“Victoria, this will be your final training assignment and your first mission in the field. As you should know, Eteron is not a nice place so be careful. Head to the Dancing Romulan once you arrive and make contact with your Echo Six, he will give you additional details pertaining the assignment. Good luck.”
Admiral Thackaberry hadn’t lied when he had said that Eteron wasn’t a nice place. In fact Victoria Dibley could not remember having ever seen a worse place. The planet was technically within Federation territory but was nested in a space triangle between the Klingon border and the Romulan Neutral Zone. It was a lawless place which seemed to attract the worst kind of people from all over the galaxy.
Lieutenant Junior Grade Victoria Dibley had wanted to be a spy as long she could remember. For the last four years she had undergone an intense physical and mental training program, designed to make her a top agent within Starfleet Intelligence. All the long and hard work had been to prepare her for this moment. Her first deep cover assignment. She was excited of course but felt at least a bit apprehensive especially once she had caught a glimpse of the patrons which frequented the Dancing Romulan. They were smugglers, criminals, gangsters, both small and big and they were all armed and extremely dangerous.
Victoria had been quite aware of the stares and lustful gazes she had received after entering the establishment. After all she was an attractive young woman with a body that had all the right proportions. She had opted to wear a tight jumpsuit outfit that did little to hide her curves but would allow her maximum moveability in a fight. She hadn’t thought that her outfit would draw much attention but it appeared that on Eteron women dressed in more conservative outfits were the ones that stood out the most.
“Haven’t seen you around here before. You wanna come with me, I promise I show you a hell of a good time, eh?”
Victoria turned around to see a bulky, green-skinned Orion man hover over her. He wore a menacing looking dagger at his hip and threw her a wicked grin. He was clearly drunk.
“There is nothing you could show me I’d be interested in.”
“You change your mind once you see what I’ve got,” the man replied as his hand moved towards his dagger.
Victoria jumped up with lightning-fast speed. She grabbed his arm, twisted it harshly behind his back and used her leverage to push him forward so that his upper body slammed hard against the table. She swiftly drew his own dagger and brought it up against the panting Orion’s face.
“You have nothing that I want so why don’t you do us both a favor and get your pathetic behind out of my face.”
The man grunted a few unintelligible words and Victoria let him go. He almost pleadingly asked back for his dagger but the young girl just sat back down in her chair, ignoring his request.
She had to put in an effort to keep a wide smile off her face when the large Orion began to shamefully walk towards the exit amidst a choir of laughs and chuckles from the amused patrons.
Victoria’s hope that her forceful demonstration would discourage any other attempts by foolish ruffians to approach her was short lived.
“I like the way you handle yourself.”
She had to admit that the man who had stepped up to her table looked much more pleasing than the Orion had. He possessed a youthful, almost boyish face, complete with intense blue eyes and short blonde hair. He looked like a character from a holo-novel, carefully styled and formed by an artist. She would never have admitted it but she found the man rather attractive.
“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not looking for company,” she said roughly, trying hard to ignore the fantasies her mind had begun to allow itself.
The man carried two mugs filled with ale, he sat down opposite from Victoria and placed one right in front of her. He wore a confident smile on his lips.
Victoria, irritated by his self-invitation, pushed the mug away. “Listen, Mister, I’m not interested. If you know what’s good for you, you get out of here now.”
“Or what? You’ll dispose of me like you did with that green fellow?”
Victoria slammed the large dagger into the desk, it trembled slightly from the impact but remained stuck in the thick wood. A few patrons glanced at Victoria, expecting another, entertaining fight.
The man just stared at the dagger and then calmly took a drink from his own mug.
“We have a mutual friend.”
“I don’t associate with scum,” Victoria shot back.
She felt bad when she saw the hurt expression on his face. She took no pleasure in talking this way but she knew it was necessary.
“You know ol’ Thack would be really hurt if he heard you say that,” he said, his smile widening now.
