Philippa looks up from the PADD at Leland and hopes her disbelief shines through.
“Yeah, ‘cause I do that all the time at this job,” Leland deadpans. “Exactly what about this assignment is so difficult to believe?”
“Does that really bear a response?” Philippa rolls her eyes before tossing the PADD back onto Leland’s terminal. She strides two steps towards the guardrail that separates the upper level of their covert-ops vessel from the control deck. “I am your best agent on Qo’Nos, I built a spy network out of nothing, my work was critical to the war effort…”
Her lips work for a brief moment, before she whirls back towards Leland.
“Why, in the name of all Gods and hells below, am I being reassigned to the Discovery?”
Leland snorts at her scandalized tone, and Philippa glares at him.
“Well now you must be joking,” Leland collapses the PADD and pockets it. “You’ve got the clearance, surely you’ve skimmed their dossier. The thing reads like a holo-show collapsing under it’s own weight.”
Philippa smirks at that. She starts to walk around the curved second level of the starship, adding a slight swagger for effect, and Leland falls into step next to her. “An evil universe, a mushroom-powered teleporter …”
“…a transfigured Klingon spy and a nefarious doppelganger of their captain,” Leland finishes. Philippa shoots him a piercing look, but Leland only shrugs.
“The parallels are uncanny, Captain, you have to admit.”
“Don’t call me that,” Philippa snaps. “Do I look like a Starfleet captain to you?”
She gestures plainly at her tight black leathers, the only clothing she had found on Qo’Nos that had fit her intensely slim frame.
Leland, to his credit, doesn’t answer that. Instead, he takes a long, deep breath, clearly centering himself. Philippa waits for whatever her former classmate, now handler, has to say about this inexplicable assignment.
“Look, Agent Georgiou,” Leland finally responds, over-enunciating Philippa’s title as he does so, “The USS Discovery has access to some of the most powerful experimental technology in the galaxy, and they were caught flat-footed, twice, because none of those squeaky-clean idiot Starfleet scientists knew how to stay vigilant and watch for hostiles in their midst.”
Leland takes a step closer.
“We nearly had the war won, until Discovery’s traitor captain pulled them out of the known universe for nine months. How many millions died because not a damn person on that ship noticed their own captain was a barbarian?”
He and Philippa stare at each other for a long, tense moment.
“That is your assignment, Agent Georgiou.”
Leland’s voice is light once more, even as he exaggerates Philippa’s title. “Keep an eye on the Discovery’s personnel, investigate anyone acting strange, watch for nefarious intentions…perhaps not so cloak and dagger as your work on Qo’Nos, but I’m sure you’ll survive.”
Leland attempts to walk away as Philippa digests this, but she stops him with a hand to his upper arm.
Silence hangs between them, weighting the stark emptiness of the catwalk scaffolding.
“Anyone in Section 31 could do this assignment,” Philippa continues. “And they would all be a damn sight less recognizable than former Captain Philippa Georgiou.”
It’s a good point, Philippa knows it, which is why this assignment is completely, utterly baffling to her.
“Little use in being a secret agent if everyone knows who you are, eh, Leland?” She gestures slightly with her chin. Leland smirks, and Philippa immediately regrets needling him.
He looks better when he scowls.
“Oh come now, Agent Georgiou, surely you can see how your identity would prove of service when it comes to gaining the Discovery’s trust?”
Philippa’s lip twists sideways. Something about that idea rubs her the wrong way, but she doesn’t feel much like analyzing the feeling at the moment.
“Hidden in plain sight, as one of the finest, most upstanding captains in Starfleet?” Leland continues in a jaunty tone. “This might be the best idea anyone has ever had.”
“Not possibly good enough to justify pulling me from Qo’Nos like this,” Philippa fires back. “I do good work there and you know it, so why in the hell would you—“
“Will you quit being so angry and use your damn brain for half a second?” Leland snaps, and Philippa pauses at the anger in his tone. “If it were my decision, I’d keep you on Qo’Nos, you’re far more useful there. No, these orders came from well above me, nothing I can do about it.”
The admission is enough to give Philippa pause. Warning bells go off in the back of her mind.
“I don’t know, Philippa—“ Philippa glowers at the rankling familiarity, but Leland, to his credit, doesn’t flinch. “But whoever it was had incredibly high clearance, just look at the sign-off number on your reassignment sheet.”
Philippa takes the proffered PADD from Leland, unfolding it and bringing up her assignment document. This time, she gives more attention to the digits at the bottom. A low whistle escapes her at the clearance number.
“I know, right?” Leland agrees. “No clue who at command gives that much of a shit about you, but good luck getting out of this one.”
Philippa only stares at the orders, and unpleasant emotion begins to crawl up the back of her throat.
Bewilderment, apprehension, and growing sense of outright fear…rather unpleasant feelings, ones she has not felt since waking up in that murky hospital room on Qo’Nos, hands tied to the bed, chest cavity on fire…
Leland takes the PADD from her, and Philippa realizes that her hands are trembling.
