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Third Mission, Part XVI

Posted on Jan 07, 2020 @ 2:22am by Chloe Nielsen
Edited on on Jan 07, 2020 @ 2:23am

Mission: Section 31

“Third Mission, Part XVI”

Location: Simlran, NUMINO
SD : [2.20] 0101.1616
Scene: Cave

“Who are you?” Kate inquired, glancing at first Chloe and then Anaqueen. “And how did Anaqueen’s doppelganger end up here?” She raised her voice. “What the bloody hell is going on here?”

Chloe took a deep breath, meeting the hybrid’s gaze. The agent could understand MacNeil’s frustration but the blonde also couldn’t just ignore intelligence protocol and reveal everything to her. But to hopefully satisfy and calm the doctor, she had decided to give a more abbreviated version of her mission. “Look, Kate. Here’s what I can tell you.”

“Okay.” Kate nodded.

“I work for Starfleet Intelligence,” Chloe said, watching the half-Nuimon’s eyes widen. “And I’m here to capture your doppelganger.” The blonde gestured at the Trill. “Anaqueen works for me.”

“Aye.” The Scot nodded, a hint of doubt in her voice. “And your presence in the valley…that other day. Was it all part of your mission?”

“Yes.” Nielsen sighed, feeling exhausted and dehydrated from the heat and humidity around her. She removed her rain jacket and placed it upon a rock nearby. Sighing with relief, she was glad to be temporarily rid of the stuffy jacket, designed to protect her from harmful stuff in the jungle. Wiping sweat off her brow, she then rummaged through her bag, grabbing a bunch of small silver coloured packets, offering two to MacNeil.

Kate gave the packets, comprising a square shaped packet and a pouch, in the blonde’s hand a wary look as if they were going to bite her.

“Food and water,” the agent informed, taking a pair for herself. As Kate hesitated, she sighed. “Look, if I really wanted to kill you, I wouldn’t have saved you from that arachnid.”

The Scot nodded, taking the packets from her. Placing the pouch gently on her lap, she quickly split open the ends of the square packet to find a reddish brown protein bar. She began biting off chunks of the bar, consuming it in no time before grabbing the pouch and tearing its ends open. MacNeil lifted the pouch to her mouth and began sipping water from it.

“Your doppelganger must not have fed you properly.” Chloe gave the doctor a sympathetic look, sliding another set of rations to her. “Here, you can have more. I still have plenty left.”

“The mad lass only provided stale soup and water,” Kate said, her voice raspy. “Compared to that, this protein bar is so delicious.” She removed another bar and ate it just as fast as the first one.

Chloe nodded, taking large bites of the bar and washing them down with water – realizing all that running around, trying to fend off dangerous creatures, had worked up an appetite. She gave her Trill asset a sidelong glance - the other women’s entire focus on her meal. She froze upon hearing chittering and stomping noises outside. Matilda, the arachnid - likely frustrated that the purple rocks were keeping her away from the prey in the cave. She craned her neck to take a quick peek outside. The jungle had darkened. “It looks like the experiment is over but we’ll need to remain in here for the night as our friend, Matilda is out there.”

“So is it the cave that is keeping Matilda away?” Kate was leaning against the rocky wall that was emanating a soft purple glow.

“It’s the purple rocks that make up this cave.” Nielsen nodded, studying an image and other data, digitally overlaid over the nearby rocks – only viewed by the agent on her contact lens. “My tricorder detected bioluminescent micro-organisms residing within the rocks, hence the purple glow and likely emanating some kind of energy shield that not only repels the creatures but the psionic energy.” The tricorder, a miniaturized device embedded in her wristband, interfaced with the contact lens, which translated her brain waves into commands, thereby enabling the agent to use her mind to interact with the device. The tricorder also had an in-built holo-emitter and a miniaturized replicator that generated the nanobots.

“So the psionic energy caused our hallucinations?” Ana asked.

“I guess so.” The blonde shrugged.

Kate blinked. “Where is the psionic energy coming from and how come no one noticed it before?”

“Well,” Chloe said. “According to CAMELOT’s sensor reports, it’s the jungle flora that’s emitting the psionic energy and as to why it had gone unnoticed until recently.” She paused to take a breath. “In its natural state, the energy is so low that it cannot be detected by standard sensors but your doppelganger has somehow managed to harness the energy and boost its signal, making it strong enough to cause these hallucinations.”

“I don’t know about you two,” MacNeil said. “But the hallucinations seemed to have been extracted from my memories, particularly focusing on my fears.”

“It was the same with me,” Nielsen said.

“And me as well.” Anaqueen nodded, releasing a low growl. “But why and how did she manage to get the psionic energy to target our fears and specific memories.”

“Let’s ask her.” Chloe shrugged. “Since we’re going there anyway.”

“Oh no!” Kate exclaimed.

“What’s wrong?” Chloe raised an eyebrow.

MacNeil took in a deep breath. “The mad lass…there’s something I need to urgently tell you….”

Scene: Underwater Laboratory – Main Lab

Mirror Kate marched across the room, stopping by the window to stare at the underwater environment outside, teeming with a myriad of organisms, all going about their own lives as if the laboratory was just another structure in their habitat. A beautiful sight to behold. The organisms – both plant and animal – were bioluminescent, emitting light in different colours. The doctor was, however, not paying attention to the scene outside.

“Certifiably insane?” Kate fumed, recalling that last conversation with her doppelganger. “She sounds like those simple minded fools and what are they called?” She snapped her fingers. “Aye, counselors! Such annoying idiots who swarm around you with their prodding and asking me those ridiculous questions.” She let out a derisive chuckle, leaning her left shoulder against the window. “Those less than intelligent ingrates had the audacity to use pathetic, insipid methods to test my mental state and concocted some ridiculous terms to describe me.” She pushed away from the window and paced about angrily. “All because their wee minds are unable to comprehend my genius and how my mind is truly exceptional.” She grinned. “But I had devised my own methods to test my mental state and as expected, they had determined that I am of sound mind with unmatched intelligence.” She turned around, a warm smile gracing her lips. “Edward.”

