by Michael Blakeney and Gem Lassiter
Concurrent with Work to Get Done
Concurrent with Work to Get Done
At last, Gem's work was nearly finished here.
With the changes she'd put into place she could begin to hope with some confidence that the Project could get back on its feet. With Salvek as steward watching over it instead of that Bajoran train wreck known as Zanh Liis, perhaps they could actually get some research and development work done between times that the Sera had to limp back to port to be glued back into one piece.
The only thing that Zanh had managed to do right was to keep the Sera's crew alive during the battle, but she hadn't been able to do that on her own. It'd taken O'Sullivan and even Lair in her way to get the job done.
Why Jonas ever thought she was up to this job, I'll never know. Gem thought.
Just another one of his more spectacular failures. Tucker Brody was right about her. After her paradox experiences, she had no business commanding a shuttle craft on an Away mission let alone one of the most important ships in the fleet.
As Lassiter sat at the desk in Captain Salvek's ready room, she heard the door chime and called for her visitor to enter. She found Ensign Dane Cristiane on the other side of the divide, and as he got closer it was clear to her that he was scowling even more than usual.
"I have no time for you, Cristiane. Get out." She snapped, continuing her work of finalizing transfer orders. There were so many, and she was anxious to get them over with and get the hell off of this ship.
"Not a word. The decision is final, Ensign. Dismissed." She didn't even look up at him, and Dane turned back toward the door. He was about to leave, realizing that there was nothing he could do on his own and that the people who may be able to help him were not in this room but something stopped him.
"It's not going to help." He whispered.
"Why are you still talking, Ensign?" Lassiter growled.
Dane turned around. Maybe he was about to end his career but better, he figured to go out with the hard-won respect for himself he'd just begun with the help of officers like Keiran O'Sullivan than to build than to take this lying down.
"Yes, Sir, I am speaking to you." He said evenly. "You are destroying the very thing you want to save, doing all this. Lair and Salvek are The Alchemy Project. And they need someone to keep everything else going around them while they do what they do. The people who have done that, Zanh, O'Sullivan, Dengar...they need to keep doing it."
"Get out, Dane."
"I will, but I'm not,"
"Get OUT!" Lassiter stood from the chair, pushing herself back from the desk. "You're finished here."
"You can't keep me away from Gira." Dane stated plainly, changing the subject and getting to the heart of the matter when it came to why Lassiter was transferring him so far away. "I'll find a way to stay in contact with her. I don't care what it takes. If I have to send handwritten letters by way of courier in an operation rivaling the French Resistance during World War II, so be it. You can't change how I feel about her by sending me off into the middle of nowhere."
"How you feel is irrelevant." Lassiter informed him in a slow, controlled hiss. "It's the way she feels that concerns me."
"Her feelings matter to you? Really? This is news. You won't even talk to-"
"That's it." Lassiter reached up and violently tore Dane's combadge from his uniform. "Your Starfleet career is now over. Get out."
"If I'm done then I've nothing left to lose by saying this." Dane stepped back, staring at her intently. These were not new feelings for him. He had been holding back with all his strength against saying these things to her ever since the night of the party with the Perseids crew just days before the Captain's wedding.
The night he'd first truly understood just how badly Gira's mother could hurt her.
"I don't know what happened to you in your life that has turned you into such an unholy, insufferable bitch, Gem Lassiter," he railed, "but I'd revisit that if I were you and try to make peace with it because you're going to spend the rest of your life as bitter as you are vengeful and die alone if you don't wake up and see that your daughter loves you."
Lassiter grabbed him by the tunic and with surprising strength, hauled him to the door and physically pushed him from the room.
Her hands shook as she turned back. She didn't want to accept it, but the truth was that what he'd said had rattled her.
What had happened to her?
When did she become the nightmare that she never wanted to be?
-=Flashback, 2357, Current Timeline=-
Gem shivered the moment that she had rematerialized in the beam of the transporter.
That had just been too damn close.
She immediately looked beside her, where she found to her relief that Blakeney was still standing. He quickly moved away, began tapping on a panel on the wall, and it was only then that she truly got her bearings and took in her surroundings.
