The Enterprise arrived at Starbase Twelve two hours before the Farnaz. A month earlier Counselor Troi had delivered into Federation hands, with Sub-lieutenant Nevek's assistance, the defecting Romulan Prime Minister and his two aides. She had gone along with him, despite her anger and fear. Forced to play a Ta'al Shi'ar officer, she drew on experience for her portrayal of the arrogant, cold-blooded Romulan she replaced.
When word of yet another defection reached Starfleet, Admiral Hernandez seemed to feel the Enterprise would be the wisest choice to see the man safely to Vulcan. This disturbed Deanna greatly. She felt uncomfortable with her memories of what had transpired on board the Romulan warbird. Most of all, she regretted Nevek's death, fervently wishing he could have escaped with her to the relative safety of the Enterprise.
As she headed for the ready room briefing, she admitted her attraction to him, wondering what would have happened between them if he had escaped. For she had sensed his admiration for and fascination with her, despite the desperate situation. Taking a deep breath, she entered the ready room, knowing she would have to dredge up the painful memories.
"Counselor. I need your input on this." Captain Picard acknowledged her, then continued. "Another defector, a Wing Commander Nekal, has been picked up by the Farnaz near the Whelan system. Captain Madison seems to think the man is a Romulan operative, sent to subvert disaffected Federation officers. He has no Vulcan or Betazoid personnel on board and has not resorted to chemical means to find out if this belief is true." Picard paced in front of the window a moment then returned to his staff. "Admiral Hernandez has requested we take him to Vulcan and during the trip, try to discover if his sympathies are indeed with the resistance."
The Captain didn't look happy about his orders. Troi knew it wasn't because he had an all-inclusive dislike of Romulans. More than likely, his irritation stemmed from being diverted again from a mission because they had encountered similar situations in the past. They were supposed to be delivering needed medical supplies to Antares III. Now, he informed them, they would transfer the stores to the Farnaz at Starbase Twelve and take on a passenger.
"What am I required to do, sir?" She almost dreaded his answer.
"In light of your recent ordeal, I regret putting you in this position, Counselor." He looked somewhat grim as he continued. "My orders are that you must attempt to gain his confidence. Find out if the Romulans are able to shield their emotions as the Vulcans do. If not, you must try to find out if he is indeed what he says he is."
"Sir, you know I'm only an empath. I can give you general feelings, but..." Her voice trailed off as he held up a hand, disgust written on his face.
"I know. If there were any other way, Counselor, I would do it."
"Sir," Will Riker interposed. "Isn't there any other ship closer with a Vulcan or a full Betazoid on board?" Deanna could see his frown of concern and sensed his need to protect her from another encounter with Romulans.
"No, Number One. Admiral Hernandez was extremely specific in asking for both the Enterprise and Counselor Troi. It seems as though an actual attempt at recruiting a crew member as a spy took place on the Farnaz and she wants people as familiar with Romulans as possible to take custody of him."
At Will's involuntary protest, he turned to Deanna. "Counselor, if at any time you feel threatened you must let us know. I will not allow you or anyone else to be put under pressure for any reason." He rose again. "Now, let us all prepare for our 'guest.' Worf, until his status can be verified, I want an escort and a guard posted outside his quarters." Worf nodded. "Dr. Crusher, I have been informed that the Farnaz's Medical department has obtained further studies of Romulan physiology which may be of interest to you. Do you wish to speak to their Medical Officer?"
"Yes, Captain. Thank you." Her rueful smile puzzled Deanna, as did the sense of ambivalence she read from the doctor. Usually, Beverly was eager to learn as much as possible about alien physiologies. She'd have to ask her about it after the briefing. Brought abruptly back by the captain's dismissal, Deanna followed the doctor out.
"Beverly, you didn't seem very enthusiastic about discussing any findings with the Farnaz's doctor. Forgive me for my curiosity, but why?"
"You don't know Donald Mosier, do you?" At Deanna's perplexed look, she laughed derisively. "He may be a Starfleet Medical Officer, but he's a bigot and tyrant all mixed into one. I had the misfortune of attending a conference on exobiology with him about six years ago. In my time in Starfleet I have never heard such racist comments coming from a Starfleet Officer and a doctor! I'll be extremely surprised if anything of importance has been found regarding Romulan biology." She shuddered slightly. "And if he has found out anything, I'm amazed the poor Romulan is still walking. He always liked to suggest dissection as the best means of understanding differences in anatomy and physiology."
"How barbaric!" Deanna couldn't help blurting out.
"Yes. Just so. Needless to say, his attitude hasn't gotten him far in the Federation. In fact, I don't know why they've allowed him to be on a deep-space research vessel like the Farnaz. Their missions aren't all that different from ours." She shrugged. "Well, who knows? Maybe one of his other people can give me something of value."
"You just made me extremely happy to not be stationed with someone like Dr. Mosier."
Beverly laughed again, this time in true enjoyment. Deanna remembered how understanding the doctor had been after her experience with the Romulans. She was grateful to have such people as both her coworkers and friends. They parted in preparation for the arrival at Starbase Twelve, both with varying degrees of apprehension.
