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CHAPTER 1

In the darkness Deputy Director Kirom reflected that his office was considerably cooler than the conditions he was accustomed to. He could have raised them to Vulcan normal but he saw no logical reason to make his subordinates uncomfortable when his mental discipline was more than strong enough to compensate. With steepled fingers the aging Vulcan, his hair starting to tint grey, sat on the metal plated floor in front of his austere desk. His legs were folded beneath him and his posture was perfect. Before him was a single flickering candle that served as the focal point for his meditation. Kirom had no distinguishing marks and his uniform, made of a polyalloy weave, was black and provided no identification with regard to rank or affiliation. His pants were simple and his jacket long sleeved, both form fitting, with a flap across his chest.

"Come," he said suddenly, having sensed the presence of a subordinate outside his door before the chime even sounded.

The doors opened and a human man named Jeremy Shiloh, young by comparison, hesitantly stepped inside. He was clearly put off by his superior's uncanny ability to sense his impending arrival, but smartly he said nothing. In the dim light he could just make out the hawk-like features of the Vulcan sitting in front of him. The flickering light from the candle cast shadows that gave his superior an infernal appearance. Even though demonic superstition was centuries in the past he was still left feeling ill at ease by the Vulcan's guile. He held his position and the Director soon opened his eyes.

"Lights," Kirom said while snuffing out the candle. Immediately the lighting intensified and revealed the stark nature of his office. The elder Vulcan stood with ease and grace, then picked up the candle and walked to his desk. After sitting down he put the votive in a small wooden box off to the side, the only object on his desk, and looked up at the agent expectantly.

"Specialist Theta-Two signaled he was in position and ready to begin," he reported. "We should expect him to arrive in the next two days if everything goes to plan."

"How do the rest of the teams proceed?" he queried.

"Alpha, Beta, and Sierra teams are nearly complete with the automation process. Omega team's having difficulty integrating some of the older systems on the last batch. We misjudged the commission date," Shiloh replied. "Gamma team experienced an overload on several EPS conduits, they're going to use replacements from non-critical systems and utilize a holograph to mask it from sensors."

Kirom considered the report for several moments before replying. His fingertips remained steepled, elbows resting on his lap. "How long will it take Omega and Gamma to overcome their respective setbacks?"

"Gamma team has advised only a two day setback, but Omega team believes it will take them at least three weeks," he said, clasping his hands behind his back.

"The time frame Omega has given you is unacceptable," Kirom said, his tone neutral. Even though Vulcans were said to be emotionless he somehow managed to appear displeased. "Plans that have existed for years have already been set in motion. In two weeks' time we will launch the greatest operation this organization has ever known, and stabilize the Federation's power in the Alpha Quadrant as a result. Omega will find a solution in that time."

He knew better than to argue with the Deputy Director. In his opinion Omega Team's mission leader should have been here explaining their shortcomings, but that was not how the hierarchy functioned. He dipped his head in acquiescence to his superior's demands. The tone of the mission did not set right with him and evidently it showed on his face because Kirom arched an eyebrow. He swore the Vulcan's piercing gaze would tear him apart at the subatomic level.

"Permission to speak freely, sir?" he asked.

"Proceed."

"Sir, I've given a lot of thought to the task at hand. The mission profiles are no doubt intricate and have required no small amount of planning," he stopped for a moment to consider whether he should continue. "Are we sure that we're not going a step too far?"

Deputy Director Kirom raised both eyebrows. "By we am I to assume you mean you, or do other operatives feel this way as well?"

"It's only a feeling. I simply mean to ask," he began, but was cut short.

"Your feelings are irrelevant and illogical," Kirom stated simply. "The Federation is fighting a war on multiple fronts. There are enemies the Federation is, as of yet, not even aware they have. It would be illogical to face them all at once. A surgical strike is needed so that the Federation can better direct its resources as opposed to having them scattered across multiple front lines in the quadrant. Do you not agree that it is better to defang the predator sitting on your doorstep, leave them crippled and dealing with their own internal issues, so that you can direct more of your resources to even deadlier threats?"

"Yes sir, I suppose you're right," he conceded.

"Of course I am. Inform Omega Team Lead that his time frame is unacceptable," Kirom ordered.

Once Shiloh had bowed his head and left Kirom scrutinized the spot in which he had just stood. He considered whether or not the conversation they had just exchanged was harmless or if there was some ulterior motive. If he were human his gaze would have been narrowed, and as he wasn't his expression simply remained passive. After deciding that he had given the young man a considerable lead time he looked up.

"Director Kirom to Security," he said.

The communication system chirped a reply, "Sir?"

