by Cheryl Petterson and Mylochka

(Standard Year 2252)

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Captain’s Log: Starfleet Intelligence has given us another undercover mission. Through a high-level Starfleet informant, it has been discovered that there are an increasing number of surgically altered Romulan spies infiltrating the Federation and Starfleet. Reports have surfaced of the existence of a ‘training base’ along the Neutral Zone where these agents are coached in how to behave as the various races they are impersonating, among them Vulcan, of course, Human and Indiian. Our assignment is to send a small team, altered to appear Romulan, to find and expose this ‘training base.’ The Romulans are strong telepaths, so anyone sent to infiltrate must be able to pass a telepathic as well as visual and minimal medical scrutiny. With that in mind, Intelligence has sent a half-Indiian officer with strong telepathic gifts, Lieutenant Pelori MacEntyre, to be the contact for this mission. Lieutenant MacEntyre will be giving us more details when she arrives, which will be at 1400 hours today. Commander Spock and Lieutenant Commander Noel DelMonde have been assigned to complete the team, but with the personal strain between them, actually getting this team to function well together is going to be something of a challenge. I may have to dust off my old ‘pontifications’ as Commander Valley, were she here, would say.

Personal log addendum: Spock and DelMonde on a landing party together where they both have to use rather than shield from their telepathic gifts. This is a disaster waiting to happen, and not just for the two of them. The entire ship is beginning to be effected by the problems between them. Doctors Han and McCoy have been urging me to consider transferring Mr. DelMonde, not just for the good of the ship, but for his personal sanity and Spock’s good as well. DelMonde’s roommate, my Chief of Security, Commander Paget, has respectfully tendered the same suggestion. And while I understand their concerns, I’m still not sure this would be the best move, for a variety of reasons, the foremost of which is what three transfers in a little over a year would do to Mr. DelMonde’s career. While everyone on board – and I’m certain the Admiralty – understands the very real reasons for the first two transfers, the next command to which he’d be assigned might not, and might look upon it as a disciplinary concern. Also, DelMonde is a top-flight engineer, one who is familiar with the Enterprise – and she’s an aging ship. While I have every confidence in Scotty, I know he can use all the help he can get. And, on a personal level, I like DelMonde. He’s a familiar face here – not that most of the rest of the crew aren’t – but with the major changes that have taken place, I still feel the need to have as much of the familiar around me as I can. I just hope that doesn’t mean Fleet was too optimistic in reassigning me to the captaincy.


“Fucked-up motherfuckin’ bullshit,” Noel DelMonde muttered in a tone that – though quiet – was still clearly audible to everyone in the small briefing room.

It was not the first comment he’d made of that nature in this meeting.

Lieutenant MacEntyre narrowed her big grey eyes at him but continued as if he hadn’t spoken. “Therefore, gentlemen, you can see that the successful completion of our mission is of the highest priority.” She paused and inserted a cartridge into the main viewer. A graphic of a bronze-colored woman with pointed ears rotated slowly next to a column of text. “A packet detailing what is known about Romulan social customs has been prepared for each of you.”

When she offered a stack of cartridges, Spock and Chekov each held out a hand like children eager to receive candy. DelMonde let MacEntyre slide his disks across the table to him.

“I know that you will be reviewing this material carefully,” she said, the corners of her pale pink lips pulling down into a frown for the engineer. “However I would like to draw your attention to a few items. First and foremost, you must remember that in Romulan society, women are respected and honored nearly to the point of deification. They are the repositories of all true power. Therefore even though I am the most junior officer in this room, I am in command of this mission.” The lieutenant let her cool silver gaze sweep over each one of them in turn. “As soon as we cross into the Neutral Zone, my authority over you is absolute and final. An ill-timed attempt to pull rank or question my judgment could kill us all – and therefore will not be tolerated.”

Del sighed and wished he was in his cabin drinking. Pelori MacEntyre was a nice enough girl to look at. She had a pretty face topped with flaming red hair that she wore pulled up into a pile of curls. Her skin was a pale, Human tone that had just a hint of an Indiian shimmer. She had a fit, trim body and the sort of confident manner that always made an attractive person even more attractive. However, she was ten times colder than the Ice Queen in a particularly frosty mood.