Victoria opened her mouth with surprise. But she couldn’t think of any words right away. It took her a second attempt to speak out. “Echo Six?”
“I prefer Galvan.”
“Oh,” was all she could say.
“And you must be Victoria Dibley,” he said. “You’re much more charming in person than I was led to believe.”
Victoria felt embarrassed and blushed slightly. “You could have told me who you were sooner.”
“Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?”
“Don’t sweat it. Now we should talk about business, don’t you think Victoria?”
She nodded slowly. “Omega Eight. My code name is Omega …”
“Nobody gives a damn about names around here. They are completely meaningless and interchangeable, trust me. If you want to get through these assignments in one piece there is just one rule you need to know.”
“There are no rules.”
Victoria nodded even though she wasn’t quite sure what he meant. It was certainly nothing she had been taught at the Academy or in the SI training program.
“Nobody and nothing is what it seems around here. For example, look over my right shoulder.”
She did as she was told. She spotted a large Nausicaan by the bar counter. He was intimidating, easily seven and half feet tall. He seemed to be involved in an argument with a Ferengi. Except that instead of words he used his large hands to smash the Ferengi’s head repeatedly against the counter.
“That charming monster is Kren. You can’t tell from his interpersonal skills but he’s a real good guy and my only friend on this backwater planet,” he said without taking his eyes off Victoria. “Now look over my left shoulder.”
Victoria saw a blue-skinned Bolian entertaining a small crowd of men and women. He was a fairly good-looking man with undeniable charms. His jokes seemed to have his audience roaring with laughter.
“Meet Saunik Brek, probably one of the most ruthless persons in this entire sector. A mass-murderer, he gambles with people’s lives like they were candy. He has brought more suffering to this galaxy than a single Borg cube could ever do. I’m also pretty confident he’s a Romulan spy.”
“And that brings us to our assignment. Let’s go,” he said and quickly stoodand headed for the exit. He was so swift in his movements that Victoria was still sitting at the table by the time he had reached it.
She quickly got up and followed him.
Galvan had lead Victoria into the abandon skeleton of a construction site. One of many on Eteron. From their position they had a good view at a narrow and empty street below.
“Now we wait,” Galvan said and made himself comfortable on a few bags of building material.
Victoria shrugged and sat down at an opposite corner, leaning against a strong steel beam. “Can I ask you a question?”
“You already are.”
“It’s about this assignment. It’s supposed to be my last training job before they’ll make me a full agent.”
“And you’re wondering if this is real?”
She nodded slowly.
“Trust me, Victoria, nothing here is fake,” he said and laughed. “That might not be entirely true.” He took on a more serious expression before continuing. “It’s real enough to get you killed. So keep your focus, I’d hate to see anything happen to you.”
Victoria wasn’t sure if that was the answer she had hoped for. But Galven’s attitude seemed to radiate confidence. Somehow she knew that nothing would happen to her while having him at her side. Or perhaps something could happen, something much more pleasant. She tried to get those thoughts out of her head.
For next two hours Galven and Victoria spoke about nearly everything except their assignment. The young agent found warmth and tolerance coming from her partner she had not expected to find in a deep cover agent. The sun disappeared from the sky and darkness began to cover the streets of Eteron’s capital city. With the dark came the cold and Victoria found herself shivering, cursing herself for not having been prepared for the weather.
Galven noticed and moved closer to her. He undid his jacket and put it over her shoulders. He slightly brushed up against her and their eyes met. Almost out of instinct Victoria moved closer and suddenly their lips met in a passionate kiss. Galven moved his hands around her waist to pull her closer. His hand accidently released a small device attached to her belt and it dropped to the ground with a clatter.
Victoria instantly jumped back. Her face a bright red. She looked down to see her mini-sized phaser on the ground.
“I’m sorry,” she stammered. “That was not professional.”
Galven took his time to pick up her weapon while Victoria turned away in shame.