A whale-like creature appeared outside the window, sloshing around with its multi-coloured tail fin. Its thick grey skin emitted a greenish blue glow, the sharp pointy end of its long snout tapping on the window pane.

Kate placed her hand on the same spot. “Oh wee one, how are you?” The creature sloshed its tail around and tapped the pane again before lifting its snout up to open its wide mouth in which no teeth were present. MacNeil frowned, shaking her head. “Those fools forgot to feed you, didn’t they?” Edward tapped on the pane again, though whether it understood her or not was one of those questions that might never be answered. She rubbed the pane, where the snout touched. “There, there, precious one. Not to worry. I will find some plants and insects to feed you. Okay?” Edward tapped again before turning around and swam away.

Scene: Cave

Chloe folded her arms across her chest. “What is it?”

Kate gave her a nervous look, speaking in a slow voice. “My doppelganger,” she began, choking a little. “I overheard a conversation between her and another woman.”

“Another woman?” Nielsen raised an eyebrow, already guessing whom the doctor was referring to. She took a few steps forward and leaned against the wall beside the auburn haired woman.

“Aye.” The Scot nodded, gulping. “This woman told Kate to deploy the weapon at 0630 hrs tomorrow morning.”

“0630hrs,” murmured the agent. “That’s about eight hours away. Hopefully enough time to locate the lab.”

“Speaking of time,” Kate said, a bit of dismay in her voice. “What time is it now? I need to know how long I have been away from my family.”

“It’s 2231hrs local time,” Chloe replied. “When were you abducted?”

Kate shrugged, shifting herself to a comfortable position. “Afternoon, around 1600hrs.”

1600hrs, Riivenvale time. Chloe sighed. “You have been gone for close to ten hours.”

“No, that can’t be…” Kate shook her head in disbelief and sighed with downcast eyes. “No, poor Grace and my children. How hard it must be for them?”

“Tell me about the woman.” Chloe strode forward and then to the right, now directly facing the older woman. Kate was older than the blonde by two years.

“Well,” the Human/Nuimon said. “Kate addressed her as the Lady, a very scary woman, mind you.” She hugged herself, beginning to shudder.

“Wait,” Anaqueen chimed in. “Did you actually get to see her face?”

“Okay,” Kate said, raising her finger. “Just to clarify, I didn’t actually meet her. She communicated with my doppelganger as a hologram.”

**Holographic communication, ** Nielsen thought with satisfaction. **So the lab, despite existing within the jungle, has a way to communicate with the outside world. ** She listened in silence as MacNeil continued speaking.

“Yes, I did see her face.”

“Describe her.” Chloe sat down on the ground opposite the doctor.

“Well,” Kate began, her eyes shifting upwards as if recalling something. “She looks human. Light skinned with reddish brown hair in a messy up do and cold…like seriously…cold…blue green eyes and she looked to be tall with a slim figure.”

Chloe arched her brow, realizing something and began to quickly scan her data files, displayed on her lens. After making her selection, a holographic projection of a humanoid woman appeared between the two women. “Is this her?”

“Aye, that’s the Lady.” Kate gasped, her eyes widening. “Do you know her? Who is she?”

“Elena Djiktra.” The agent nodded. “A very dangerous woman and the mastermind behind it all.”

“Well it makes sense,” Ana remarked, sipping from her water pouch. “That psycho doctor, despite her intelligence, does not have the means to do all this alone – not without powerful backing like Elena or is that really her true name? It certainly can’t be the Lady.”

Chloe ran a hand through her hair, knowing the Trill was right. Elena Djiktra was likely a false name – a cover to maintain as both an entrepreneur and a Syndicate operative. So who was she really? “Can you tell me everything you know about the lab?”

Kate sighed, her eyes shifting downwards. “Honestly, not much.”

“Whatever you know.”

“Well,” the Scot said in a voice, tinged with bitterness. “I remember they beamed me from that underwater shuttle to a cell in her lab.”

“Underwater shuttle? Transporters?” Chloe blinked, now sporting a bewildered expression. “I don’t understand. It’s impossible to beam inside this jungle and Nuimon water shuttles don’t have transporter capabilities.”

“I’m not sure.” Kate shrugged. “That shuttle didn’t have any windows either so I never knew where I was being taken until I arrived at the mad lassie’s lab.”

“Well,” Chloe said. “It’s possible the lab has transporters but the shuttle has to be somewhere inside the jungle to beam anyone and that can prove challenging, considering the radiation interference from the native flora.”

“How did an underwater shuttle get inside the jungle?” Anaqueen asked. “We were forced to leave our water shuttle back at the shore and walk as there were no rivers or streams connecting to the ocean on this section of the continent.”

“You know,” Kate said. “I did remember seeing a large window during the experiments and noticed we were underwater. When I tried to take a peek, I couldn’t see the surface.”

**Underwater. ** Chloe came to a realization. “The lab is built underwater inside this jungle.”

“What?!?” Anaqueen glared at her. “How? Like you said, there aren’t any rivers flowing into the ocean. You are not making sense, Ch…Miss Bossy.”

Chloe shook her head, meeting Ana’s gaze and sighed. “Not above ground.”

“Seriously?!?” The Trill snapped. “Did the hallucinations truly drive you mad?”

“Calm down, Ana and listen,” Chloe ordered, raising her voice, which silenced her asset. “It’s possible there is an underground river that actually does flow into the ocean and that may be the route taken by shuttles to the lab. There are lakes and rivers found in this jungle and that lab may be likely built under a lake or river.” She stood up. “I’m re-programming the nanobots to focus their search on any water bodies within a ten mile radius. Upon spotting a water source, they will dive under to search for structures that do not belong there as well as an opening to an underground cave network that leads to the ocean.” She turned around, noticing MacNeil staring wide-eyed at her, the doctor’s mouth hanging open.