Del smiled a crooked smile to himself at the thought. MacEntyre wasn’t silvery enough to be an Ice Queen. With her coloring, she’d have to be the Strawberry Queen. He almost laughed aloud at the picture his mind formed of her in a little rhinestone tiara waving to a crowd at the Strawberry Festival back home.

“I look forward to reviewing the material you have prepared for us, Lieutenant,” Spock began.

The Vulcan looked a little paler than usual. His brow was drawn as if he had a headache – the sort of headache that sensitives tended to get when they had to be around a telepath who wasn’t being careful to maintain his shields.

How awful fo' him, DelMonde thought unsympathetically.

“I trust it includes information on the treatment of the non-gifted in Romulan society,” the Vulcan was saying, letting his eyes point towards Chekov.

“It does,” MacEntyre confirmed a little grimly as she too turned to the navigator. “At length.”

“Then you can understand why I am somewhat surprised to learn of his inclusion on this mission,” Spock said in a manner calculated not to challenge.

“When you say non-gifted…” the Russian began, his voice remaining calm despite the fact that his brown eyes were growing a little wider with alarm with each passing moment.

“It has been confirmed that telepathy is as common in Romulans as it is in Vulcans,” MacEntyre replied, answering his unspoken question. “And the general level of ability is significantly greater. Of course, as you would expect in any normal distribution curve, there is a minority of the general population who have little or no psychic abilities…” The lieutenant shifted her eyes away from Chekov almost guiltily.

“The little research I have done on the subject indicates that these non-gifted individuals are not accorded the same rights and privileges the average citizen enjoys under Romulan law,” Spock pressed gently.

“No.” MacEntyre very deliberately looked back into the navigator’s eyes. “Most of them exist essentially as slaves.”

The navigator’s lips formed into a silent, “Oh.”

DelMonde grinned at his former roommate. “Sucks t' be you, T-Paul.”

“The planners of this mission believe that having a non-gifted team member will make our cover much, much more convincing,” the lieutenant said. “Our research has indicated that any high-ranking members of society would be attended by such a servant.”

The engineer protested. “But he not have no….”

“Shields,” MacEntyre finished for him. “Or, for that matter…. Anything…” The lieutenant let her sentence trail off as she looked into the Russian’s eyes with a distracted, puzzled frown. Del knew from experience she was caught up in contemplating exactly how low a score of zero telepathy actually was when you met it in person. It happened to him often enough. “Nothing…” she said, almost in wonder. “Absolutely nothing at all….”

Chekov smiled weakly. “I can tap dance.”

“We believe we can turn the lieutenant commander’s lack of ability into a distinct advantage for us,” MacEntyre said, recovering. “The average non-gifted Human still has some traces of psychic ability. General trends towards strengths and weaknesses form a pattern that serves as a sort of psychic signature that can be recognized by a trained telepath. Mr. Chekov generates no such signature.”

“He also not have no…”

”Shields,” MacEntyre finished again. “I know, Mr. DelMonde.”

The thing that bothered Del most about this young woman – aside from the un-ignorable fact that she was here to try pull him along on a mission that would necessitate his being within spitting distance of the point-eared bastard at the end of the table 24/7 for an unspecified amount of time… and would considerably cut into his drinking time – was her shields. They weren’t like normal Indiian shields or normal Human shields. They were rock-solid and airtight – although she seemed to be able to read through them well enough at times. The only thing he’d ever encountered that felt similar was the shielding that Loonie bitch, Chione had back on Dreamland…a lifetime or two ago.

“We are going to get around his lack of shielding by temporarily blocking large segments of his memory,” MacEntyre was explaining. “At the same time, we will reprogram him so that his mind will read as if it conforms to the norms for a non-gifted Romulan. We will also provide new memories.” She gave the Russian a wan smile. “You will believe you are a Romulan, Mr. Chekov.”

The navigator’s eyebrows rose to their limits.

“When you say ‘we’ will accomplish this, Lieutenant….” Spock began.

“I will create the blocks and initiate the memory shift,” MacEntyre informed him, her grey eyes regarding the Russian as if he were more lab rat than Human being. “However I may need help from the two of you to maintain and strengthen those blocks.”

“Sure. An’ since you gonna reprogram him, I got some suggestions as to how to improve his personality,” DelMonde offered generously.

“If we are going to speak about someone at this table whose character is desperately in need of repair….” the navigator began heatedly.

