Doctor Markalis scanned Grimaud with a medical tricorder, having expressed curiosity about his enhanced telepathic abilities, as well why he rarely ever spoke. She held a hand sensor to the young man’s forehead while looking at the tricorder readouts. After her last visit to Tagra, Markalis downloaded some basic information on Betazoid physiology and genetics into the tricorder for a point of comparison.
“Higher psilosynine levels in the paracortex,” she observed aloud. “It’s as if the telepathic centers of the brain are never turned off.”
“At least the telepathic inhibitors he’s taken all his life do temporarily silence the voices,” Darcen explained. “And he used Vulcan meditation techniques to learn not to involuntarily see into others’ minds.”
“Glad you’re not always poking around in my head,” Aurellan retorted to Grimaud. “And I read no evidence of traumatic brain injury, or damage to the vocal cords. He can speak. He just chooses not to.”
Grimaud squinted, which sent another telepathic message to Markalis.
“How rude of me,” she replied. “You’re right. I shouldn’t refer to you in the third person when you’re right here. Overall, you have a clean bill of health. Thank you for your time.”
Keeping his ambivalent expression, Grimaud stood up and walked away without even a “You’re welcome.” And people say I don’t have the best of social skills, Aurellan mused, lightly shaking her head.
Markalis then followed Darcen to a laboratory in the catacombs. Seamus was already waiting for them, seated in front of a table with a microscope and about a dozen petri dishes. “You remember Seamus?” Rhys rhetorically asked. Without letting her speak he answered his own question. “Of course you do.”
“We need to learn how to improve the streptococcus strain,” Seamus explained. “We’ve tried to follow the specifications of the Chrysalis Project as best we could. Yet those records are fragmentary at best. I am proof of that.”
Seamus again winced in pain and felt his temples. “Are you sure you don’t require an analgesic?” Markalis asked.
“No drugs,” Seamus insisted, squinting. “They could corrupt your studies of the antibodies.”
Markalis nodded, even though she knew that statement was not entirely true. She had heard of instances where genetic modifications made to create immunity to certain medicinal agents. These humans may have undergone such genetic modifications. She paced over to the table and picked up a hypo-syringe and placed an empty extraction vial in the opposite side of the syringe’s tip.
Seamus tilted his head to the left, so that Aurellan could extract a blood sample from his carotid artery. Afterwards, she quickly removed a vial and injected a chemical into it that would allow her to more easily see the antibodies under a microscope. Her haste was to hide her disgust with using her medical knowledge to improve a pathogen intended for use as a weapon. The sooner this façade was over, she felt, the better.
At the top of the stairs, Ileana stared down at the newest member of her group. Once Rhys saw her, he knew his lover was conducting reconnaissance. She knew from the first time she saw Aurellan, that Rhys was attracted to the doctor. Though knowing that Grimaud had read Aurellan’s thoughts, Ileana considered her more of a threat to steal her man.
Rebecca Sullivan poked around the emergency comm-unit hoping to increase the transmitter’s range. Garak was lending a hand by dismantling a tricorder and converting the power cell to boost its central transponder. If only it had enough power for any kind of transponder to be useful. Rebecca ran a coil spanner over a circuit board in order to recharge it. After placing the board back into its housing, she entered commands for test simulation. The unit slowly hummed to life for a few seconds before all the readout screens went blank. “Damn,” she muttered.
Limis was checking on Bowers and Neeley’s progress with Galloway when she heard Sullivan’s momentary expression of frustration. She walked over to Rebecca to inquire on what the problem was with coaxing the comm-unit to work properly. “No luck?” Vircona asked, already knowing the answer.
“I can’t seem to keep it running long enough for it to do any good,” Rebecca huffed, wishing their one-time Maquis colleague and now shipmate Erhlich Tarlazzi had accompanied them. “If Erhlich was here… “
“I’m saying if I had some help, I’d sooner be able to diagnose the problem.”
“You mean Garak’s not much help?” Limis asked, looking over to the Cardassian mission specialist who had come aboard the Lambda Paz prior to the Kalandra campaign for his expertise in coded Cardassian communications.
“I’m dong the best I can, Captain,” Garak insisted. “With Federation technology, I often forget the difference between a wave-guide converter and a subspace transceiver.”
“You escaped from a Dominion internment camp using alien communications technology,” Limis recalled of Garak’s time in a Dominion prison in the Gamma Quadrant almost two years ago.
“It wasn’t hard to master. Federation technology is a lot more complex. I suppose that’s why the engineers put brown stickers on all their tools.”
“I understand the basic construction,” Sullivan added. “I’m still not able to nail down what’s wrong with this particular unit.”
Limis looked over at the MACO’s to make sure they were not actively listening in on their conversation. “I’m not much of an engineer, and neither are Neeley or Bowers. “Galloway could help if he was in better shape. He was an engineer before the war.”
“I thought you didn’t want to dwell on assets we didn’t have,” Rebecca retorted.
“I’m considering all our options,” Vircona replied, “I don’t plan on dying of malaria in this jungle.”
Limis shot a glance back the barely conscious body of Galloway. Despite those efforts of Neeley and Bowers to keep up his spirits, Limis was still certain those efforts were futile. She was sure hoping to be wrong, meaning forcing Galloway back into consciousness could result in his death rather than his injuries.