“Nano…bots,” Kate stammered.

Chloe nodded. “While the trackers do their work, I suggest we rest as there’s nothing we can do till that lab’s located.”

Scene: Underwater Laboratory - Room
TI: Four hours later

When Captain Anaqueen Spankryz opened her eyes, she blinked, adjusting to the room’s brightness. The Trill shifted her gaze around. She was sitting on a dull brown wooden chair, her hands resting on the handles. She winced, lifting her right hand to massage the back of her neck to relieve it of tension. Placing her hands on a table in front of her, she looked around her surroundings – a medium sized room with stark white walls on three sides and no other furniture. The Trill glanced behind her shoulder, spotting a large rectangular window and raised an eyebrow. She was at a location underwater but where? Ana clenched her fists, narrowing her eyes – a burning ire rising within her, directed at the Lady.

She recalled the ambush outside the Chief Consul’s office, resulting in the Lady brutally murdering the Trill’s own security escort and possibly others in that woman’s quest to abduct her. Now she was at a location underwater, wondering just how long she was unconscious. She had remembered beaming to a water shuttle in the middle of an ocean, the craft making a dive underwater and then the Lady had sprayed something on her face, knocking her out. She turned her attention forward at the sound of the door opening.

Mirror Kate MacNeil strode inside, carrying an instrument in her hands. The doctor began waving the device over the CO. Now Ana knew where the Lady had taken her. Simlran, where MacNeil’s lab was located. When Kate’s device hovered over her abdomen, the Trill stiffened, realizing the doctor was scanning her symbiont.

“A symbiont,” Kate said, beaming with excitement. “I have always wanted to experiment on a live symbiont.”

“Don’t you dare,” Ana warned, her expression hardening. The Trill raised both her fists, determined to not allow this mad woman to remove Spankryz from her. It had already happened twice before – first by an illegal black market cartel trading in symbionts and then four years later by the Cairons. It was a miracle she had survived both those ordeals and knew a third time would kill her.

“I designed a study that will compare symbionts of this dimension with those from my own,” Kate went on, unfazed by the Trill’s anger. “Now that I have one live symbiont from this universe, I am going to request the Lady to obtain one from my own universe. I am curious as to why and how the symbionts from two universes have such vastly different personalities. In my universe, they are parasites but here they form a symbiotic relationship with the host. How fascinating!”

Ana stood up, her eyes blazing with fury. “If you lay a hand on me and my symbiont, you will suffer the consequences.” Her voice was low with deadly undertones.

Kate let out a derisive chuckle. “I doubt you are capable of hurting me. You, Starfleet types, are so weak, allowing your self-righteousness and morals to prevent you from doing what’s necessary for the good of the universe.”

“Oh I will do what’s necessary to protect my symbiont and everyone else in this universe from you.” Spankryz’s anger had reached a boiling point. She wasn’t a violent woman, had never killed another – well, not directly by her own hand.

“Kate, Captain Spankryz is off-limits.”

Anaqueen’s eyes flickered at the calm, yet authoritative tone in the female voice, belonging to a tall humanoid woman with light skin and reddish brown hair held together in a loose up do. The woman adorned a blood stained snowy white robe with the hood pulled back. Spankryz met the gaze of the Lady’s cold blue-green eyes. So her hypothesis was correct. The Lady and Elena Djiktra were the same person.

“Why?” Kate demanded, sounding petulant. “She has a live symbiont inside her – the perfect opportunity to conduct my study.”

The Lady approached MacNeil, speaking in a harsh voice. “You will not touch Captain Spankryz and may I remind you that if it wasn’t for *us*, you’d still be rotting in a Starfleet prison.” For a moment, a tense silence ensued between them.

“Understood.” Kate nodded, a look of disappointment in her eyes. “I won’t touch the Captain.”

“Listen,” the Lokustaar operative said, softening her tone. “After our mission is a success, I will arrange to bring you as many symbionts from both universes as you desire, okay?”

“Aye.” A smile formed across the mad woman’s lips.

The Lady gestured towards the door. “Leave. The Captain and I need to have a private chat.” To Ana’s relief, Kate walked out of the room.

Elena approached the Trill, halting at the other side of the table. She folded her arms across her chest, a cold smile forming at the corners of her mouth. “Sit down, Captain. We are going to be in here for a while.”

Ana sat back down, her eyes shooting daggers at her captor. “I am impressed,” the Trill remarked, an acerbic tone in her voice. “You have managed to pull off this act of being Elena Djiktra – an Orion Syndicate operative pretending to be a businesswoman and the Lady, a mysterious woman who provided support to not just this doppelganger but the Free Nuimons.” The Lady’s face was a mask, hiding her true emotions. “You caused a rift between two allies in the Nuimon Council, turning them into bitter enemies, leading to a chain of events that included a group of Nuimons making assassination attempts against myself and Ambassador Glina and staging a hostage takeover - using weapons for the first time in Nuimon history.” She paused to take a breath. “And now thanks to you, this world is teetering on the edge. So tell me, what is your endgame here? Is it creating political instability?”

“You are correct.” The Lokustaar operative smiled, much to the CO’s chagrin. “Our goal is to create conflict between the various factions on this planet.”

“What do you gain from a conflict on a peaceful world like NUMINO?”

“In this conflict, the stronger groups – worthy of survival- will triumph over the weaker ones, leading to the creation of a better society.”

Ana gave her an incredulous look. “How will conflict make NUMINO a better society? And what makes you think their current society isn’t working well. They are a peaceful race and despite political disagreements as one would expect in a healthy democracy, their society has been doing fine until recently.”

“Because,” said the Lady coldly. “Conflict is the natural and a necessary part of a species’ evolution.”