“So as you see, Commander,” MacEntyre continued over them. “With Chekov, we plan to hide in plain sight. Because his thoughts will be transparent to any telepath we meet, we can plant ideas and impressions there that will enhance our assumed identities. Also, with the level of intrigue that is the norm for Romulan social interaction, it will be much safer to be attended by someone we can trust without reservation or doubt.”

Spock didn’t comment, but didn’t look entirely convinced.

“Yes,” the lieutenant said to the Vulcan’s unspoken objection. “By Human standards – and Romulan – his role will be… somewhat demeaning, but the reprogramming will make him see such treatment as natural and normal.”

“An’ he used to Daffy treatin’ him like shit anyway,” Del put in.

“Noel,” the Russian advised. “Stop talking.”

“The two of you…” MacEntyre began, speaking to Spock, but gesturing to show this included DelMonde as well. “Will be posing as a Warrior Bonded pair.”

The engineer lifted an eyebrow. “What the fuck...?”

“All forms of sexuality are honored by the Romulans,” the lieutenant explained smoothly, “as long as sex is between equals. In particular, Romulans have a great respect for the ancient tradition of the Warrior Bond between two males…”

"Lieutenant, is such a ruse necessary?" Spock broke in, clearly uncomfortable with the idea. Sudden pictures flashed through DelMonde’s mind, images of fierce-eyed Vulcan warriors, their dark hair long and elaborately braided, maddened with the need for each other’s touch.

“No. Mother. Fucking. Way,” DelMonde enunciated with slow and dangerous clarity.

“No one is going to be asking you to publicly consummate the relationship for them, Lieutenant Commander,” MacEntyre replied evenly, although her patience was beginning to visibly wear thin. “However, claiming the Bond will allow both you and Mr. Spock to refuse telepathic contact under certain circumstances. And I assume that I need not point out to you that being able to refuse contact may very well save us all from being exposed as spies and executed.”

Del frowned. “You always gotta throw it back to death, doncha, sugar?”

“Mr. DelMonde, I’m pleased that I am beginning to give some indications of the seriousness and importance of this mission,” the lieutenant replied with an acidic smile. “Romulan tradition requires that a Warrior Bonded pair find a female who is willing to consent to become their wife. It is felt that it is more appropriate for a female to be present in any relationship to supervise a male’s life, career, finances, and see that he properly meets his social obligations.”

“So you gonna rule over us, huh, girlie?” the engineer asked, letting his tone carry his doubts that this was either possible or desirable.

“That is my assignment, Mr. DelMonde,” she replied with icy assurance. “Please review the materials I have given you as soon as possible, gentlemen. I have scheduled individual briefings with each of you. However, this is all I have for this session. Thank you for your attention.”

“It is almost 18:00 hours,” Chekov said, rising. “Would you care to join us in the Rec Room for a meal or a drink?”

“Thank you, but no,” MacEntyre refused with a reflexive smile. “In the interests of the mission, I feel it’s best that I limit my contact with the three of you to a purely professional context. You will be able to interact more naturally with the Romulan persona I am to assume if you have no other conflicting knowledge of my actual personality.”

“Assumin’ you have one,” DelMonde muttered.

“In particular I don’t wish to give you any extraneous memories I will need to suppress,” she said to Chekov. “So enjoy your meal, gentlemen. We will be speaking again soon.” MacEntyre paused as the officers got up from their chairs. “If you could stay for a moment, Mr. DelMonde. I’d like to have a word with you.”

“I can guess what some of those words will be,” the Russian stage-whispered to Spock as the two of them exited.

The engineer dropped back into his chair insolently. “Whacha gonna do, girlie? Smack me on the knuckles wit' a ruler for back-talkin’ durin’ your briefing?”

“Your behavior during this meeting is unimportant,” MacEntyre replied coolly. “Except for what it reveals to me about your state of mind.”

Del propped his chin up on his hands in a feigned show of interest. “Do tell.”

“I can clearly see that despite the best efforts of your crewmates and friends to ignore or conceal the fact, you have become nothing more than a drunk,” the lieutenant informed him bluntly. “A self-involved, self-pitying, self-destructive drunk whose reliance on sapphire is fast becoming a dependence.”

The part of Del that was still as proper and devoted a Starfleet officer as either Spock or Chekov was shocked and hurt that she would say such a thing. It was appalled and frightened that, because the condemnation came from a telepath, it had to be true.