The instant that she did, any relief she felt at having escaped the intended ambush in their previous location went down in flames and was replaced by the realization that she may now be forced to attempt to escape one of a different sort at this secondary location.
"You have got to be kidding me." She scoffed, folded her arms and a snarl changed her face from something most agreeable to look at to something Michael imagined could be truly frightening, even in the dark. "What the hell do you call this?"
"My bedroom. Welcome to it." Blakeney said curtly as he continued his work, not looking over at her.
"You can't be serious!" She laughed in disbelief. "You bring me here, now, in the middle of-"
"Yes, Gemini, I brought you here, now." He finally glanced over at her and shook his head. "It was the default location programmed into my transponder. I apologize if you'd have preferred a penthouse at the Ritz Carlton, they were booked tonight."
Default location? Gem's mind spun faster and faster with each passing second. "Your default location. On your emergency transponder. Is." She sighed and her head dropped into her hands. "Your bedroom."
"One never knows." Was all he said, as he quickly scanned data on the screen. He was reading as fast as he could, but now he realized that she was just over his shoulder and he quickly cleared the screen. Gem folded her arms and gestured toward the blank panel with her eyes.
"Want to share?"
Now that easy, and all too easily charming grin returned to his face. "Share? I've been trying to share with you since the night we met, darling, but you're just not-"
"Damn it, Michael,"
"A-ha!" he clapped his hands together once and laughed, trying his best to distract her so he could switch the panel back on and read the last paragraph it contained. "I am getting to you. You just called me Michael."
Gem scowled. "Whatever. Don't tell me what you found then. I know you know a hell of a lot more than you're telling me Blakeney and I"ve had it. I'm done with this charade. You're wasting my time. I am going to finish this investigation on my own."
She hurried toward the door but stopped abruptly when she discovered that it would not open. For just an instant her eyes flashed apprehension, and then fear before both emotions disappeared again behind the mask of professionalism that she had worked so hard to acquire through years of practice. "You're going to keep me here against my will?"
"You can't just walk out. Our location is...secluded. It's dangerous out there. They'll be after us now, they know that we know Braylan was a fraud."
"He's not the only one." Gem, in her frustration, spoke her thought aloud and immediately wished she had not. He looked truly insulted, and angry.
"Fraud?" He frowned, and she found that the effect of his evident unhappiness unraveled her more, and even more quickly, than outward signs of any other emotion he'd shown her. "You still don't believe I'm what I say I am? You don't think I work for Temporal Investigations?"
Gem was now faced with a difficult decision. Since by definition she now seemed to be his captive, the best should could hope to do was keep him talking and try to cause him a moment's distraction so she could get a hold of his transponder, or figure out another way out of this place. The best way to do that would be to lie to him, to tell him what he wanted to hear. Sadly, her nature just wouldn't allow it this time. "No." She answered honestly. "I don't."
"Why do you doubt me? Is it my lack of skills? Lack of intelligence? Lack of fashion sense?" Now it almost seemed that he was the one trying to throw her off balance. "Because darling if you're basing credentials as an undercover agent on chosen manner of dress, you're the one who has cast aspersions."
"You've been lying to me!" Gem shouted, beyond the point now of looking for a way out that may or may not exist. She just couldn't hold back any longer. "You knew that Braylan wasn't what he said he was. You knew the moment you saw the blood. You knew exactly where and when to show up to keep me from getting killed by his murderer and you," she paused, "you just know a little too well how to," she stopped.
He stared at her now, his expression quite difficult to read.
"How to what, Gemini? How to wear you down until I could convince you to forget that you had an investigation underway that could mean millions of lives being saved or lost depending upon the outcome? Did you think that I could be so egotistical that I'd just beam us up here from a murder scene, sweep you off of your feet, take you straight over there," he nodded toward the large bed in the center of the room.
"...and risk all those lives just to spend one night with you? And you think that I'm conceited."
She suddenly felt very ashamed of herself. She didn't want it to but reason interfered. While she had no doubt that, before they'd gotten this far into the investigation he'd have jumped at the chance to spend the night with her, now it was different. And even given their unexpected surroundings, he was trying to keep working. Yes, he had locked the door, there could be any one of a hundred valid reasons why and she was sure he could offer them all if just given sixty seconds to explain. She also knew just how much she would want to believe every single one.