Scene: Cave

Kate opened her eyes to the darkness around her, except for the dim purple glow emanated by the rocks. She yawned, getting up to a sitting position. She raised both her arms, extending them outward to the side and then behind for a stretch. After putting her arms down on the mattress, she yawned again. “Wow,” she remarked. “I’ve been quite knackered. I haven’t slept this well in such a long time.” The Scot gazed around, spotting Anaqueen pacing back and forth near the entrance. As Kate got a glimpse of the jungle outside, she noticed it was still dark and wondered how long she had been asleep. She could still hear Matilda’s chittering outside. She had slept on a mattress, which Nielsen loaned to her, while the agent and Ana shared one with each taking turns to watch. Chloe had taken the first watch and was now asleep on the mattress at the opposite end of the cave.

The half-Nuimon felt a soft nudge on her left hip. Her eyes flickered, gazing down to the side and then curled her lips into a warm smile. “Aww, what have we here?”

A small creature with an uncanny resemblance to a Terran toad appeared beside her.

“A publum!” Kate’s eyes shone with excitement, gazing with adoration at the toad-like creature. “I didn’t expect to find one here.”

Publums are an amphibian species, found near any water source around the planet. Their dry, rubbery hide came in yellow, orange and pink hues and is bioluminescent, meaning the hide glowed. This particular publum was glowing a bright yellow and on its hide, turquois polka dots were spotted. A publum’s body, while similar in shape to a toad, was longer and chubbier. Unlike a toad, a publum had a short, stubby tail that served as an extension from its body. A publum’s face was larger with big, round blue eyes and a wide mouth. Like a toad, publums had four short and stubby legs, slightly bent with one notable difference – the publum could not hop with its hind legs. Another difference was the publum was able to lift its body upwards and walk on all fours, while the toad mostly crawled or made tiny hops. The small creature snapped out its long tongue, catching its prey – a tiny light purple glow fly.

“Hey!” Ana yelled, stunning Kate. “Shoo!” The Trill began stomping towards them, her gaze fixed on the creature. “Shoo!” Ana waved at the publum.

The publum let out a moan, scurrying behind Kate, its hide changing colour to green. “Aww,” the doctor said in a soothing voice. “You’re frightened, wee one.” The Scot knew the publum’s colour reflected its emotions and green represented fear. The tall woman turned to Ana, chiding her. “Anaqueen, stop! You’re scaring it.”

“Keep away from it,” the Trill shouted, glowering at the creature.

“Why?” Kate eyed her incredulously. “Publums are generally harmless.”

“Not if they came from that mad woman’s lab.” Ana bent forward, attempting to reach out for the publum but the creature moved back, escaping her grasp. As she tried to grab it, Kate slid to block her way, allowing the publum to pad away to a corner further inside the cave, where it stood, watching them with eyes widened.

“Ana, even if that’s the case, it is still harmless.” MacNeil gestured at the amphibian. “Look at it, the wee one’s scared. Do you honestly think it can really harm us?”

“Well, it followed me around and I scared it away but that little monster has apparently returned.”

“It’s not a monster,” Kate argued. “Not all her genetically modified creatures are monsters. In fact, I adopted three of them and they are some of the sweetest animals I’ve ever raised.”

“When I was on the SHIV, I witnessed that bitch’s genetic monsters in action, rampaging and killing people, including even members of the crew –at that bitch captain’s orders - and guess what, some of them were considered *cute* and *adorable*.” The Trill moved ahead of the doctor, who followed her and the two women continued arguing in loud voices. “We can’t take any chances.”

“So then, Ana,” Kate continued - the advantage of having longer legs enabled her to overtake her and was now standing between the Trill and the creature. “Instead of trying to drive it away, why not be nice to it for a change.” She glanced behind her shoulder, sighing at the fear present in the publum’s eyes.

“Hey! Cut it out, you two!”

The Scot and the Trill stopped arguing, turning around as Chloe was approaching them. “I thought you were sleeping,” Ana said, a sullen look in her eyes.

“I was,” the blonde said calmly. “Until you two woke me up with your arguing. Do you realize how loud you both are? You might catch Matilda’s attention or…”

“Matilda cannot enter this cave,” Ana snapped.

“No, but the Jem’Hadar can.”

“Jem’Hadar?” Kate blinked. “I don’t understand. How are they here?”

Nielsen sighed as the women gathered around, when the publum began slowly approaching MacNeil, keeping a wary eye on Anaqueen. “Psionic energy. If the Camelot sensors picked up on the huge spike in energy from this area, then so did every other ship in orbit and guess what, the Dominion as well as the Klingons and Orion Syndicate are after your doppelganger.”

“Oh that makes sense.” At the feeling of the creature nudging against her leg, Kate twisted her body, her gaze moving down. “There you are, wee one. Are you hungry? Do you like to play?” She knelt down, her right hand reaching out for the publum’s smooth head and petted it. The creature’s hide reverted to yellow, having calmed down from the doctor’s touch. Kate then stroked beneath its chin with her finger – the creature letting out a low moan. “Aww…so nice to see you happy now.”

Ana growled, sending the yellow creature a menacing glare. “You know,” she spoke with a haughty tone. “That is one stupid creature.”

“Watch your tone, Ana,” Kate snapped, sighing when the publum’s hide changed to a bright crimson colour. “Now look what you did.” The publum narrowed its eyes, sending the Trill a mean look.

“Me?!? That thing can’t possibly understand me!” She then harrumphed.

“You need to read up on publums,” Chloe said dryly. “They are actually intelligent, can read our emotions and understand some of what we say.” The women were silent for a moment. “Besides, that publum’s been here for a while, followed me around. It’s basically harmless. In fact, I scanned it with my tricorder.” She tapped her wristband and a holo-projection of an image showing the publum on one side and a bunch of data on the other. “Here, Kate. Take a look.”

“A medical diagnosis.” MacNeil studied the image with keen interest.

