She had beamed onboard pretty much as soon as Eagle had entered transporter range and then had made her way up to his ready room next to the bridge without an escort, as had been her wont lately, not content to wait for Michael or one of his officers to come and collect her.
Amaya Donners had also forgone the usual pleasantries, ostensibly since they had met only a few days prior.
"We've made some real progress out here in tracking down the subspace aliens and I believe we have found a way to open a gateway into their domain, and possibly preempt any invasion attempts. However, we will need to—" She stopped herself mid-sentence after getting a good look at Michael's facial expression which he had been unable to keep from revealing his ongoing concerns. "You're still miffed about the distress signal," she said, correctly interpreting what he had been thinking.
“Wouldn’t you be? We were in the middle of a mission back on Piqus which your fake distress call interrupted.”
“I gathered from your last status update that you were not making any progress in getting access to the surface.”
“Things have moved on. We were in the process of establishing a medical facility on the planet when your signal came in.”
Amaya took one of the guest chairs in the ready room. “I didn’t know that.”
“I had to make a tough call. I left a sizable portion of my crew on Piqus, among a people who are not exactly on the best of terms with us. I did that believing that you were in trouble and needed immediate help. And now I find out all of this has been nothing more than a ruse to get Eagle out here.”
She seemed to consider her next words before she spoke. “I didn’t realize you were in that position. But it doesn’t change things. You’re here now and they’re back on Piqus. I have to believe that you wouldn’t have left them behind if you believed that they were in any real danger there.”
It hadn't been what he had wanted to hear from her. He wasn't sure what he had expected. Perhaps an apology, some sort of contrition over her actions maybe which after all were in flagrant violation of Starfleet protocol. But Amaya was playing the role of Starfleet captain to perfection, with no hint that she was not entirely confident of her own decisions. It was a role he understood well, of course, but considering that they were among equals now, considering their relationship, he had expected, or at least hoped, that she would be willing to open up to him, treat him like a real person, instead of just another officer she needed to shield her real emotions from.
She could clearly tell that he was not being swayed by her arguments and carried on. “Listen, I understand that this wasn’t ideal. I understand you are upset and I probably would be as well if I were in your position. But none of this changes the fact that I need you here,” she said, softening her voice slightly, sounding almost like the Amaya of old, the woman he had fallen in love with probably as early on as their Academy days. But that tone soon changed as she stood again. “Your mission to Piqus was a crapshoot, Michael. A long shot created by an unexpected opportunity. Jarik seems to believe the Krellonians are somehow involved with the subspace aliens but there isn’t any substantive evidence I’ve seen to support that theory.”
“The disease ravaging that world is very real.”
She offered a nod. “I’m sure it is. And I’m sure it’s tragic. I hope your people can find a way to help them and who knows, in doing so we might even be able to improve relations with the Krellonians after the centuries they’ve spent in near-isolation. But building diplomatic bridges is not why we’re out here. We’re attempting to prevent an invasion and this won’t happen by trying to play nice with the Krellonians. The invasion, we know, will start right here and we may have found a way to stop it before it can start.”
He looked up at her bright, shimmering eyes as she spoke, and couldn't quite shake the feeling that she was reading him the riot act. He was the more senior captain between the two of them, had been in rank almost a year longer than she had been, and yet here she was, taking charge and expecting him to toe the line. He had no intention of challenging her since it was obvious that she had been read into their mission in far more detail than he ever had. But her lack of deference bothered him somewhat. "Why here?"
She regarded him with a quizzical expression. “What?”
“This invasion; why will it start here? The Amargosa Diaspora is not exactly a strategically valuable sector of space. Most of it is uninhabited and almost all of it sits outside our borders. Other than an abundance of stars, there isn’t really much out here. The entire sector is a nightmare to navigate, the Krellonians don’t venture out here either and beyond Arkaria there aren’t any noteworthy Federation outposts or planets for light-years. What would make this sector so inviting to launch an invasion?”
“Perhaps it is all those factors you’ve just mentioned. As you said, there isn’t much here. That also means it is poorly defended. Besides, the argument is moot. We have already detected signs of the subspace alien’s activity. It’s why I brought you out here. We know they have their sights set on this place. We can find out their precise motivations once we have made contact.”
He nodded slowly. “Alright, so what is it you need me to do, exactly?”
“We have located highly localized concentrations of inverted tetryons in this area.”