“Don’t be sorry,” he said. “It was as much my mistake as it was yours.” He gently touched her shoulder and handed her the tiny phaser. “You better hang on to this, it might mean the difference between life and death out here.”
Victoria slowly nodded and took the weapon. “Look, Galven I just want to say …”
The sound of footsteps nearby made her whip around, bringing her phaser to bear. Just a few yards away stood a mammoth of a man, approaching her menacingly.
“Easy,” said Galven and lowered her arm. “Kren is a friend, remember?”
As the tall man stepped out of the shadow she recognized him as the Nausicaan from the Dancing Romulan.
“He’s here,” Kren grunted.
Galvan removed a small, palm-sized device from his jacket that looked like a padd. But one button press transformed it into binoculars. Down on the street a large hover vehicle had silently appeared.
“Who is it?” asked Victoria.
Galven handed her the device and she looked through it. She was surprised to find that the binoculars could easily penetrate the pitch black windows of the vehicle. Inside sat a Bolian man.
“As I told you he works for the Romulans. Most likely the Tal Shiar. Our mission is to find his Starfleet informant who has been supplying him with information.”
“We need to go,” Kren interrupted.
Galven nodded. “I’m afraid so. I have some other business to attend. Find out who the informant is and follow him to make a positive ID. I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” he said with a reaffirming smile.
Before she could say anything else Galven and Kren had disappeared into the shadows.
Victoria sighed and turned back to observe Brek. She didn’t have to wait long. A woman had stepped into the alley, approached the vehicle and entered. Victoria was sure that she had never seen the brunette human-looking woman before but something about her looked familiar. The device she used to spy on the two also turned out to have a build-in microphone. But she could only pick up a few snippets of their conversation. It was enough to confirm that the woman was the informant. After a few minutes she left the vehicle while the Bolian remained.
Victoria wasted no time and quickly climbed down her hiding spot to follow the woman. She remained unseen as she trailed her all the way to an abandon warehouse. She was just about to follow her in but then felt it better to report to Galven first. She activated her hidden communicator.
“Galven, you were right,” she said. “The informant showed up. I followed her to an empty building in the warehouse district.”
“Good job, agent,” he said which caused her to smile. “Stay on her while I go and arrest Brek. I’ll meet you in one hour in the Dancing Romulan. Galven out.”
Quietly Victoria sneaked into the warehouse. As she had suspected it was almost completely empty. She spotted a large figure standing near the center. It wasn’t a woman. The figure turned into her direction. It was a large Nausicaan.
Victoria gasped in surprise but managed to find a hiding place just before being discovered.
Kren is working with the informant, she quickly surmised. Galven was right. Nobody was as they seemed. She suddenly wished he had paid more attention to his own advice. She knew she had to warn him. She left the warehouse and tried the communicator again. But he didn’t answer. A terrible feeling came over her. It’s a trap.
She hurried back to the street where Brek had met the informant. Sure enough the Bolian’s vehicle was still there. But a quick look through the binoculars revealed that he was no longer inside. She used the darkness to slip towards the black car, making full advantage of her intensive stealth training. She could hear subdued voices coming from an alley nearby. She pushed her back against the wall and approached the corner. She spied around it and couldn’t believe her eyes.
Brek was casually in conversation with another man. Galven. They laughed and joked as if they had known each other for years. Victoria’s head began to spin. What was going on here? As much as she wanted to believe otherwise only one conclusion made sense. Galven was the traitor. Her confusion was quickly replaced by anger. She reached for her phaser and stepped into the alley.
“Galven! I’m placing you under arrest for treason!”
The two men turned to her with surprise.
“Damn,” Galven exclaimed and then turned to Brek. “Get out of here. I’ll deal with her.”
Brek nodded and took off.
“I can’t believe it’s you! I can’t believe you lied to me!”
“It’s a tough business we’re in,” he said with his trademark smile.
It made Victoria sick now.