“I don’t really have the expertise to fully understand it,” Chloe said. “Since you’re the only doctor here, what does it tell us about our little friend here?”

Kate smiled, petting the creature. “Well, the good news is it is in excellent health and there are no signs of any genetic modifications made to this adorable wee one, meaning it didn’t come from my doppelganger’s lab.”

“There.” Chloe grinned, glancing at Ana. “Nothing to worry.”

Kate smiled, sitting down and playing with the publum, while Anaqueen turned around and walked away in a huff to stand against a wall, muttering under her breath.

“And now I…” Nielsen was interrupted by a loud beep.

“What’s wrong?” MacNeil inquired, lifting the publum onto her lap.

“The trackers may have located the lab,” the agent announced.

Scene: Underwater Laboratory

“No,” Spankryz said vehemently. “Whatever you are doing is not considered natural and certainly not necessary for evolution, which will happen on its own – not because of your machinations.” The Trill sighed, feeling the rage burning inside. She would have found it comprehensible if the Lady and whatever organization she was part of, had planned to instigate chaos on NUMINO if their aim had been to sell weapons to all sides and make a profit as expected of many weapons-dealing cartels.

Elena chuckled, further infuriating the Trill. “I’m not surprised, Captain as you’re all about maintaining order, have this need for structure and the mere idea of chaos just disturbs you.”

Ana stiffened, disturbed over how the operative’s description of her was accurate.

“Don’t look so surprised, Captain.” The Lady leaned against the table, pressing her right palm on its surface. “I am well aware of your Starfleet record, including your stint as CO of the USS PROPHECY – your first command - where you traversed across inter-dimensional lines.”

The CO’s eyes widened, her heart skipping a beat. The PROPHECY and its mission profile were classified at the highest levels. How did this woman come across such highly classified information? Is her organization or whatever so powerful with vast resources that they are able to access classified intel? That meant the Lady wasn’t part of a ‘run of the mill’ weapons cartel.

“You must be wondering how we obtained such classified information.” The Lady smiled, seemingly taking pleasure with the interrogation. “We are everywhere and know your deepest and darkest secrets.”

Ana frowned, not liking the vagueness of her words but knew it didn’t mean anything good.

“We know that under your command the PROPHECY made first contact with the Interstellar Consortium.” The Lady’s gaze fixed on the Trill. “You remember the ISC, right?”

Ana nodded. “Yes.”

“What a depressing event to witness.” The remark befuddled her. “How you all jumped at the chance to embrace an alliance with an entity so similar in ideals to your Federation - quite pathetic in my view and reflects your weakness in not embracing the natural order.”

Ana set her jaws, angered over the other woman’s put-down of the mission to establish relations with the ISC. It had been over fifteen years since the PROPHECY and ISC had those diplomatic talks. She wasn’t sure if Starfleet still maintained contact with them or if they had built another trans-dimensional starship, following the loss of the PROPHECY. Since her transfer off the starship, she no longer had clearance for such top secret information.

“However, I will admit, things got a little interesting – filling me with hope that all wasn’t lost with the encounter.” She grinned. “The Prophecy was invited by the Meisans – one of the ISC’s two founding races – to their homeworld and wow, I must say, diplomacy was close to breaking down because of the actions of your then first officer.” The Meisans were a matriarchal culture, where males –although having equal opportunities- disrespecting the females weren’t tolerated.

“No, it didn’t come to that,” Ana retorted before further adding with a dismissive tone. “A slight misunderstanding between us and them, which we resolved and managed to keep our relationship intact.” She sighed, recalling that unfortunate and rather embarrassing situation brought upon by a misunderstanding of another culture’s ritual and an internal personnel matter that should have stayed on the ship. The Trill always considered that particular situation, one of her low points in her career and had resolved to never make that same mistake again. Despite that near mishap, the shore leave on the Meisan homeworld was overall a success. Now as CO of the CAMELOT, she and her crew in a first contact situation made sure to thoroughly understand the species’ culture, their rituals, customs, before allowing any of her officers to partake in them.

“Interesting that,” the Lady continued, speaking in a low and deadly voice. “The group that had such a profound and tragic effect on your life is the one you didn’t encounter during your command.” A sly smile crept across her lips. “Cairon Imperium. Remember them?”

The Captain’s expression darkened, her eyes blazing with fury.

Scene: Cave

Kate and Ana gathered around the blonde just as a holographic projection appeared over the wall, displaying a map of the section of the jungle in which the cave was located. Chloe pointed at a spot on the bottom right corner of the map. “Okay, this is our current location.” She then moved her finger upward, pausing over a tiny blue splotch, marked by a yellow flashing dot. “This is where the lab is located and is under a lake.” She tapped her wristband again and the hologram changed to an image of a lake, surrounded by the dense jungle, except for one small area, where purple rocky cliffs extended from out of the water. The entire lake, including the cliffs were below the thick canopy with barely any openings to permit sunlight. A breathtaking sight. She then switched to a different image showing the cliffs underwater. Nielsen pointed at an opening, where a bluish green spherical object was spotted – an underwater shuttle – to be entering or exiting. The lab seemed to be constructed within the cliff walls.

“How far is the lake from here?” Mirror Anaqueen inquired, standing to Nielsen’s right, while Kate stood to the agent’s left.

“About half a day’s journey through the jungle,” Chloe answered.

Kate’s jaw dropped. “But my doppelganger plans on deploying the weapon in less than four hours. We won’t make it in time.”

“I know.” Chloe nodded. “That’s why we need to find a much faster route and I think I know one.” The Canadian gave a quick glance at the list of files comprising the data gathered by the nanobots, displayed on her lens. She spent the next couple of minutes perusing the files until making her selections.

“Everything okay?” Kate asked, sounding concerned. “You have been still for the past few minutes.”

“I’m fine,” Chloe said a moment later. “I was looking for something and found it.” She understood why the doctor was confused. The Scot wasn’t aware of her Section 31 tech set up and didn’t know the Canadian was wearing special contact lens to view the data – information only seen by her.