“So what that mean?” he asked, quickly wrapping this vulnerable spot in his psyche with a thick cloak of cynicism. “You threatenin’ to dis-invite me from this li’l pleasure cruise you got planned?”

The lieutenant returned her tapes to a small black case. “I don’t make those sorts of decisions.”

“Unfortunately,” he added for her. “So, what this is? The ‘I know all ‘bout you, so cut the shit’ speech?”

“No,” she said, meeting his gaze evenly. “This is the ‘You’re a drunk and I don’t have sex with drunks’ speech.”

Del blinked at her. “Damn,” he said, impressed despite himself that she could surprise him. “You telepathic girls move fast. Most women would wait ‘til leas’ the second date to spring that one.”

MacEntyre snapped closed the lid of her case. “I think you’ll find I have little patience with chit-chat, Lieutenant Commander.”

“And I t’ink you gonna find I got li’l patience wit’ know-it-all, wet-behind-the-ears, puffed up li’l junior officers wit’ a chip on they shoulder, Lieutenant,” he replied, matching her coldness.

She quirked her eyebrow as if she found this comment to be ironic in some way. “As for what’s going on between you and the Vulcan…” she began.

“Don’ be goin’ there, sugar,” he warned her darkly.

“You hardly seem to be the injured party,” she continued heedlessly. “From what I know of Vulcans, I would say you’re lucky to be alive.”

Del narrowed his eyes. “You best keep your fuckin’ opinions to your fuckin’ self, Lieutenant.”

“I’ll be willing to grant you any courtesy you’re willing to grant me, Lieutenant Commander,” MacEntyre replied pointedly.

Del drew in a deep breath. Despite the fact that he wanted nothing more at this moment than to wring her smug little perfect neck, the engineer could feel the faintest flicker of the attraction between them that MacEntyre was making such a point of pouring buckets of metaphorical ice water onto.

“Fuck this shit,” he pronounced, deciding that it was an even worse idea to let a mouthy, smart-alecky, bossy, little uber-telepathic grey-eyed girl into his life right now than it had been to let a mouthy, smart-alecky, bossy, little uber-telepathic purple-eyed girl screw him up this badly in the first place.

“It’s a waste of time,” MacEntyre said, re-opening her case as he rose to leave.

“What is?” Del demanded. “My goin’ to the captain t' tell him t' get me the hell out o’ this shit? I assure you, girlie, ol’ JTK got more pull than you.”

“You won’t go,” she said confidently.

“Watch me.”

“Not after I show you this.” MacEntyre pulled a small box out of her case.

The rude rejoinder Del’s brain automatically supplied died on his lips as she opened the lid. There -- like a vision from one or two lifetimes ago – lay two pills of the purest shade of cerulean blue….


“Xenoneurophene?” Commander Jeremy Paget said with complete incredulity. “You gotta be shittin’ me, begging your pardon, ma’am.”

Jade Han, sitting, as usual, at the edge of her desk, frowned up at the tall TerAfrican standing before her. “I only wish I were, Mr. Paget. Starfleet’s Chemical Research and Development team has been experimenting ever since we provided them with the data from Dreamland Base. They claim they have developed a completely safe form of the combination Mr. DelMonde was ingesting.”

“What do they mean by ‘safe’?”

“The assertion is that this dosage will enhance the natural gifts, but will not produce the kind of euphoria or hallucinations experienced on Dreamland.”

Despite himself, Jeremy snorted.

“Yes, that’s rather my opinion as well,” Jade returned.

“And N.C. – Lieutenant Commander DelMonde’s gotta take this stuff?” Paget asked.

“Due to the precarious and unpredictable nature of his gifts, it’s considered a necessity for this mission.”

“This mission,” Jeremy nearly growled. “I can’t say I like it. From a security standpoint, it’s got way too many uncontrollable variables.”

“But the idea of Romulan spies running around with complete impunity is equally uncontrollable, Mr. Paget,” Jade replied.

“Yeah, I know. Still…” He leaned forward. “Do they have to send both Mr. Spock and DelMonde? You know as well as I do that’s a disaster waitin’ to happen.”

Han sighed. “The situation between them isn’t getting any better, is it?”

“I’d say it’s gettin’ worse,” Paget confided. “He’s drinkin’ way too much, and while I try to monitor his sapphire usage, I know he slips ‘em when I’m not around.”

“And Spock’s dermal-optics get worse every time I check them.”

