“Commander, we are approaching the Cardassia system. Incoming hail from Gul Malen.” Llira Ral’s eyes were focused on the console before her, and she spoke softly. Compared with a Starfleet bridge or Roosevelt’s Ops, there was an unnatural-seeming quiet around them.
“On screen.” Eden turned her eyes on the main viewscreen.
Malen’s face filled the screen, and Eden smiled, then flushed a bit at the glance from Luvrodo. Right. Didn’t hide that well enough. The Cardassian spoke. “Commander Enigma, welcome to Cardassia.”
Eden’s eyes held Malen’s. “Thank you, Gul Malen, for the warm welcome.”
“I try to keep it cool enough for you, Commander.”
Trouble. Eden glanced to Voit. Close to telepathy range.
She felt more than heard Voit’s affirmative, and the ship shifted slightly under her as the pilot guided it closer to Malen’s battlecruiser. “Always appreciated, Gul. Have you learned anything more about what we talked about?”
“Nothing more than what you know, I think,” Malen said. “You are cleared to move through the system as you require, Commander.”
She felt Malen then… the confidence and power she’d come to admire so much in the time they had known each other, the tenderness they shared. And concern. For her. For the secret she carried. For her safety. Danger, a trap… Please, Malen… “Then we will set about our work. Thank you.”
Fourth planet. It was Luvrodo’s voice in her mind. I have coordinates. She’s thinking them as loud as she can.
“Be well, Commander,” Malen said. “And be careful.” The viewscreen deactivated, and Malen’s cruiser moved away. Eden sent a note of comfort and affection just as her sense of her once-lover faded, then she looked around the bridge. “Someone has set a trap for us… when we find what we’re looking for, then plan to take it.”
Voit blinked. “How did you know to move closer?”
“Code,” Eden said. “If Malen is keeping things comfortable for a human instead of for us, there’s trouble.” She looked to Luvrodo. “I believe we’ll need a distraction.”
“I agree,” he said. “But the crew, apart from your guards, isn’t combat-trained. What can we do?”
Eden considered. “Course for the fourth planet. When we arrive, I’ll beam down with Ensign Ral at the coordinates we have. In the meantime, one of the House Starling guards will beam down with one of my Starfleet crew in each of four other locations in the same region. Whoever is after us won’t be able to watch the entire planet with eyes – they’ll have sensors, and five teams of one Betazoid and one alien should look like five of me with a guard.”
Luvrudo and Thibeau both looked concerned at that, but it was Thibeau who spoke first. “Commander, that would leave you unprotected…”
Ral shook her head. “My third host was a marksman and martial artist,” she said. “I’ll keep an eye on her.”
Eden smiled to the ensign, then rose to her feet. “We have our plan. Ready to beam down.”