“What did you find?” Ana asked, grinning as she gave Kate a sidelong glance. The Trill, on the other hand, was aware of the agent’s Section 31 equipment and seemed to be enjoying Kate’s cluelessness.

Chloe frowned, finding her asset’s attitude rather childish. The publum strode towards them, stopping next to Kate’s right foot and giving Anaqueen a wary look. She sighed, knowing the appearance of the animal led to an unnecessary tiff between MacNeil and her asset. “An alternate route to the lab.” She transferred the selected files to the holo-projector for the other two women to view. The holo-projection spread across the walls, its bright blue light illuminating the cave.

“What are we looking at?” Anaqueen raised an eyebrow.

“A layout of the jungle’s underground cave network in this part of the continent.” The blonde stepped forward, pointing her finger at an area, marked in flashing yellow. “We’re here. From our current location this route leads us to the lab.” She then moved her finger along a red line that seemed to be winding around many turns until stopping over a flashing crimson dot.

“Are we going to use this route?” The Trill asked.

“Yes.” Chloe nodded. “It’s the route that the tricorder plotted and estimated to take the shortest time.”

“How long?” Kate knelt down to give the publum a belly rub, which the creature apparently enjoyed - its mouth curling into a wide smile and releasing a series of low ‘ooms’ and woos’ as it rolled on its back. “Oh you like a belly rub, do you, wee one,” Kate cooed at it. That woman had been through a lot, having been a subject of her mentally insane doppleganger for hours so Chloe wouldn’t begrudge Kate for being friendly with the publum. At the same time, she was a little concerned the publum could become a distraction, possibly a liability in this upcoming operation.

“Around an hour as long as we don’t encounter any obstacles.” Nielsen shrugged.

“Are we anticipating any trouble?” Ana asked, sounding annoyed.

“We’re going to travel through unfamiliar territory so yes I do anticipate challenges.” Chloe nodded. “Anyway, while you both were asleep, I took the opportunity to explore our current surroundings and found the entrance to the underground cave network, which is located further inside this cave.” The agent noticed Kate biting her lip, a confused look in the half-Nuimon’s eyes.

“Am I to come along with you?” MacNeil asked. “I’d rather not go back to the lab but I want to help you stop the mad lass and save my birth mother’s world.”

“Yes, honestly your only chance of getting out alive is to come with us.” Chloe nodded. “I can’t promise you will not die as this is a very dangerous mission just so you’re aware.”

“Aye.” Kate nodded, the publum rubbing against her leg as if sensing her anxiety. “Can the publum come with us? I don’t really want to leave it alone here.” The creature turned to Chloe, giving her a pleading look.

“Wait?!? What?!?” Anaqueen exclaimed. “That thing can’t come with us.” In response to the Trill’s exploding rage, the publum’s hide turned a lighter shade of green.

“Fine, it can come.” Chloe nodded, giving her asset a wry grin. “It was going to follow us anyway.” She watched Kate smile, the latter turning to the creature and at the sight of the doctor’s smile, its hide returned to yellow - a look of relief in its eyes. She watched MacNeil kneel down and cuddle the amphibian, the creature making more ‘woo’ sounds. “Kate, the lab has the ability to communicate outside the jungle so once we get there, you’ll have the chance to contact the CAMELOT and let them know you’re alive.”

“And what happens then?” Kate asked, releasing the publum. “The ship will send a rescue team to the lab before or after you leave with the doppelganger?”

“Captain Spankryz will know what to do,” the blonde said. “So, anyone afraid of water?”

“No. why?” Ana raised an eyebrow.

“I always enjoy swimming and taking boat rides with my family,” Kate said.

“The cave network is submerged underwater for about three-quarters of the route,” Nielsen informed. She grinned, watching the other two women’s stunned expressions. “So here’s your chance to do some cave diving.”

Scene: Underwater Laboratory - Room

Ana watched the Lady smile, the latter apparently taking pleasure in the CO’s discomfiture about the Cairon Imperium – a powerful and highly advanced trans-dimensional entity. Ana clenched her fists, feeling her heart rate and breathing increase. Why was the Lady tormenting her about her painful experience at the hands of the Cairons in 2421?

“You must really harbour such intense hatred for the Imperium,” the Lady said, pacing back and forth. She paused, fixing her gaze on the Trill. “Tell me, have you fantasized about their destruction - plotted revenge against the ones who tortured you and removed your symbiont for the Cairon doctors to study.” She grinned, while Ana continued glaring at her. “Apparently, your second time. A rather unusual situation - a joined Trill who had her symbiont removed from her not once but twice and survived the ordeal. Quite fascinating.”

“No,” Ana said, not bothering to hold back her anger. “I don’t desire revenge for what the Cairons did to me and I *have* most certainly not fantasized about seeing them destroyed.”

“But you do hate them, right?” The Lady needled her. “You hate them so much that you don’t mind seeing the Imperium brought down, even if you don’t want to be responsible for their demise.”

Ana remained silent, wondering with trepidation whether the Lady could be right. Yes, Djiktra was accurate about her hatred towards the Imperium. The Imperium – not necessarily individual Cairons as after all it was a pair of Cairons, who saved her from captivity in that hospital and helped her escape before she was found by the PROPHECY. She wasn’t eager to admit it of herself – but perhaps the Trill did desire to see the Imperium fall. From her own experience as well as that of the PROPHECY and GATEWAY officers who encountered them, the Cairons held themselves superior to other species. Imperium society was based on a class structure with the top three classes reserved for Cairons only, based on their career paths, determined by a series of assessments at a young age and the assigned careers didn’t often match the individual Cairon’s dreams and desires. The fourth and the lowest class were where all the other races, residing in the Imperium, belonged and treated with disdain and in many cases, unimaginable brutality. So, basically attributes that went against Federation ideals, which she strongly adhered to.