The only thing that still bothered her was why he was holding so much back if he was really who he said he was.
Her silence infuriated him even more than her frustrating refusal to believe his cover story.
He became so angry that he forgot himself and his neatly clipped, perfectly polished British accent began to morph into something that sounded quite different.
"Ya know, yer really somethin'. At first I thought you were just sexually frustrated. But no, no darlin' i's so much more than that. Gem Lassiter doesn' have feelings! She doesn' need romance or excitement. She's more highly evolved than the rest of us poor Neanderthal, bipedal primates who are strugglin' just to keep on standin' upright! She's got i'tall figured out. She can work alone, live alone, sleep alone, save the world all alone. She can do it all by noon and still have the rest of the day all to herself to make up lists of ways she could've done it more efficiently!"
"Michael," she stammered, her mouth hanging open as he continued his rant.
"She doesn' want an'a'one's help, or need an'a'one, ever. Nothin' and no one can touch the great Gemini Lassiter? Well maybe nothin' SHOULD!" As he stormed away, over to another panel in the wall, she heard him mutter one last remark under his breath. "I'm certainly done tryin'."
She stared at him in shock; his accent had just changed countries of origin, right before her eyes.
"Michael," she stuttered again. He hadn't even realized what he'd done, and was still so angry with her and with the ridiculously complicated situation he now found himself in that he swiftly moved back toward her, took hold of her arm with one hand and then pulled the transponder from his pocket again with the other.
"This is yer stop, Gem. I'm sendin' ya back. You are ta stay where I'm sendin' you, 'till you receive word that the investigation is over and the murderer has been apprehended. Do you understand exactly what I am telling you?"
Slowly his accent returned to its original inflections, and she simply nodded. She didn't want to stay here if he was going to keep her from searching for more answers, and so the best thing she could do was play along and then as soon as she was free...
For his part, Michael was convinced that she was not understanding just how much danger her life was really in. "Listen to me very carefully." He began again, as he grasped her firmly by the shoulders, his eyes burning into hers. "You are not to leave the place where I'm sending you. If you do, they will find you and they will kill you."
"Who? Your people?" She hurled the words at him and Michael was wounded when he felt the blow.
"Your people are my people." He retorted angrily, as he tapped coordinates into the transponder. "If you knew anything about me at all by now, you'd believe that." He stepped back. "Goodbye, Gem."
A moment later, she found herself standing inside of a small but well appointed apartment.
Panic began to course through her, panic that would never have been there before. It didn’t make sense but her breathing was becoming heavier.
She wasn't sure where she was, exactly, but she knew one thing; it wasn't where she needed to be.
A thousand spoken and misspoken words since they’d met played through her mind not with the calm constructed manner they should but the disarray of a ship’s log leading to the moment of its destruction.
The anger she’d felt mere seconds before seemed to be washed away by the utter, unwelcome feel of regret about how she’d come to be here. She knew she should never have made him angry, she should never have left his side. Whatever he was or wasn't telling her, something inside of her knew that this investigation was one thing that neither one of them could complete successfully on their own. If they'd given up and tried at any point up until this one, one or the both of them would have already been killed.
Slowly she began to take in her location with tentative, tiny steps in a circle around the center of the apartment where she’d just arrived. Her body seemed to fight her for every centimeter of progress; as if it knew how afraid she was to move away from this one point in such a large world where she still felt somehow connected to where she’d just been.
She tried to slow her breathing, to make sense of everything she was feeling and to react to everything as calmly as she needed to. Yet she couldn’t be calm, not yet. She needed to find him. She needed, she wanted to get back to wherever they'd been together a moment before, so they could finish what they started.
But there was more than that to this and she knew it. As desperate as she was to deny it, even stopping herself several times to start her analysis all over again when she was sure she’d made a mistake, there was more going on in her head than worry over the investigation.
This wasn’t sensible, this wasn’t reasonable. She knew not what it was so strong in her thoughts and in the absence of real definition something ceased to be a reality. At least, it was supposed to.
Her eyes seemed to probe into every corner as she attempted to map out her surroundings, her tangible literal surroundings. This was her reality, the here and the now. Where she’d just left was already the past.
