The young woman's steady breathing was interrupted with a small groan. She winced; her muscles ached in a familiar way, like she hadn't moved for days. There was a bright light above her, and she struggled to open her eyes as the light blinded her momentarily.
She was confused, unsure of her surroundings. Nothing looked familiar, beyond the clamshell that was extended over her, keeping her on the medical bed. The colors seemed different, or maybe it was just her eyes getting used to seeing again.
I was on the runabout...Seymour drugged me...
"Where?" She was cut off by a fit of coughing. Her mouth felt dry and raw. Her stomach ached, too.
The word eased her confusion, and immediately she recognized the gentle push on her mind. She smiled weakly, turning her head to the side. In an instant, her vision seemed clearer, and she recognized the Rafale's medical bay. More importantly, she recognized the exhausted looking woman sitting only a few inches from her. "Jessiy," she croaked weakly, trying to pull a hand out from under her sheet. "You're alive."
Jessica nodded, smiling back. "I could say the same for you," she replied, and Justine could feel the underlying sadness that invaded the woman's relief. "You've been asleep for a few days."
Justine nodded, doing her best not to focus on Jessica's emotions. This soon from waking up, she could get lost in them, and then she'd be in even more pain. "I feel like I got hit by a shuttle." She coughed again when she tried to laugh. "You're alive though. It worked. Everything is ok now." She tried smiling again, tried to shrug Jessica's emotions off of her.
Jessica paused for a moment, then slowly shook her head; a wave of guilt and grief crashed over Justine. "Seymour...disobeyed my order, Justine. He went through with the plan."
Justine's smile faltered slightly. "Still, you're alive. It must have worked. Right?"
Jessica winced, and the grief felt like a slap to Justine. "The asteroid...it hit the planet, Justine."
Justine blinked, her mouth hanging open in shock. Jessica stood and reached for the clamshell controls; the medical device slowly retracted into the bed. She sat down on the bed next to Justine, reaching to embrace her. Justine finally sat up and wrapped her arms around Jessica, giving the woman a tight squeeze. "I'm sorry, Jessiy."
Jessica shook her head, holding tightly onto her lover. "I missed you. Thank God you're alright."
Justine buried her face into Jessica's shoulder, feeling the tears start to fall. It was an odd feeling, and she wasn't quite sure it was completely her own. She knew she felt sadness, guilt even, for the turn of events she had no control over. She felt terrible for leaving Jessica to face it all alone.
But, despite that, she was relieved, and it almost made her feel worse. Almost.
"I don't know what I would have done if I lost you," she whispered, kissing Jessica's shoulder. She looked up and leaned forward, kissing Jessica lightly. "Don't ever do that to me again."
Jessica laughed sadly, shaking her head before kissing Justine again. "I'll try. I love you, ma Soleil."
"I love you, ma Saphir."
Seymour sat on the edge of the pullout shelf that constituted a bed in the small brig. He was hunched over, reading the latest news off a PADD that had been allowed to him. He'd already deleted a handful of letters from friends, demanding to know what he had done to earn him a court martial. They had to have known by now; if his reading was any indication, the Federation News Service and a number of other agencies were reporting the grand failure of the Rafale's former Operations officer. It was little consolation that Jessica was going to be investigated as well; he was getting the brunt of the blame.
Rightfully, too, he admitted, leaning backwards until his back was resting on the wall behind him. He closed his eyes.
Trinity's letter had been the hardest to read. He had to convince himself to hold off on an immediate reply to the distraught woman; the last thing he wanted to do was continue the behavior that had ultimately brought him here. The bartender was furious with Jessica, and had left the Rafale once it docked at Sierra Station, presumably to stay at the small lounge on the space station. He hadn't seen her since they had disembarked the ship.
The heavy doors to the detainment area rumbled open. Seymour opened an eye to see who had entered. Whoever it was had his back to him at the guards' desk; Seymour closed his eye, uninterested.
Someone cleared their throat outside his cell, and Seymour opened his eyes again. The stranger was standing on the other side of the forcefield to his cell, dressed in a black, glossy uniform that was devoid of rank or insignia. His hair was freshly cut short, buzzed nearly down to the scalp, and his green eyes regarded him with an almost sick pride.
But the one distinguishing feature of this man's face caused Seymour's stomach to turn; his face was marred by a single deep, vicious-looking scar. Seymour scowled at his visitor. "What do you want?"
Franklin Drake grinned - which further infuriated the lieutenant - before bringing a PADD up to read. "You've been busy the past few months, Lieutenant Sonia. I'm impressed."