“You may have access to my records and gleaned all the information from them,” the Trill spoke calmly, sending her a cold stare. “But you have failed to truly characterize me.” She watched the smile vanish from the other woman. “One, I believe violence should be only used as a last resort or in situations where there is no other option available. Two, while I strongly disapprove of the Imperium’s ways, I do not condone destroying them and hope they evolve to change their ways for the better.”

“I find that disconcerting.” The Lady sighed. “You’d rather pursue diplomatic talks with a race that treat other sentient species as nothing more than garbage to toss away at will.”

“That’s not what I said.” Ana glared at her. She was against making any form of relationship with the Imperium but that decision wasn’t really hers to make.

“Okay, so if you don’t desire a diplomatic relationship, then why not go to war with them,” she continued needling her. “If not for personal revenge, then to free all those poor non-Cairons from centuries of brutality. Don’t you want to see them free from Cairon oppression?”

“War isn’t the always the solution,” came a terse response from the Trill.

“Wow, so you’d rather let those non-Cairons rot in hell just to stick to your beliefs.”

Ana, having enough of the Lady wasting her time by the dredging up of her past, slammed the table with her left hand. “Where is MacNeil? Is she still alive?”

The Lady let out a dry chuckle, her mouth curling into a cold smile. “MacNeil is still alive and last I heard, she was in the jungle outside but sadly we lost contact with her so for all we know, she could be dead.”

“Why did you abduct her?” Spankryz demanded. “Kate MacNeil was only here on vacation with her family.”

“I was returning a favour to a brilliant scientist for her services in helping us.”

“Let me guess, that mad doppelganger ran experiments on her and then sent her out into the jungle to die.” The Captain sent her a menacing glare, however mixed in with her outrage was worry. She felt a sense of dread, wondering if Kate was truly dead, after all the odds of surviving in the jungle at night were not good. She set her jaws, unwilling to let doubt take over and was determined to believe that MacNeil was still alive.

“It seems that way,” the Lady said blithely. “Though I could care less anyway what happens to her.” She narrowed her eyes, moving away from the Trill. “This conversation isn’t over. I’ll be right back.” She turned on her heel and left the room.

Anaqueen took in a deep breath and began to gather her thoughts, regarding her long conversation with the Lady, who – metaphorically speaking- had reached into the deep recesses of her mind and yanked out some of her most painful memories. Elena Djiktra or whoever she was, had proceeded to then twist the knife further with all the provocation in the hopes of riling the Trill up – and sadly the Lady had somewhat succeeded and now Ana had to find a way to regain her composure, in order to escape. But the question arising in her head was the purpose behind the Lady’s conversation with her. What was that woman hoping to accomplish with her mind games? Ana wondered if her abduction was a way to throw a wrench in her crew’s plans to solve the hostage crisis and force them to expend their energies searching for their Captain at the expense of saving the hostages.

Her thoughts were interrupted at the sound of banging. The Trill glanced behind her shoulder, raising an eyebrow. A large aquatic creature, resembling a cross between a Terran octopus and a lobster, floated outside the window. Ana studied the creature’s unusual features, noting its bioluminescence – its greenish brown skin giving off a bright glow. Its head was huge and round, where at the bottom, eight long arms dangled around. The creature had a long body with multi-coloured fins at the tail end and an exoskeleton attached to its back. Three pairs of legs extended from its abdomen, two of which were clawed.

Then angry voices outside in the hallway drew the Captain’s attention away from it. She watched in tense silence as the doors parted, allowing a pair of rattled male Nuimons to enter, dragging inside a hovercart. The Trill arched a brow when her gaze fell on half a dozen small amphibian creatures, their big round eyes, filled with despair. The colour of their hides were different shades of blue. Ana sighed, realizing those animals were depressed. The Trill stiffened, when Mirror Kate entered.

“Doctor MacNeil,” one of the Nuimons spoke in a high pitched voice, pointing his finger at the window. “You need to do something about that ugly beast.”

“Ugly?!?” MacNeil’s voice raised in anger, the doctor marching towards the window, when the aquatic creature banged. She patted on the window pane, speaking in a soothing voice. “Don’t worry, Emma. Those ignorant fools just don’t realize how enlightened and lovely you are.”

Ana shook her head, sighing out of exasperation. That mad woman named it, so a pet then.

“That beast killed and ate our friend a few hours ago!” The same Nuimon, one of MacNeil’s underlings, snarled.

“What was he doing out there in the first place?” Kate demanded, patting the window again, where the creature gave it a gentle nudge – a sight that Anaqueen found utterly baffling.

“Well,” the other underling said, swallowing a lump out of sheer nervousness. “The coward ran away, grabbing one of these publums and then made his way out into the lake, hoping to make a dash for one of the caves when the…” His body convulsed, his violet eyes filled with fear and loathing for the large creature outside. “When Emma caught up to them and grabbed him, while the publum managed to escape inside a nearby cave.” He gulped down another lump.

“Oh well.” Kate shrugged, speaking in a dismissive tone. “Emma was hungry. The lass needed the nourishment to survive so our friend, despite his foolishness, ended up making a worthy sacrifice.”

**Sacrifice?!?** Ana couldn’t believe her ears. The doppelganger’s callous dismissal of her underling’s death made her blood boil. She frowned, when the doctor giggled.

“Oh Emma, you wee lassie.” Kate rubbed the window with her left hand. “I will go to my office now and sing you a lullaby to put you to sleep.”

The Trill sighed, rolling her eyes. Seriously, lullaby – the way she talked so affectionately to that beast left her speechless.

“And when you wake up,” the doctor cooed, “I have something special for you.” The creature didn’t respond, just floating there in silence. “There is this annoying blonde intelligence agent in the jungle, who thinks she can outmatch my brilliance and did a silly thing by blocking me from detecting their biosignatures. Oh it was so frustrating how someone with such inferior intelligence could outsmart me.”