Yet even from her central location in this place he’d chosen; so functional, so perfect for her, she was utterly incapable of really taking it. This couldn’t be reality; the furniture, the walls, all felt entirely two dimensional all of a sudden. Where she perceived shadows and their depth, she really saw just colors cast in grayscale to serve this illusion of a world as real as she’d once ever known.
This was crazy, she knew it was; it was just that she couldn’t concentrate on seeing it now. She felt adrenalin pumping through her, her heart going far too fast without purpose or reason. Her breathing was still too heavy, she was feeling still. Infuriatingly still. She should be moving but she had no idea to where.
Suddenly, very deep down and rising up fast Gem felt a sense of something that she'd never experienced before. She scanned the list that she kept in her mind to try to help her identify and classify her emotions, as unpleasant it was to try to do so, when she was faced with them.
She did it quickly, she did it efficiently but roughly; almost desperate to find what she was searching for. But nowhere on that mental checklist did she find a suitable label to affix to the rising rush of fear that overtook her when she watched him disappear in the glow of the transporter's light as it swept her away.
She focused on the alien feeling with curiosity and a vicious intensity. She studied it as a scientist examines the results of a failed experiment- with a self-loathing and fierce determination not to repeat the mistake ever again.
This feeling was something she feared was terrifyingly out of her control. She couldn't stop the grasping, choking hold the emotion had on her, whatever it was.
Damn it, she mentally slapped herself, she was not supposed to feel like this. She was a woman of thought. She should be able to control emotion, not the other way around. Yet just like the building frustration within her this feeling refused to be suppressed.
Suddenly she found she was walking rapid steps around this place, trying to burn off what ever the hell it was taking over her. Moments passed uneasily by as she processed near impossible thoughts. It was only when she finally truly contemplated the reality that she may never see him again did she realize what that feeling was. Immediately she stopped walking.
She shook her head, shook herself, but she couldn’t shake out what she was feeling.
She missed him.
She felt a sudden frozen weight dragging down upon her heart. The ache in her chest was a longing to be near him again, to hear his voice, and see his smile. To listen to the maddeningly fascinating, though not totally logical, pattern of his thoughts.
In his own way, though, he had a rationale for everything that he did. He was, in his fashion and in his own estimation entirely logical.
It was quite frightening and quite indescribable that it seemed to challenge every belief she’d ever had. To see such a different way of thinking and to see it actually work when she’d always lived her life knowing there was only one.
Yet she really didn’t care about that as she closed her eyes and tried to picture again a million little things about him before they were forgotten.
There was more than enjoying his company to this, though, and that bothered her even more than the knowledge that he had the power to make her miss him, simply by leaving her sight.
It was a sense of knowing that when he was not there, that a void was created that she'd do almost anything to fill. But none except him, she knew, could fill it.
She knew for the first time in her life how it felt to need someone.
Whoever the man really was, she needed him now and she cursed him for it. She cursed herself even more.
As she stood, she realized her hand was still in suspended animation in mid-air as it had been in a gesture asking him to just wait, she felt as if, in realizing she needed him, she had just in an instant both gained and lost her clarity, her sanity, and whatever it was that may constitute the matter and substance of her soul.
In the moment she was frozen or otherwise would have likely lost her footing as she grasped that he mattered to her. In that instant she gained, held for an immeasurably small increment of time, and then lost the entire world.
She'd always been fine until now, living in her own head. No one could touch her there; her thoughts were her own and that was how she wanted it. It was so safe, so comfortable; it was who she was.
Only now, as she considered what it was like when they combined their talents and worked together, she understood that living in isolation inside her own mind was not what she wanted anymore.
She wanted his thoughts to be there too. Challenging hers, inspiring ideas she'd never even considered and making the Universe itself seem to be glistening with hope and endless possibilities.
She knew that if she never did see him again, no matter the outcome of the investigation and especially with so much left unfinished between them, that it was going to haunt her for the rest of her days.
Lt. Commander Michael Blakeney
//// Gemini Lassiter
Former TI Agent and
Director, The Alchemy Project
Lt. Commander Michael Blakeney
//// Gemini Lassiter
Former TI Agent and
Director, The Alchemy Project