“That shouldn’t be possible outside of subspace.”
She nodded quickly. “We believe that they have leaked into normal space and are a byproduct of spatial ruptures which have been created to allow the subspace aliens access into our space. We think we can force one of those ruptures open and allow us to enter into their domain.”
“And you need me for that?”
“I need Eagle. We have found a way to zero in on the tetryon concentrations and locate the gateway aperture of the ruptures but they are not stable. Like a wormhole, the aperture doesn’t remain fixed in a point in space. We have had some success in wrangling it but in order to do so we need two energy sources to create enough power to attract the ruptures.”
“Like two starship warp cores?”
She nodded. “Precisely. We’ve tried it with shuttles and even a runabout, but we haven’t been able to generate raw enough power that way.”
“So you just need Eagle for what? To be the bait?”
“Pretty much. Eagle can generate enough power to attract the rupture. We have been able to determine where the rupture’s aperture is likely to manifest itself once it has been attracted. Agamemnon will be waiting for it and I’ll have a team already prepared to enter the subspace fissure.”
“And then what?”
“Then we make contact with the subspace aliens, find out their exact plans and stop them if necessary.”
He couldn’t help but look skeptical. “Just like that.”
“You don’t have to worry about the details. I’ll handle that part.”
He considered that for a moment. Jarik had promised him that he wouldn’t be working the same way his father had done. He had touted transparency and openness in the way manner in which they would handle this latest threat. Amaya apparently didn’t share this same belief. Or perhaps there was another issue in play here he didn’t yet see. Perhaps it had something to do with his father’s cryptic message which had kept him up at nights as of late.
“All the same, I would like my science officer to go over your data first.”
She clearly didn’t like the sound of this. “We don’t have time for that. You said it yourself, you have an away team back on Piqus. The quicker we get this done, the quicker you can return to pick up your crew. Besides, Jarik’s instructions were quite clear. This is need-to-know only. The fewer people are aware of this, the better.”
“Are you telling me you didn’t share this information with your crew? I find it hard to believe you’ve been able to get this far without involving them.”
She hesitated for a moment. “I brought people into my confidence where I had to.”
Same as he had done, he thought, considering the way he had shared pretty much everything he had learned with his own first officer. He had decided that he would draw a line in the sand. There was a limit on how far he was willing to go without understanding the full implications of what he had been asked to do. "You want my help, my condition is that I know at least as much as your own crew. And I want my own people—at the very least my science officer—to be read in as well. You can count on Commander Xylion's discretion, I'm sure."
He could see the battle that was being waged behind her steely gaze. Then she offered a small nod. “Fine, I arrange a briefing on Agamemnon,” she said and turned towards the exit. “Join us at zero-nine-hundred hours.”
She stopped short of the doors and turned to face him again.
He stood from his chair and rounded his desk. There had been a question he had been burning to ask her ever since the day she had come to his quarters and had given him a message which had made him doubt everything. The very nature of that message made it almost impossible for him to talk to her about its content. And yet he knew he needed to.
She considered him expectantly when he didn’t speak further.
“A few days ago you gave me a message from my father.”
She nodded but he could tell that she was tensing up, her facial features becoming guarded all of a sudden.
“Did you listen to it?” he asked.
She frowned. “Of course not. It was meant for you, Michael. Why would I listen to it?”
“Do you have any idea why he gave it to you?”
“No, Michael, I don’t. We both know he had his own ways of doing things. Maybe he wanted to make sure that you get it. Maybe he was concerned that it could get lost or intercepted over normal channels.”
“That does sound like my father.”
For a moment they just stared at each other, neither of them speaking and Michael wondered if she had lied to him. If she had, in fact, listened to the message herself. There had been a time, not so long ago, when he had been able to read her quite well, had been able to tell if she wasn't entirely forthright with him. Lately, she had been a complete mystery to him.
“Is there something else? We’re burning daylight here, particularly since you are demanding a full briefing package,” she said, sounding cold as ice.
He shook his head. “No. We’ll be over in half an hour.”
“Good,” she said and then left his ready room with quick strides, once again not waiting for anyone to escort her back to the transporter room.
He uttered a sigh as he kept his eyes on those now closed doors. She had indeed been a mystery to him as of late. Except that he was now more certain than ever of at least one indisputable fact.
Amaya Donners was hiding something from him.