“Dr. Han – “ Jeremy paused, his brown eyes full of deep concern. “How are they gonna survive this with anything close to their sanity?”

“I’ve tried to tell the captain that,” Jade said, folding her arms.

“So have I,” Paget rejoined.

“He still thinks they can work this out if they’d just talk to one another.”

“But there’ll be ice storms in hell before that happens.”

“Agreed.” The doctor’s dark eyes lit with something akin to wry amusement. “Do you suppose their stubbornness is what attracts Ruth to them?”

The Security Chief shrugged. “That’s a psychological insight, Dr. Han,” he said. “I’m just a dumb red-shirt.”

“Hmm,” was Jade’s only comment, and Jeremy did his best not to react to the clear suspicion in her tone.


“Evenin’ roomie,” Del said amiably as he entered the cabin he shared with Jeremy Paget.

Jeremy glanced up, his eyebrows lowering. “She gave it to you, didn’t she?”

“Who be givin’ me what?” the engineer responded, heading for his stash of bourbon.

“Lieutenant MacEntyre. The Loonie specialty of the house,” Jeremy returned.

Del laughed as he took a swig of the golden brown liquid. “Oh yes, mon ami. An’ jus’ let that green-blooded son of a bitch start anyt’ing wit’ me now.”

“N.C., that’s not…”

“Oh, hell, Cobra, they had do somet’ing to make this bullshit idea palatable, non?”

“It’s supposed to help you control your gifts, not fuck with people’s head just for the fun of it,” Paget warned.

“So what am I, what do I have but negativity, ‘ cause I can’t justify the way everyone is lookin’ at me,“ Del sang carelessly.

“Not funny, Cajun,” Jeremy scowled.

Del shrugged and took another drink from the bottle in his hand.

Jeremy got up from the desk, striding over and taking the bottle from the engineer. “And that’s enough,” he said.

“Aw, come on,” Del complained. “I got weeks o’ sobriety starin’ me in the face.”

“So it won’t do any harm to start now.”

“Th’ hell it not.”

“And I don’t like what the combination of bourbon and that damned Loonie poison might do to you.,” Paget insisted.

“That damned Loonie poison the only t’ing that gonna let me live through this,” the engineer pointed out, suddenly dead serious.

Jeremy sighed. “I know, my friend, I know.”

“Nothin’ to lose, nothin’ to gain, hollow an’ alone, an’ the fault is my own an’ the fault is my own,” Del murmured.

With another sigh, Jeremy returned to his desk – but he took the bottle with him.


“Dr. Han, may I speak with you?”

Jade looked up at the voice of Commander Spock. He was standing just inside the doorway of her office, his hands not, as was usual, behind his back, but rather, held tensely at his sides.

This is not good, Jade thought, and motioned the Vulcan in. “Of course, Spock. What can I do for you?”

“I wish,” he began, then stopped. With a deep breath, he began again. “I believe I am in need of your counseling services,” he stated.

“The undercover mission,” she said, and gestured him to the chair before her desk as she rose, moving around it to perch on its edge.

Spock didn’t take the offered seat. “I am – concerned – that the team chosen may not be the – most efficient.”

“Given the difficulties between you and Mr. DelMonde,” Jade supplied for him.

The Vulcan’s mouth twitched in a frown. “Yes. I know it is not logical to allow personal considerations to interfere with a decision of personnel best suited for a particular mission…”

“But you’re done with Captain Bastard,” Jade again finished.

Spock’s frown became more noticeable. “I am also uncertain whether or not the – difficulties – outweigh the reasons for including us both on the undercover team,” he said, making no comment on Jade’s observation. “The requirement that Mr. DelMonde and I pose as Bonded Warriors…”

“What?” Jade slipped off the desk. “Bonded… Spock, what?

“That was Lieutenant MacEntyre’s assertion,” Spock confirmed.

Jade stared in disbelief. Her studies of Vulcan psychology had necessitated she learn much about Pre-Surakian culture. The Warrior Bond was an ancient joining of two equal males, one that, after the Great Cataclysm, took on a new characteristic – that of the mating drive. Such unfortunate males were as drawn to their bondmates as were any males in pon farr, and it was only the accepted convention of having such a pair share a female between them that saved their lives at The Time. Modern Vulcan considered this a disgrace and an abomination – though Jade suspected, as did some more unorthodox historians, that the urge for such a thing was far more common than modern Vulcans would approve of.