"Agent Shiloh is to be dealt with," he ordered. It was only logical. "You know the procedure."

"Yes sir."


Shiloh was still considering the Director's words several minutes later when he stepped off of the turbolift. It was a compelling argument, insane, but certainly compelling. He had been involved in counterintelligence operations that were compartmentalized, but this one was done so to the extreme. He had been on the barebones station, which was essentially a large, skeletal dry dock facility with living quarters, for two months now and he barely knew anyone he worked with. He was told to expect it but it still unnerved him. Rarely was he acknowledged by anyone in the corridors except those who reported to him. There was no starship traffic as the facility's nearest star system was entirely uninhabitable; all demon class planets.

When he rounded the corner of a junction the station's computer scanned his biosigns and the door in front of him opened. It happened so smoothly that he did not even need to slow down. Ahead of him his surroundings were just as barren as the corridor he left. The ceiling, walls, and floor in the entire station were a dull grey. In this room it was only broken up by a central holographic display and several holographic LCARS consoles interspersed throughout. As he did every day he offered the Omega Team Lead a friendly smile that was not reciprocated. All he knew about his coworker was that he was a Tellarite with very little in the way of personality and an engineer.

"Good morning, Omega," he said.

The Tellarite looked up from his console and snorted in response. He lowered his head and resumed working, muttering, "I will never understand why you are so jovial."

Shiloh raised his shoulders in a shrug. "I don't see any need to be rude. We're all stuck here together, and even though we work in secret I don't understand why we can't be cordial to one another."

"You are wasting my time," he responded gruffly. "Do you have anything intelligent to bring to this conversation or not?"

"Oh, yes," he replied. By now he was used to the Tellarite's rough people skills. "Director Kirom informed me your time frame was unacceptable. He wants the problem solved immediately and expects you to finish on time with the other teams."

"Well, as you humans say he can want in one hand and," the Tellarite stopped when the door opened again. There were very few people who had access to this wing of engineering laboratories and dry dock platforms.

Behind Shiloh four tall men, all roughly the same age and at least five years older than he, had entered the room. Everything about them was virtually identical save for the color of their hair and their facial features. They were all human and wore the same black polyalloy weave uniform as Shiloh, their hair was shaved in exactly the same manner, and each of them carried a handheld phaser on their right hip. The two closest to Shiloh startled him when they grasped him none too gently beneath his arms.

"Agent Shiloh, on order of Deputy Director Kirom you're to come with us for debriefing," the man in the back and to Shiloh's left elbow said with a stern tone.

"Debriefed? What in the hell are you talking about?" he argued. He tried to pull his arms free and step away from them but the men at his sides only tightened their grip. "I haven't gone anywhere to be debriefed about!"

"Deputy Director Kirom has ordered you participate in a debriefing," the man at his left repeated the statement.

Shiloh continued to struggle and the Tellarite watched with an expression that could have bordered on pity. He smartly lowered his gaze back to his console and pretended he did not see the now damned human standing there. Having never been debriefed himself he had still heard stories and none of them were pleasant. The fourth man, who stood behind Shiloh and to the right, unholstered his phaser and pressed it to the young man's back. His struggling ceased immediately and they began to drag him out of the room. Shiloh was beginning to look desperate, but Omega stayed true to character and continued to pretend he did not see him even as the doors slid shut. They were aware of the risks when they took the assignment.


The corridor which the Director's security goons dragged him through had been strangely devoid of anyone else. They stripped him of his uniform and were not gentle when seating him as he let out a grunt when he was slammed down into a stark metal chair. It left him momentarily stunned and provided them the time they needed to restrain his wrists and legs, not that he could have put up much of a fight anyway given how outnumbered he was. They left him sitting there alone without a word. The lighting overall was dim, one source directly above him was just a little brighter than the others. He was sure it was for psychological effect. With no chronometer he had no idea how much time passed before the doors opened again.

A woman in her mid-thirties entered. She was tall and supple, dressed in the same uniform as the others, and her dark hair was twisted back into a tight bun. The woman regarded him with faux warmth in her dark eyes. He was certain she was a Betazoid. Her hands were clasped in front of her as she approached and she sat down in an identical chair opposite him. Judging from her calculating expression she was determining how to best proceed.

"Jeremy Shiloh," she said, stating his name simply.

"Y-Yes," he answered.

"Who do you work for?" she asked him.

"What are you talking about?," he replied, his pulse quickening. "I work for the same place as you."

"Who do you work for?" she repeated.

Jeremy Shiloh screamed.


Chapter End Notes: Edit: Fixed issues with odd characters displaying in place of quote marks.

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