He reached for his own weapon but he was too slow. Victoria fired and the crimson beam caught him square in the chest. He collapsed immediately.
She approached him slowly, kicking away his weapon and looking down at him with disgust. “Why?” she asked the half-conscious man.
“I had a very good reason,” he said and suddenly lunged at her. The abruptness of his attack made Victoria lose her grip on her weapon and she fell to the ground. Within seconds Galven was on top of her. She squirmed as she tried to get free but it was no use. Then one of her hands found her phaser. She took it, swung her arm back and pushed it into Galven’s chest. She knew that the discharge would be deadly on this close range but she had no choice. Galven’s eyes opened wide as she squeezed the trigger.
Nothing happened. The weapon discharged but Galven didn’t even flinch. He simply slapped the small phaser out of her hand.
“I’m afraid it’s useless,” he said with a smirk, “You see I replaced your weapon earlier. I couldn’t take the chance. It fires nothing but harmless holographic photons.”
Victoria heard heavy footsteps again. The last thing she saw was the massive frame of Kren approaching her before she slipped into darkness.
When Victoria awoke she found that her wrists had been bound behind her back. She was lying on a metallic bench but quickly managed to sit up. The room was dark but with just enough light to see the faces of her two captors.
“What are you going to do with me?” she asked, fearing an answer.
The Nausicaan stepped up behind her and she didn’t feel very proud when she closed her eyes expecting the final blow. Instead she felt her binds being cut away.
She immediately jumped onto her feet. “What’s going on here?”
Kren began to laugh. It was a deep and frightening noise. “I truly enjoy this part.”
Victoria looked back and forth between Kren and the smiling Galven.
He stepped closer and quietly handed her the padd.
She took it and realized that it had a message on it.
Admiral Thackaberry’s face appeared. “I’m certain you are confused and angry right now, Victoria. I’m sorry that we had to keep you in the dark but it was necessary for the success of this assignment. You performed admiringly and I am looking forward to welcome you back and instate you as a full agent,” Admiral smiled as he spoke. “See you soon, Thackaberry out.”
Victoria looked up. “So you‘re not the informant?”
“Well technically I am. It’s just that the information I provide are not always all that accurate.”
“You’re a double agent.”
“But I don’t understand. We could have taken Brek into custody. Now he got away. We let him win.”
“Win?” Galven laughed. “What we do here is not about winning or losing, Victoria. If you want a clear cut victory you should join a starship crew. Brek was becoming suspicious of me. He needed to be reminded that he can trust me so that I can continue to supply him with fake intel. This way the Romulans will lose a significant strategic advantage in this sector. And now that I have killed a Starfleet Intelligence agent–”
Kren laughed again. “Didn’t you hear? You’re dead.”
Victoria threw Kren a surprised look.
“Well at least in this region of space.”
The young woman nodded with understanding. She didn’t know how she felt about what had happened. She knew she should be angry for having been deceived but in all honesty she was relieved that Galven was still on her side.
“Wait what about the woman? She was an informant.”
“You better sit down,” Kren said with amusement.
Victoria didn’t understand.
“There is something else you should know about me,” Galven said as he took another step towards Victoria. She looked on in shock as his face, his entire body changed to the one of the woman she had seen earlier. “The woman is me.”
Victoria couldn’t find words.
“I’m a shape-shifter. And this is my true form I’m afraid.”
Victoria subconsciously touched her lips.
“I’m sorry,” Galven said.
Victoria smiled. “Nothing is as it appears.”
“Your transport will leave in one hour,” Kren said.
Victoria turned away and began heading for the only door in the room. Just before she reached it she turned back around to look at the brunette woman she had once known as a man. “I guess I still have much to learn to be a proper spy.”
Galven smiled sweetly at her. “You did well today, Victoria. You’ll make a great agent.”
She nodded slowly. “Will I ever see you again?”
“I’m sure you will. In one form or another.”
Victoria smiled and left the room. She knew that she would never return to Eteron.