“Starfleet actually expects you to…” she began.

“Of course not,” Spock replied. “That will simply be our cover, as the Romulans apparently never discarded the custom. With Miss MacEntyre as the female of the triad.”

“This is not good, Spock,” Jade said with a shake of her head.

“Indeed,” Spock returned. “While it has some advantages for the mission…” Uncharacteristically, his voice trailed off, and he glanced at the deck. When he looked up again, it was directly into Jade’s eyes. “I do not know if I am capable of this,” he said. “To be forced to pretend not only respect but affection… Jade, such a thing may be beyond my acting abilities.”

Jade’s eyes were full of sympathy.

“And I fear that while Mr. DelMonde finds it just as unpalatable, he has a certain tendency to use such – awkwardness – as a way to increase my discomfort.”

“He’s a sarcastic pain is the ass,” Jade translated.

“While I recognize that his spitefulness is not without reason,” Spock continued, “nevertheless, I find that his attempts to unnerve me are nearly always successful.”

“He’s an accurate pain in the ass,” was Jade’s comment.

Spock’s head lowered by a fraction. “Yes. But I am incapable of ignoring it.”

Jade bit her lip, considering. “While I certainly understand the problem, Spock,” she said, “I’m not sure what there is to be done about it, other than to, as our Security Chief might say, suck it up.”

“And if my limitations jeopardize the mission?”

“I’d say that’s something you have to take up with the mission commander.”

The Vulcan’s eyebrow quirked. “Dr. Han, I was afraid you would say something like that.”

She smiled grimly. “I can note my concerns and log an objection to this mission on psychological grounds if you wish, Commander.” She paused. “Not that it would do any good.”

“And is there no insight you can give me that would help to mitigate my reactions to his attempts at disconcerting me?” There was a pleading deep in the dark eyes, and Jade’s smile turned sorrowful.

“I can only think of one, Spock,” she replied softly. “Remember who Ruth chose.”


“I wonder what quarters she’s been assigned to?”

“Daphne, please,” Chekov begged, not looking up from the computer screen at his desk in his cabin.

Gollub paused from pacing back and forth in front of him long enough to shake her fist and say, “I just want five minutes with her.”


“Just five fucking minutes…”

“Daphne, I am trying to study…”

“Oh, yeah, I saw...” Gollub turned the monitor around to face her and pretended to read, “Typical occupations for the Non-gifted include: butler, gardener, bedslave…”

Chekov turned the monitor back to face him firmly. “I am not going to be Lieutenant MacEntyre’s bedslave.”

“How do you know?” Gollub demanded leaning forward on his desk. “Did she tell you that?”

“No, but…”

Daffy turned the monitor away from him again. “But what?”

Chekov sighed and looked directly her. Gollub’s incessant interruptions did have the unintended side effect of dividing the information he was trying to process into smaller doses of alarm and distaste. “I do not see how it would further the mission,” he said. “And I assure you, Lieutenant. MacEntyre is very focused on furthering the mission.”

The chemist’s lips twitched for a moment as she tried to think of something to counter this assertion. “Aaaargh!” she exclaimed in frustration, storming away to the other side of the cabin and flopping down on his bunk.

The navigator patiently turned his monitor back and tried to find his place. “Sexual liaisons outside of marriage are permitted for a husband,” he read silently, “with the wife’s permission. While Romulan husbands are as territorial and possessive as Vulcans, no male would dare attempt to deprive his wife of any lover or plaything she desired – as long as that lover or plaything never tried to rise above his (or her) station…”

The Russian discreetly paged down so that paragraph was no longer on the screen.

“I bet they’ve got her holed up in the VIP quarters.” Daffy’s voice came from the other side of the screen dividing the cabin.

“Daphne, please, I appreciate your concern, but I have a briefing scheduled for 08:00 hours tomorrow morning…”

The chemist fell silent for a few moments.

“Romulans,” he read, “are a highly intelligent and fiercely honorable people, who give honor to opponents they find worthy. Romulans never take prisoners. A defeated adversary who is judged to be worthy dies cleanly and quickly. An unworthy adversary is mortally wounded and left for dead. Neither do Romulans permit themselves to be taken captive. They will kill themselves, if at all possible, to avoid that ignominy. Should a Romulan warrior find that course of action impossible, he is thereafter considered persona non grata, even in his own mind…”

“What if it is for the good of the mission?” Daphne’s voice was very quiet.

