it hadn't been enough. And with the second had come thoughts that also needed dulling. Thoughts of Rolik, of what she had done, of how it had far too closely echoed another experience in her life - one that she would have preferred to leave buried away, but in one form or other always seemed to resurface and repeat.
And with the thoughts had come grief and frustration - then anger. That's when she'd shattered the glass against the wall. And when Reed had arrived.
She was normally very careful about the side of herself she allowed others to see. She had lived far too long, and had had far too many maddening experiences to allow even a fraction of them to haunt her conscious mind.
Bringing light to the hidden parts of herself was never anything but a mistake. Her drunken ramblings had been evidence enough of that. So had his reaction.
He had called her a sadist.
She sighed, bringing her head to her hands. She didn't know why the statement bothered her. Did his opinion actually matter to her? Or had she found a grain of truth in his words? She wasn't sure which thought she disliked more.
She rubbed at her temples, willing her frustration away. Then came that distinctive sound.
She knew who it was before she even looked up.
"I almost forgot," he said without greeting, "I need Sor's implants."
She stood, her expression unchanged.
"Did you know?" She asked. "What I would be facing? How it would end?" She remembered his surprise, and his hurry when he'd realized what day it was.
He paused. Seeming to take a moment to realize what she was talking about despite it obviously having been mere moments for him. "Yes. Of course," he finally said.
"Why didn't you warn me?" She asked.
He gave her a marginally disappointed look.
"You know why," he answered.
She did. It was the same reason she couldn't save him - or any of them. Her expression softened. It didn't make it any easier.
"Why me?" She asked. Why was she always the one these things fell to?
She could see the pity on his face.
"You were the best choice for the job," he said.
"Wouldn't a human have been a better choice?" Even as she asked, she knew he was right.
He sighed, but not out of frustration.
"I-" He paused, seemingly unsure of how to begin.
"I can't give you details, but I've seen your service record, Cey. All of it." Again he paused. "You've always worked in the Fe- in Starfleet's best interest. Even when it didn't seem like it, or when it would have been too difficult for anyone else.
"You've done things others couldn't have, simply because of who and what you are."
She resisted the urge to ask *what* exactly that was.
He shrugged. "True you're a bit controversial to some, but I knew I could trust you to do this."
She didn't know what to say. She briefly contemplated asking how long she had ultimately served Starfleet, but part of her knew she didn't actually want to know. She didn't want to know how much longer she'd live, or, more importantly, how many more years she'd find herself in the midst of the universe's problems.
So she remained silent with those thoughts at the forefront of her mind.
"Sor's implants?" He reminded her.
"What?" She asked before she remembered his initial request. "Right. In that locker," she said, pointing.
He headed over to it.
"What about mine?" She asked, desperate to change the subject.
"Keep them," he said as he finished counting and pocketing the handful of discs. "You'll put them to good use."
She didn't much like the sound of that.
"Who should I see about getting them repaired then?" She asked, forcing a small grin to cross her face.
Daniels turned to her. "They should have repaired themselves by now," he said. He pulled out a scanning device. "Let me check."
It took a couple of moments to scan her. "Yes. They're all repaired.
"Oh!" He continued as a thought occurred to him. "That reminds me." Again he directed a scanner towards her.
"There," he concluded after yet another moment.
"There what?" She asked, confused.
"I've updated the firmware." He smiled. "The device's settings - their readings should now automatically match the image you project."
She blinked a few times in surprise. "What? How?"
Daniels smiled. "We've learned quite a bit about your abilities over the- years." He cleared his throat. "Turns out there's a biological component to your illusionary disguises. Your implants read those signs to 'know' what it is you're projecting and it relays them as the proper biosigns." He paused. "Only works for known species, of course."
She had never been quite so at a loss for words as she was then.
"Well. I should go," Daniels muttered, barely sparing her another glance as he began fiddling with one of the innumerable devices he had on his person.
Moments later, he was gone.
She was left staring at the spot he'd been standing, trying to wrap her head around what he'd said.
She had understood him easily enough. It was the implications that gave her pause.
From what she gathered, this technology was far more advanced than anything currently even conceivable. Centuries down the line had been her impression when he'd first recruited her and spoke of the devices. Now, she couldn't help but wonder. Had it been developed *for* her? Or from studies *of* her?
The questions sent her mind down long tangents of what that implied about her future with Starfleet. Would she live on for centuries? Would she help them create this technology? Would she be a willing participant?