Onboard the Farnaz, Elise paced inside her compartment, remembering her less than satisfactory farewell to Nekal. Observed by his guards, without a vestige of privacy, it left much to be desired. Ultimately, they parted as acquaintances, shaking hands and murmuring polite inanities. Contact with his hand nearly brought her into his arms, witnesses or not. Before she acted, he reached out mind to mind, soothing and reassuring her. She gathered her defenses, managing to let him go without a scene.
Within her own quarters, she began trembling, as violent rejection of his departure shook her. Anger, grief, and fear battled for the uppermost position in her mind. She couldn't let him go, yet she knew she must. A sob escaped her, for within a few minutes she'd be without him completely. Biting her knuckles, Elise forced back a storm of weeping. She had to get out of here! But where? As little as she wanted to see Dr. Mosier and Hilary, Elise fled to Medical. There she found the place bustling. She looked around for a friendly face.
"Phyllis!" Elise caught at the nurse's arm. "What's going on?"
"The Enterprise is taking the Romulan off our hands and we're going to Antares III with emergency medical supplies they were supposed to deliver." At Elise's pale face, Phyllis Pearson asked, "Are you okay? You don't look so good." She steered Elise to a nearby biobed. "Let's get your vital signs."
Elise lay with eyes closed and mind racing. The Enterprise! What luck! Now if I could only find some way of communicating with Dr. Crusher. A futile hope she knew, but a sudden unbidden hope sprung up. The captain had suggested she transfer. If she could only talk Dr. Crusher into taking her along with Nekal. Voices around her brought reality back to her.
"Nurse Pearson, what's going on here?" Dr. Mosier demanded.
"Lt. Macahan just arrived, sir. She looked like she was going to pass out so I put her on the biobed. Her vitals are bit erratic, but nothing exciting."
"How are you feeling, Macahan?" Her nemesis asked in an offhanded manner.
"Guess I haven't been getting enough rest or food lately." She attempted a weak smile. "I'll be fine. I just need something to eat and a cup of coffee." But as she tried to rise, Dr. Mosier pushed her back.
"No you don't. I want to check you over completely before you collapse on me. Pearson is right. You look terrible." He began running a tricorder over her, frowning at the readings.
"What's wrong?" Elise didn't like his expression. True, she'd run herself down but she didn't really feel physically ill. Other than being exhausted, only her psyche felt bruised and lacerated.
"There are some anomalies I don't understand. Computer, full analysis of blood type and physical condition on Lt. Elise Macahan." Elise watched him, afraid of his reaction. Hadn't he read her medical profile when she came on board?
"Blood type, T-Negative. Physical condition overall suggests mild copper anemia, malnourishment and dehydration." The computer responded dispassionately.
Both Mosier's and Phyllis's eyebrows shot to the overhead.
"Computer. Compare medical record with last readings on Lieutenant Elise Marie Macahan, Serial number 436-78-4357." Dr. Mosier seemed unable to believe his ears.
"Well, this might explain a few things." He muttered, grinning to himself. Elise didn't like the expression at all. "Phyllis, appears we have a bonafide alien in our midst." The nurse glowered at him. "Oh, I know we have T'Pev. But at least she looks like one." He reached over and moved Elise's hair away from her rounded ears. "See you can't even tell she is one of them."
"Excuse me, Dr. Mosier. I have nothing to hide. Three generations back there was a fusion. Since then, my family has been entirely human." Inwardly she cringed. Even she hadn't known about her Romulan blood until recently. The records stated it was Vulcan, but she wasn't about to disabuse the good doctor of that.
"Be that as it may, Macahan, I need to let the captain know about this. I was right all along not to trust you. Maybe we can send you off with your precious Romulan so you can brief Dr. Crusher." His intense hostility made his voice rise. Heads turned in their direction for a moment.
Elise remained silent, determined not to show any further weakness. With a derisive snigger, Mosier moved off toward the others. Only Phyllis stayed, coming closer to speak softly.
"I never believed all those lies that Hilary and he circulated about you. Is there anything I can do?"
"Just help me to get up. I need to get in contact with Dr. Crusher. Maybe she can get Captain Picard to request I be transferred to the Enterprise." Phyllis did as she asked, guiding her over to a secluded terminal. "Thank you, Phyllis. I'm sorry we never got to know each other better. I wish I could take you with me. Working for that...that beast is impossible. I don't know how you've stood for the last two years."
"Oh, I manage. Besides, I'm due to be transferred myself in six months. My three years are up and I have some shore duty coming." She smiled warmly at Elise. "Now, take care of what you need to. I'll fend off the 'beast' and his sidekick if they try to interfere." With a squeeze of Elise's hand, she left her alone.
Instead of calling the Enterprise, Elise reached out to Nekal. *Beloved, can you hear me?*
**Elise, where are you?**
*I'm trying to come with you. Dr. Mosier found out about my background.*
*I wasn't feeling well so he requested a physical assessment from the computer. You know what he found.*
**I regret any unpleasantness he has caused you. Are you feeling any better?**
*Some. But now I have to call Dr. Crusher on the Enterprise and see if she can get Captain Picard to request my transfer. After all, I'm the one who's done most the research on you.*
Elise detected amusement from Nekal.
**Is that what you call it?**
*You know what I mean! I have to go now but...I hope I will see you soon.*
**Perhaps I can be of assistance as well. Take care of yourself, no matter what happens. I love you.**
With that, the link weakened until only a mere whisper of his mind could be felt. Elise shook herself and proceeded to call the Enterprise's Medical Department.