**Intelligence agent? Chloe Nielsen is here. ** Ana wondered if the agent had located the lab.

“The Lady expects that blonde, along with my doppelganger and my dear old friend, Anaqueen, will be coming here soon.” Kate giggled. “Oh they will be in for a rude awakening when that blonde realizes she can never outsmart me – after all I am a genius with unmatched wisdom.”

Unmatched wisdom. Ana rolled her eyes. Speaking of wisdom, the lunatic would be shocked to learn she’d not be a match for the Trill’s own wisdom - worth around 200 years of memories, accumulated over five lifetimes. But then she heard doppelganger and for the first time since her abduction, the Trill felt a tiny ray of hope. Kate MacNeil was still alive and possibly with Chloe Nielsen. Then her expression soured at the thought of her own alternate, roaming free amongst the trio.

The doors parted and the Lady returned, turning to the underlings. “You three, get out,” she ordered before addressing Kate alone, while the Nuimons scurried out with the publums. “Change of plans.”

“Okay?” MacNeil arched a brow.

The Lady sent the Captain a cold gaze. “Move up the weapon’s deployment.”

“What time?” The hybrid inquired.

The Lokustaar agent’s lips curled into a frosty smile. “Schedule the deployment at 0445hrs. It will be 0945 hrs in Ciris around the time the council will still be debating, maybe even voting on Hollande’s removal.”

“Aye, I will get control ready.” Kate grinned, quickly heading out of the room.

“Let’s see how good that blonde is in handling unpleasant surprises,” the Lady remarked with a dry wit, approaching the Trill. “So, Captain, let’s resume our chat.”

“Sure.” Anaqueen’s expression remained hardened. She hoped Nielsen would be able to make it to the lab in time to stop the weapon’s activation. “Let’s talk about this bioweapon that you plan on unleashing in Ciris. Or is it Ciris alone?”

“No.” The Lady shook her head, her gaze boring into the Trill eyes. “I am more interested in learning about how you managed to adapt from being a successful peacetime CO to a wartime one so effortlessly. It’s like you are this Captain so gung ho on using diplomacy to solve any crisis and then during the wars with the Dominion and Neo-Essentialists, you just turn into a totally different kind of person and give orders to shoot and kill the enemy. Why?” She snorted. “I was expecting you to sit down with your enemies and talk your way out of the conflicts.”

Anaqueen’s already burning ire just grew stronger. The Lady was over-simplifying things. Spankryz didn’t find the transition between peacetime and war to be an easy feat and struggled to adapt at first but yet she did because she had to. “Why don’t you tell me about the weapon?” The CO was determined to not let the Lady control the conversation.

Scene: Cave
TI: 45 minutes later

Chloe, Kate and Mirror Anaqueen gathered their belongings and were heading deeper inside the cave. The trio moved in a single file with the agent taking the lead, while the Trill took the rear. The publum stayed close to Kate, occasionally letting out soft moans. Apparently, from what Nielsen had read about the amphibians, they could swim long distances for several hours without rest.

The ground beneath their feet began inclining downwards, making them move faster. Kate came up to her, the agent noting the nervous expression and look of concern in the doctor’s glowing blue eyes. “Ah,” the half-Nuimon spoke, lowering her voice to barely above a whisper. “I noticed you didn’t really get much sleep.”

Chloe nodded, maintaining her gaze forward. Kate was right – the agent only managed to sleep for an hour and once the nanobots had located the lab, she knew there was no time to rest. The further they descended inside, their surroundings had started to brighten and the source of the illumination was spotted ahead in their path – a bright greenish blue glow.

“I think you should have taken some time to sleep,” Kate chided gently. “The weapon isn’t scheduled to activate for another three hours so we could have started our trip much later.”

The Canadian sighed, glancing behind her shoulder. “We can’t leave things to the last minute, Kate. I mean, for all we know, the Lady may decide to reschedule deployment to an earlier time,” she said calmly with a matter-of-fact tone. “The sooner we complete this mission, the sooner you will be reunited with your family.” She watched the tall woman bite her lip and softened her tone. “I appreciate your concern but I’ve pulled all-nighters in the past and came out just fine.” They passed through a large circular opening before sliding down a slope, navigating around purple rocks with jagged edges until reaching the bottom.

The three women now stood at the edge of a round pool filled with aqua blue water, emitting a bright glow. The trio were adorned in dark blue wetsuits, locally made and snug over their forms like a second skin. Chloe was glad she brought them along – the suits came with the jungle survival kit they had acquired from a vendor in Ciris. And it was fortunate they had a spare and since the size of the suit could be adjusted to fit the individual, Kate was able to wear one - considering she had longer legs than the other two women.

Chloe lifted the hood – attached to the suit – to cover her hair, which was pulled up. Her companions did the same and like her, they too had their long hair held up. She tapped the side of the hood and a visor slid over her eyes. After putting on the rest of their diving gear, the three women and the publum entered the pool and dove under, embarking on their journey to Mirror Kate’s lab.


NRPG: Happy New Year! Here’s Part XVI. We are getting close to the end! Around two more posts left :)

I created the Cairons, part of the Cairon Imperium in 2006 (2421) and they have a connection to the Nuimons (briefly mentioned in Part IV of this story and past posts from the 1st ed.) and have detailed information on them.

Part XVII preview: Chloe, Kate and Mirror Ana make their way to the lab, unaware the Lady has changed the time of the weapon’s activation. Captain Spankryz, still the Lady’s prisoner, attempts to find a way to escape and contact the Camelot.

More previews from future posts: I will reveal more details on how the lab can communicate outside the jungle, how the weapon actually works and what the Lady hopes to accomplish by deploying it. Stay tuned!

Ranjani S.
Writing for

Chloe Nielsen
Section 31 Agent


Special Appearances by

Captain Anaqueen Spankryz
Commander/Dr. Kate MacNeil


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