When her thoughts turned to the ludicrous notion of having founded the Temporal Agency Daniels worked for, she was all too relieved to hear a buzz at the door.
When she opened it, she was greeted by one of the security officers.
"Hernández, isn't it?" She asked, trying to clear her head.
He nodded. "Yes, mam. I'm to escort you to the debrief room. The Captain would like to speak with you."
"Perfect," she said, with surprisingly not as much sarcasm as she would have expected.
Chapter 15: Debrief
Cey sat at the wide end of a long, gray table. Behind her was a window, and Hernández. Across from her sat Archer. Reed stood to his right.
She forced her gaze towards the lieutenant. She refused to feel embarrassed for the night before.
He avoided her gaze, his expression carefully neutral. She realized he was still angry with her.
Archer exhaled somewhat louder than was necessary.
She pulled her annoyed gaze from the lieutenant and gave her attention back to Archer.
He made no attempt to hide what he was feeling. It was clear he didn't like what he was about to say.
"Starfleet has decided not to hold you accountable for... yesterday's events."
She said nothing but wasn't at all surprised. Governments were often predictable. As long as the work was done, it often didn't matter how...
"However," Archer added, straightening himself in his seat. "This is still my ship. I have the last say. And your *services* are no longer needed."
He wanted her off his ship. She understood so she nodded, but she couldn't shake the small grin that had unwittingly made its way onto her face.
He all but glared at her but didn't comment.
"Phlox says the Andorian is fit to travel. He will meet you in the cargo bay."
So he didn't just want her to leave. He wanted her gone. Now.
Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly. Fine. If that's how he wanted it.
She made to stand up.
So did he.
"We're not done," he said sternly, but without anger.
When it was obvious to him that she was going to remain standing, he continued. "Phlox asked me to give you this." He reached down from behind the table beside him to pick something up.
She was surprised to see him set an urn down between them.
"I have to admit," she said, "I didn't think you'd actually do it." She was referring to the cremation.
"Neither did I," Archer admitted. "But after Phlox's autopsy, and listening to what Lieutenant Reed said of your conversation,"
"Ah," she interrupted, "you don't think I'm so unstable now. Is that it?"
Archer smiled grimly but didn't answer. Reed only scoffed.
She ignored him.
"So you *did* know he was sick," Archer said.
Her eyes didn't move from Reed's, but she nodded all the same. "Of course I knew." She turned back to Archer. "I was his wife."
Both men seemed taken aback by the statement.
Now she sat back down. Archer did the same.
"His wife?" Archer asked.
"And his colleague," she added. "It was the best way to get access to his work."
She glanced at the urn. She could still hear his accusation of her. That she'd used him. He hadn't been wrong.
"It's only been a few months since the attack," she heard Archer say.
She knew what he was asking. How had she gotten him to marry her in that short amount of time? It sounded impressive, she had to admit. But it hadn't been that simple.
"I had a bit of a head start."
She briefly wondered if Daniels would be angry if she said any more.
"What do you mean?" The question sounded more like a demand for an explanation.
Cey paused. She didn't much like orders.
Then again, she was currently feeling somewhat vindictive towards Daniels.
"What if I told you that I had met Degra and his team, Rolik included, more than a year ago at a Xindi Symposium?"
To hell with Daniels.
"That I struck up a conversation with Rolik, gained his attention and his interest, and had a bit of a short-lived romance with him until the Symposium ended?"
Especially after his stipulations.
"All so that when I found myself at the research station many months later, he'd remember me."
Archer regarded her with vague disbelief - and suspicion.
"How?" He asked. "Did you know what was going to happen?"
She could see Reed tense slightly from the corner of her eye.
She shook her head. "No. I was on Andoria when I heard."
"But you just said-"
She nodded. "After it happened, I was approached by a mutual acquaintance."
Archer cocked his head slightly in curiosity. "A mutual acquaintance?"
That was purely a guess, but Daniels had mentioned Archer on more than one occasion. If he had been willing to contact her, he likely had done the same with Archer.
Archer and Reed exchanged glances.
She knew she had been right.
Archer stood again and shook his head. "He sent you back?" He asked in disbelief.
Archer was contemplative for a moment. "I never would have thought that he would even think of meddling so much in the timeline. That must be dangerous."
She shrugged. "I don't know. But considering that he didn't just let me stop it from happening, it probably shows a lot of restraint."