Seymour rolled his eyes and lay down on the bed, turning to face the wall. "Go away."
Drake shook his head, continuing to read the PADD. "Put the lives of your runabout crew in danger to save the lives of your shipmates. It was definitely one helluva plan. An unfortunate side effect, I'll admit, but you saved your ship."
Seymour's lip curled in rage, but he didn't turn around. "A 'side effect?' Is that all Etam was?"
"Like it or not, Lieutenant, we are at war." Drake brought the PADD down and crossed his arms. "Whatever overtures of peace from the Klingons and this new Romulan Republic, whatever cooperative endeavors to stop the Borg, we are still facing enemies with greater power than most of the little people running around this corner of the galaxy are aware of."
"Like what? The Undine?"
"Exactly like the Undine."
"You didn't exactly convince me the last time we met."
Drake scoffed. "That's a lie. You were buying everything I sold you, Lieutenant Sonia. You were all too eager to brand your captain an Undine." He shook his head. "It was very well done."
Seymour closed his eyes with a sigh. "What do you want?"
"I came to ask you the same question."
"I want you to leave me alone, then."
Drake grinned. "I'm pretty sure that's not what you want. I'm pretty sure you want this."
Seymour waited for the man to continue talking, and was surprised when he heard the forcefield to his cell shut off. He quickly sat up and turned around, watching as Drake stepped back in front of the unguarded entrance to his cell, still grinning his damnable frustrating grin.
"I'm pretty sure you want a way out."
Seymour narrowed his eyes. "Why?"
"Because you are willing to do what it takes to safeguard the Federation. I may have been lying to you, fabricating evidence for you to use, but you immediately recognized a threat in your captain and tried to neutralize that threat as best you could. I need someone willing to do that."
Seymour shook his head; he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You're recruiting me?"
Drake nodded. "There is an Undine threat in the Seventh Fleet. They've been manipulating the Seventh for years now. It's why St. Peter and a whole slew of her generation were allowed to command ships for so long now. It's why many ships - the Rafale included - have seen random, harmless missions suddenly go ten-ways wrong. An infiltrator has been intentionally sowing chaos in this sector."
"For what purpose?"
Drake shook his head. "We're still not completely sure. But there's been...a lull of activity, aside from this last debacle. We think it's going to do something big. It might even be aware that we're onto it. Which means we have to strike now and root it out, before more people die and the Seventh Fleet gets gutted worse than it was at Vega."
Seymour scowled. "How could the Undine have possibly been responsible for what I did?"
Drake tapped his fingers on the PADD he held for a moment, before finally shrugging. "There was no back-up for the Rafale; the nearest heavy dreadnaughts were days away."
Seymour nodded. "We were alone."
Drake shook his head. "The nearest Typhoon-class dreadnaught was only hours away when you intercepted that warp ship; it would have been more than capable of stepping in and aiding you. St. Peter's request for assistance was never received by this station or the leadership of the Seventh Fleet. Someone intercepted it and relayed bogus information - and orders - to the Rafale." He frowned. "You were set up for failure, Lieutenant."
Seymour scowled incredulously. "That sounds like something you'd do, Drake."
"As much as I wish I could take the credit for that...it wasn't me." Drake smirked. "Devious, yes, but not me or my organization." He stepped into the cell, approaching Seymour. "There was no way you, St. Peter, or the Rafale could have known or stopped that comet. The deck was stacked against you from the start. And now, because of an Undine's direct meddling, an entire planet is dead." He held out a hand to Seymour. "That's why I'm recruiting you. I think I know you well enough to know...you want some payback. Help me find this Undine, Lieutenant." He waved his other hand around him. "Or you can rot in prison for the rest of your life."
Seymour looked down at Drake's hand, the knot in his stomach tightening along with his fist, a combination of anger and frustration and disgust and despair and confusion that made him pause. Finally, he extended a hand and shook Drake's.
Drake grinned as he shook Seymour's hand, then released it and turned around. Seymour blinked in surprise, looking around him. The brig had suddenly been replaced by a small transporter room; a woman in a black uniform similar to Drake's was standing behind the control console. "Welcome aboard the Pelican. Agent Celeste here will take you to your quarters."
Seymour frowned and shook his head. "Why do I feel like I just sold my soul to the devil?"
"Because you did." Drake replied, stepping off the pad and walking to the exit. "But tell me; between me or the Undine, which devil would you rather deal with?" The door opened and he stepped through, pausing in the corridor for a moment before he turned around to poke his head back in the transporter room. "Welcome to Section 31, Agent Sonia."