“Come on now, Georgiou…” Leland’s voice might even be gentle. “You survived for well over a year on Qo’Nos with half a heart and somehow built a thriving intelligence network in the process…this assignment should be like a vacation.”
Philippa manages a weak huff at that, even while taking a shaky step away from Leland. Some vacation, she thought. Undercover aboard a ship of decorated heroes, brave, courageous, clear-eyed scientists…
A ship containing the one person in the Federation who refused to be corrupted, who took the high ground even during the depths of a brutal, bloody war, finding a way to peace against all odds and all orders…
How could I possibly look her in the eye after what I have become?
So caught up is Philippa in these dark thoughts that she doesn’t realize that Leland has walked away, not until he is almost through the door at the aft side of the control deck.
“Leland!” She calls after him, and he turns around just before clearing the threshold.
Philippa opens her mouth, but quickly remembers where they are, who they are, and thinks better of it. Instead, she gestures broadly at her dark, leather-clad form.
“Did those orders come with any advice as to what the hell role I am supposed to have aboard the Fleet’s “finest science vessel?””
And to Philippa’s immense dismay, Leland smiles, a slow, wicked grin of indescribable amusement.
“You were a field medic for nearly a decade before enlisting in Starfleet, weren’t you?”
“Discovery’s down a doctor—“
“Nope. No. Absolutely not.”
“You’re telling me that you can’t at least pull a passing grade on a nursing exam?”
“I won’t do it, and that’s final!”
Philippa glares at Leland from her place atop the transporter pad, Fleet-issue duffel at her feet. The man is clearly trying not to laugh, and Philippa glares harder, hoping her intense, burning hatred might burn a hole through his stupid bald head and drop him to the deck.
“The uniform suits you,” Leland manages, biting his lip hard.
Philippa rolls her eyes to the heavens, wondering if they might leave her skull altogether. She shifts where she stands, feeling eminently uncomfortable in her newly replicated white Starfleet medical uniform.
Stupid sickbay whites…
Philippa has always hated them…well, perhaps not hated, but as a former field medic, it always struck Philippa as patently ridiculous to put doctors and nurses in all-white clothing, as they would invariably get stained with some bodily fluid or other.
“We’ll beam you over to the Enterprise,” Leland continues as he walks around the transporter pad to the controls. “It’s been disabled by a stellar anomaly. The plan, as it stands now, is for Captain Chris Pike and few other officers to board the Discovery and use the vessel for further investigation of some type of signal patterns.”
“What will I be telling Pike, then?”
Leland punches several commands into the transporter room terminal, not bothering to look at Philippa as he does. “Pike has a falsified transfer order for you, but if he asks, just tell him you’ve come out of retirement to better serve the Federation. I know Pike, and if he’s at all familiar with the former you, he’ll fall for it, hook line and sinker.”
Philippa sighs heavily at this. She is familiar with Captain Christopher Pike as well, and knows that he certainly the type of man who would immediately believe the best of her, in spite of the inconsistencies with her cover story.
Despite her earlier misgivings, Philippa has to admit that she is beginning to see the sense in placing a Section 31 operative aboard the Discovery, if she can be so blasé about a cover and actually expect to be believed.
An overhead comm signal chirps.
“Bridge to transporter room, we are within 500 kilometers of the USS Enterprise and closing.”
“Acknowledged,” Leland barks without looking up.
It’s go time.
Within the hour, she will be aboard the USS Discovery.
Within the day, she might be crossing paths with one Commander Michael Burnham…
Philippa’s breath hitches. Her brutally repaired heart stumbles in her chest, and she wonders vaguely if she’d remembered to take her meds this morning. She clenches her teeth behind closed lips and slows her breath rate; nevertheless, the storm of black, whirling anxiety continues without mercy.
But before Philippa can even begin to voice her protests, to insist that this is a terrible, wrong-footed idea, Leland pushes the transporter controls to their maximum.
Philippa dissolves into golden energy upon the transporter pad, not missing Leland’s sardonic salute as her atoms decouple.
Once this mission is over, she will have him assassinated.
Leland stands still for several minutes after Georgiou’s matter transport. The engines of his ship hum around him, and the buzz of the ground beneath his feet indicates that they have jumped to warp.
On to the next assignment.
Many years of undercover work, of spying and assassination, of tugging strings and manipulating the rise and fall of nations, have given him a strange type of sixth sense. A special indicator of sorts, of what small actions might lead to a comparably huge counter-reaction, of which flap of a butterfly’s wing might cause a hurricane on the other side of the universe.
Something about this new mission involving his best agent is tugging at that sense, right now, at this very moment.
Still, despite the utter randomness of these orders, of Fleet Command forcing Georgiou to reveal her survival and assigning her to a ship that does not specifically require her expertise, Leland understands that oftentimes one must work with what they are given.
And planting a Section 31 agent in close proximity to the adopted sister of that half-Vulcan murderer certainly counts as such.
Command gets what they want, Section 31 gets what they want.
Leland cannot help a smirk at the comforting thought. Even after all of these years in the game, he still gets a special kick out of clever maneuvers such as these.
With a slight nod to himself, Leland turns on a heel and leaves the transporter room.