“My being Lieutenant MacEntyre’s bedslave?” Chekov asked trying to make it sound as ridiculous as possible. “I do not see how it could be.”

“But before…”

Chekov sighed as the spectre of what had occurred with Irina on Dreamland Base once more raised its head as he had hoped it would not. “Before, we knew well in advance that there was the possibility I would have to do… such things.”

When Daffy made no response, the navigator looked back over his shoulder. She was lying on her back staring at the ceiling. He tapped on the decorative divider so she would look at him. When she did so, he smiled encouragingly.

Gollub didn’t smile back. “What if it’s a surprise?”

“Then I will be very surprised,” he replied, trying to make it into a joke. When that didn’t work, he sighed. “Perhaps you should talk to Lieutenant MacEntyre. It would show you that you have nothing to worry about.”

Refusing to be comforted, the chemist rolled over on her side facing away from him.

Chekov shook his head and went back to his reading. “The Praetorian Guard is an organization composed of high-level telepaths trained to breach all levels of shielding in the defense of the Empire. The "black ops" side of the Praetorian Guard is called the Telanate…."

“Is she pretty?”

Boizhe moi,” the Russian breathed in response to both the question and the horrifying idea of a black ops force composed of telepaths specially trained to break down mental shields.

“Tell me what she looks like,” Gollub demanded.

“She has silver eyes – like an Indiian – and red hair…” Chekov broke off as he tried to come up with other neutral descriptors for the lieutenant’s appearance.

“And…?” the chemist probed, sensing weakness.

“And she is quite pretty,” the navigator admitted defeatedly. “But there is no reason why I would have to be her bedslave. She will have two husbands after all.”

Gollub snorted. “Until Del and Spock kill each other…”

Chekov blew out a long breath. This seemed like too real a possibility to even joke about. “At any rate, she’s half-Indiian,” he said, paging down to see if he could find some less frightening facts about Romulans. “They have very strict ideas about fidelity.”

“Maybe she just has half-strict ideas about fidelity.”

The Russian shook his head. “She seems like a very no-nonsense type person.”

“Telepathy,” the text informed him, “is not the Romulans’ primary mode of general communication. It is usually reserved for settings considered intimate or for matters of military or political sensitivity. For example, a general dinner in one's home with one's family and closest friends would be an outwardly silent affair, whereas a business luncheon with associates would have out-loud conversation…”

“What about you?” Gollub asked.

“What about me?” Chekov asked distractedly as he read, “Mates often communicate private thoughts and comments to one another during the course of an everyday conversation with others, but it is considered very bad form for that to be acknowledged by anyone in the conversation. Telepathy is ALWAYS used during interrogations, whether those be military, political, or normal legal-type questioning…”

“They’re going to erase your memory,” Daffy was saying. “Make you into a different person.”

“Yes. I know…” he replied, paging down once more.

“What if that person wants to be a bedslave?”

“Romulans consider non-telepathic people to be animals at best,” the text read. “Obedient, attractive, and trainable individuals are cared for. However if a non-gifted individual is intractable or sullen, that person will be treated like any other ill-mannered beast.”

Chekov smiled wanly. “If it is of any comfort, I can assure you that the sort of person I am going to be VERY rarely gets what they want.”

“It is perfectly acceptable,” he couldn’t seem to stop himself from reading, “for a gifted Romulan to yell or curse at non-gifted individuals who do not display appropriate responsiveness to their superiors. Non-gifted individuals may be beaten or disciplined in a variety of ways for failing to obey or merely being slow to obey commands…”

The navigator’s attention was suddenly drawn to the sound of sniffling coming from the other side of the room divider.

“Daphne?” he asked, rising and crossing to her. “Daphne? Are you crying?”

The chemist had her arms over her face to hide her tears.

“Oh, doushka,” Chekov said, tenderly pulling her up to sitting and wrapping his arms around her. “Don’t cry.”

She leaned against his chest and sobbed, “You’re going to forget all about me.”

“Only temporarily,” he said, kissing the top of her head and trying to make light of the situation.

She pulled back, looked into his eyes, started to say something several times, then burst into tears again. “I can’t stand it!’

“Oh, Daphne,” he said soothingly, drawing her close against him again and summoning a confidence that he did not entirely feel. “Pirozhne, how could I ever forget completely about you?”


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