When she left Bajor, Vircona swore she would never sell herself to Cardassian military officers. Though that was what Agent Chadwick had her doing on her first infiltration mission to the military base on Volan Three. And she looked the part of a common street prostitute, yet she stumbled to keep her balance in her silver stilettos. She was also making minor adjustments to her miniskirt that barely went down to her thighs during the walk to the main entrance of the base. Of course, she thought the maroon lipstick and eyeliner was overkill.
Vircona’s first mission was a month after Chadwick had recruited her, in the middle of the night after her son was sound asleep. She wished she could protect him from burglars, but this mission was also to protect her child as well. She began to notice numerous Cardassian Union logos as she and Chadwick neared the base. Until now, she thought Chadwick was referring to a secret Obsidian Order base of which only a select few were familiar. “Is this a Federation colony or not?” she asked Chadwick, who was posing as her dealer.
“Federation citizens have settled here,” Chadwick explained, “but this sector is in dispute. Cardassians are allowed to settle here so long as they leave us alone. This base is to assure we keep up our end of the bargain.”
Vircona looked away from Chadwick rolling her eyes. A similar arrangement with the Cardassians on her world led to increased tension between the two races. Before too long, largely thanks to political opportunists, the Cardassian Union had tightened its grip on Bajor to the point where there was no getting rid of the alien invaders. She knew, even if Starfleet did not, that this arrangement was a recipe for disaster. The Federation and the Cardassian Empire were at war. This planet would only stoke the fires of conflict, not douse them.
“Have they kept up they’re end of this tenuous agreement?” Vircona asked skeptically.
“So far, they have,” Chadwick tersely answered. “The mizinite deposits here are plentiful enough to make up for collateral damage suffered during the Betreka Nebula Incident. But the Cardies are naturally suspicious of alien species. Intelligence wants to make sure they are not antagonizing Federation settlers.”
The pair soon approached the gate where two night watch guards were stationed. The young man on the right eyed them suspiciously. He wasn’t sure what to make of a woman with a man so much older than her.
“She has an appointment with the prefect,” Chadwick calmly stated.
“Is that so?” the guard asked giving an up-and-down visual inspection of Vircona.
Vircona quietly snorted in disgust as the guard stared lustily.
“I may want to sample her myself,” the Cardassian added.
“For the right price,” Vircona replied, slightly pulling down the top of her shoulderless attire, though it just barely concealed her breasts. “Three slips of latinum. Though I don’t think you’re experienced enough.”
The guard growled, pointing his rifle at Vircona’s head. Chadwick put his right arm out to nudge the rifle downward. “Now you wouldn’t want to explain a phaser wound on your prefect’s ‘merchandise’,” he said jovially.
The guard lowered his rifle, and then entered a code on the keypad to open the gate widely enough for the two to enter.
Gul Zarrel took a sip of kanar before taking another look at Vircona. He set the glass on the table and motioned for his “purchase” to come closer in order to make sure she was not hiding any weapons. He asked her to make a 360-degree turn so he could make absolutely sure. “For a spiritual people,” he said, “you Bajoran women have strong sexual appetites.”
“I never believed in any of that crap,” Vircona replied.
“We have something in common then. It all strikes me as superstitious nonsense that is a reminder of a part of our culture most of my people want to forget.”
“So when do we get started?” Vircona asked, unfastening her attire, leaving just black undergarments.
“My, you seem eager,” Zarrel replied, standing up. He squeezed Vircona’s chin tightly, and then ran his tongue down the left side of her neck and along her bare shoulder.
Vircona looked straight ahead, her eyes widening with fear. Zarrel backed away to remove his military armor and boots. He then gave Vircona a hard shove onto the bed. He mounted her, holding down both her wrists. That was a problem since a sedative was hidden in one of her bracelets.
Nearly an hour later, the hulking Cardassian was falling asleep on top of her. Vircona diverted her gaze from the man’s face to keep his foul-smelling breath off her skin. She felt for the hypospray in a bracelet on her left wrist, and then jammed it against the back of his neck. Vircona nudged Zarrel’s unconscious body off of her. She then walked over to the desk while dressing herself.
Entering a decryption code Chadwick had given her to break into Zarrel’s personal database. She placed a blank isolinear data-rod into the computer port to copy the information. Once the transfer was complete, Vircona placed the rod in her cleavage.
Vircona shot one last glance at the unconscious Zarrel. “Sweet dreams,” she sneered, before puckering her lips.
Several blocks from the base, Vircona fidgeted with her right stiletto when she saw a humanoid figure walking towards her. The masked humanoid in a black jumpsuit was too skinny to be Chadwick. She headed in the opposite direction and turned a corner at a back alley. Another masked humanoid was running towards her. She tried going back the way she came, but the first humanoid was in front of her jamming a hypospray on the left side of her neck. The second grabbed her from behind and laid her down gently on the ground.
The first humanoid Vircona ran into removed a wand-like device. The device lit and the humanoid waved it over Vircona’s neck and shoulder. The two masked humanoids then ran off leaving Vircona unconscious on the ground.