There was a bitterness to her tone. She had had a very hard time not doing just that. Trying to stop the weapon. She wasn't even allowed to warn anyone. It had been one of his damned stipulations.
And although she had trusted his expertise that any deviation could have catastrophic consequences, It had been a lot to ask of her.
"And the Andorians?" He asked. "Did Daniels send them back as well?"
"No," she answered. "We had already trained together for quite some time. I knew them. Trusted them. I arranged for them to join after it happened."
Archer nodded and sighed. "I still don't agree with your methods," he said, "regardless of the results."
He looked suddenly tired. The realities of war weren't easy to endure. Especially for an idealistic species like the Humans.
"I understand," she said. "Starfleet is altruistic. You strive to be the best version of yourselves. To always do the right thing."
He gave her a questioning look. As if to ask where she was going with this.
"Don't get me wrong, Captain. I find it admirable. I really do."
"But-," Archer offered.
His tone said he didn't actually want to hear what she had to say, but she continued anyhow. She wasn't one to refuse an opportunity to tell hard truths.
"But. The right thing isn't always possible. It often doesn't even have the same meaning between you humans, let alone between species." She paused. "Whether you like it or not, Captain. You need people like me."
"Like you?" Reed rolled his eyes.
She turned her head to him.
"Those trained to do whatever needs to be done. No reservations. No qualms. Even after the deed is done."
"I don't believe that," Archer replied.
She nodded and smiled. "I know you don't. It's what I like about you, Captain. And I hope that one day it'll be true."
Archer was silent for a moment. There seemed to be something weighing on his mind. She briefly wondered what it could be, but then remembered that she'd been exonerated.
"I'm sorry that Starfleet agreed with me," she offered.
Archer looked up at her, looking somewhat insulted. And angry. As if she'd insulted him personally. "They didn't agree with you. They simply felt they owed you something."
Her smile didn't fade. She simply nodded, feeling relieved in a small way.
"You said you were trained," Reed spoke up. "By whom? The Vulcans?"
She blinked her confusion.
"Admiral Forrest said that you were expelled from Starfleet." Archer's shoulders straightened as if to prepare himself for his next words. "For being a plant by the Vulcan High Council-"
"To derail your Warp 5 plan," she finished for him.
He seemed surprised at her ready confession.
"Is it true?" He asked.
She knew how important it had been to his father.
True she was a liar, technically; but rarely was she one outside of her work, and never simply to protect herself from others’ opinions of her.
And yet, she found she couldn't leave it at that. For some reason, she felt she needed to explain.
"I'm guessing he didn't tell you how I was found out."
Perhaps Maxwell hadn't known. Or perhaps he didn't care.
"Let's just say it wasn't two days after I told the High Council that I was no longer going to help them that I found myself facing charges of espionage."
Both Archer and Reed were momentarily taken aback. They glanced at one another.
"You think it was the Vulcans?" Archer asked.
"I think we both know that the Vulcans are perfectly capable of being petty and vindictive. Regardless of what they might claim."
Archer was careful not to affirm or refute that claim, but she thought she saw a slight pull of the lips.
"Did you voice that concern?" Reed questioned.
"No. There was no point."
"You could be lying," he replied.
It was oddly disheartening to hear that from him, but it was a valid concern. She hadn't exactly proven herself a truthful person.
"And what would that accomplish?" She asked.
Reed shrugged. "To try and get us to pity you? To trust you?" His eyes narrowed accusingly.
Hers followed suit. "Save your pity," she said with contempt. "I don’t need it, and I certainly don't need your trust. I've done what I came here to do. And soon I'll be on my way."
"Alright," Archer intervened. "That's enough." He looked between them both, then back at her. "If it's true you had refused to help the High Council, and you had tried to defend yourself, you might have..."
"Might have what?" She asked, still annoyed. "Damaged your relationship with the Vulcans even further?" She laughed. "I told you, Captain. This is who I am. This is what I do." She paused, unsure of how to explain it.
"I may not be a very good person. What I do doesn't allow for it." She glanced at Reed. "But I know when I've served my purpose. When it's time to move on before I can do even more damage."
She could see the frustration on Archer's face.
"So you're just a tool then. A weapon to be used and discarded. Is that it?"
She smiled softly, thankfully, at his obvious good nature.
"I'm afraid so, Captain."
He shook his head. "Sounds rather lonely."
