T'Paal walked briskly down the corridor in crew quarters. As she arrived at the Admiral's quarters, she rang the bell and waited. After a bit of time went by, she pressed the override and entered. The Admiral's room said it all. From his uniform strewn all over the floor to his body lying in the bed, he was exhausted. She began picking up and folding his clothing and placed it on the dresser neatly. "Admiral?" Nothing, she sat down on the bed beside him and gently shook him, "Admiral? It's time to wake up." Her efforts were rewarded by his eyes fluttering open and his expression of being temporarily disoriented. When his eyes rested on her, he smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, I must have been a lot more tired than I thought. Have we heard from the Iconians?" "We have, they sent us coordinates to the signals location. It is outside of our galaxy in dark space."
Richter was now fully awake. "Dark space? What's out there, some kind of station or ship?" "Unknown. All that the Iconians were able to tell us was that the signal source was moving and that we had to move if we were to intercept." "Right, I'm going to get a shower. You contact Drake and tell him that we are going to need a ship and gear for a stealth insertion." With that, Richter climbed out of bed and headed for the shower without further ado. It wasn't the first time that T'Paal had seen a naked human, she had and many times. But this time, it was different. She felt desire welling up inside of her and her pulse quickened. And for the first time since undergoing the ritual, she felt embarrassed by her reaction. "I'll see you on the bridge, sir."
As she departed, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on the way out and was astounded to see her color had risen, tinging her complexion with a healthy dose of green. She didn't know that Vulcans could blush! She quickened her pace down the corridor. By the time she had reached the turbolift she was mortified. She knew that it would be very difficult dealing with emotions, but this was beyond the pale! Never before had her emotions betrayed her like this. I am compromised, I have to abort the mission. That thought came with a great deal of conviction and she would relay that to Drake immediately.
As the turbolift doors opened on the bridge, she half ran, half jogged to the comms unit. After entering the frequency and the special codes that she had been given, she waited for a response. "Drake here. Report." T'Paal relayed everything that she had experienced, contacting the Iconians and their answer, and finally reported on her being compromised and endangering the mission, followed by a request for an immediate relief from duty. Never before had she been so certain or so sincere in a request. But nothing was said.
"Did you hear my request?" "I did," Drake replied, "denied." "You don't understand, I am emotionally compromised. I need relief" she said with a hint of anger entering her tone. "I understand perfectly well, and your request is denied. And before you lose your temper, I have good reasons for that denial." Coldly, she asked what they were. "First, if you didn't care about the mission, you would not have asked for relief. Second, I am assuming that this has something to do with the Admiral and you feeling closer to him that you would like to, and that frightens you. Third, there is nobody else that I can count on to keep him alive in dire circumstances. At least not in the quadrant, anyway. You have a job to do and I expect you to do it." And just like that, Drake had struck at the heart of the issue.
"Don't bother trying to deny it, I can see your color through the viewscreen. You aren't the first Vulcan to experience an emotional crisis, and you won't be the last. Get ahold of yourself, relax, and speak to Richter about what you are going through. He's had to deal with his emotions and the emotions of others both personally and professionally. He won't leave you to work through this alone and he values you as an individual. Meaning that you can trust him. And by the way, that is an order. Now, I believe that the Admiral wants something, correct?"
She wasn't happy, but there wasn't anything that she could do about it. She took a deep breath and relayed Admiral Richter's requirements to Drake. She was instructed to rendezvous at the Heliopause star system Z125.987 with the coordinates that were sent by Drake. A Phantom Infiltrator and equipment would be onboard. The Phantom was bleeding edge. A two-man scout ship capable of rapid deployment and cloaking that even the Voth couldn't pick up. It was sleek, small, and loaded with the best spy and infiltration equipment in the galaxy. While Section 31 had the plans, the Phantom was the prototype and only ship in her class. It was a ship that technically didn't exist and one that Drake would rather not have deployed, but this threat needed a response and the Phantom was the only ship capable of delivering that response.
As Drake cut the channel, he took a deep breath. He had not expected to be using the most advanced ship in the Section 31 fleet and he was a bit leery of sending it to the Admiral for this mission, but he didn't see any other option. His enemy had been one step ahead of him at every turn, and that made Drake very uncomfortable. He knew that Starfleet Intelligence was compromised and he was fairly certain that Section 31 was compromised as well. If he were going to get out in front of this, he had to be willing to take risks. But that didn't mean that he had to like it.
He was confident in his operators though. Richter was a fucking military genius and T'Paal was the most lethal hand to hand operator that he had ever seen. She was very quick, highly skilled, and even elegant in her deadly skills. He had used her talents for years, but the emotional entanglement was problematic. On the one hand, she would be emotionally invested in Richter and would therefore ensure his survival out of both duty and personal need. But once that bond was formed, she would not be able to let go and return to her duties as his best assassin. He poured three fingers of bourbon and drank it down in a gulp. "Damn this mission is getting expensive."
He set the empty glass on his desk and began making preparations for the deployment of the Phantom.
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