She shrugged. "I've lived a long and eventful life. I've experienced wonderful things and terrible ones. I've committed acts of both." She smiled sadly. "You humans have a saying: 'You reap what you sow.'"
"So this is your punishment then, is it?"
She could only nod. "I deserve nothing less."
Chapter 16: Oddly Sentimental
It was a long walk from the debriefing room to the cargo bay, and more than half that journey had been made in complete silence.
He glanced to his left where Varo walked half a step ahead of him. She carried the urn carefully in her hands as they moved.
He knew he'd be lying if he said he wasn't still angry. But a part of him also pitied her. It was difficult to reconcile the two opposing feelings.
"Varo," he said, despite his better judgment.
They stopped walking as she turned to look at him.
He searched her face for something. What, he didn't know. But it didn't matter. Her expression was unreadable. So his gaze settled on the urn.
"You should have told us he was sick," he said without meaning to. It was difficult to put aside the feeling that things could have turned out more amicable if she'd only done a few things differently.
She shook her head in annoyance. "Scolding me now, are you?"
"We might have been able to help him."
She turned and faced him fully at this. Her expression became somber. "If you had heard or read Phlox's report, you would know that's not true." She paused, pressing her lips together. "He had months left, if he was lucky..."
She paused for a long moment. "...and they were likely to be painful ones at that."
He didn't know what to say.
"What did he have?" He finally asked. He wanted to understand.
"A neurological disorder," she said. She took a breath and turned from him.
He followed her as she began walking again.
"At first it was the occasional headache. Then he'd misplace things or forget things. Then the headaches became worse - migraines that would last days at a time and..."
She shook her head. "He was a man of science whose brain was destroying itself. He was losing the one thing he felt made him who he was."
Her smug expression softened somewhat into a sad smile. "And I went and stole his life's work… and made him a fool in the eyes of his colleagues."
He remembered Rolik's accusations.
“And in the end…” she trailed off.
He remembered their hushed conversation once he'd surrendered.
"What did he say?" He asked.
"Thank you," she muttered. She shook her head and let out a scoff of a breath. "He thanked me."
She took a breath to recollect herself.
"I know you're angry that I killed those men, Reed," she began. "I understand. But..."
He waited for her to continue.
"People like them, people like Hanar, they take advantage of men like Rolik." She said it with more than a tinge of bile. "They pervert their brilliance. They twist and mangle it for their own selfish, greedy, and ignoble purpose."
It was then that he understood her hatred, but...
“They thought they were saving their people,” he muttered.
“Based on lies,” she responded bitterly.
He nodded. “Yes. Based on lies they don’t know are lies.” He glanced at her.
Her expression turned questioning, unsure. She gazed at the urn in her hands, seeming to hold it a little tighter.
After a moment, she nodded. "You're right," she muttered, then sighed.
“You’d think I’d know better by now,” she chided herself.
She hadn’t taken her eyes off the urn. He wouldn’t know, but he’d heard love could cloud one’s judgment.
"You really did love him, didn't you?"
She looked up at him, pensive, then she shrugged. "I don't know." Her smile was sad. "When you lie for a living... It becomes difficult to tell the difference."
He had hoped what he thought would be the answer would give her some peace.
"And what will you do know?" He asked, hoping to change the subject.
She lifted the urn slightly. "He once told me about a system in Xindi space. Three planets, all absolutely beautiful." She smiled at the thought.
"On one is where he met his late wife. On another is where he took her on their first vacation."
"And on the third?" He asked.
"It's where he proposed to her," she smiled sadly.
"Which are you taking him to?" He asked.
"None of them," she said, "the system's star is where he spread her ashes."
"And you're going to do the same for him."
She nodded. "It's what he would have wanted. What he deserved."
He smiled at this. "Oddly sentimental for someone who isn't sure whether or not she loved him."
She shrugged but smiled all the same.
They reached the cargo bay.
"I'm sure Sor is ready to go," she said.
Reed nodded. "Undoubtedly."
Reed followed her through the doors to where a waiting Sor stood.
"The ship is ready, Captain," Sor said with a teasing smile.
“Sor,” She complained light-heartedly. Reed remembered she had said she didn’t like to be called Captain.
Sor didn’t reply, but the smile didn’t budge from his face as he took the urn from her hands and carried it onto the ship.
Before she boarded, she turned to him once more. "Reed," she nodded her goodbye.
“Cey,” he replied in kind.
A smile crept onto her face.
As they left he realized what it was he'd been searching for on her face: a hint of humanity.