Once they were off the ship, Naseema handed Elnor both the bags she was carrying, and he followed her as she headed for the shipyard office. She stopped as she reached the door and warned him again not to say anything unless she instructed him to. He gave her an exasperated nod and rolled his eyes again once her back turned.

"Stop rolling your eyes," she snapped over her shoulder.

He was surprised. "How did you-"

She turned around to look at him. "Because I am old, and I have dealt with enough belligerent teenagers to have developed a sixth sense for sass."

"Sixth sense for sass," he replied with a smirk. "I challenge you to say that five times in a row."

This time, she rolled her eyes. "Just be quiet." He shrugged and followed her inside. The office was small, dingy, and unfurnished. A miserable looking Ferengi sat at the counter, shielded by a glass window. Naseema walked up to the man, pulled a few strips of latinum from her pocket, and slid them through the opening in the window.

"Hello, Frooza," she said pleasantly. "You are looking as handsome as ever."

The Ferengi looked up at her and smiled, showing off a mouthful of pointed teeth. "Well, gorgeous, I haven't seen you here for a while." He glanced past her at Elnor who stood near the door with the bags and was letting his eyes wander around the room. "Who's the Vulcan?"

Naseema also glanced at Elnor. "He's a Romulan, and his name does not matter," she replied as she gave Frooza a demure smile.

Frooza shrugged. "If you say so." Then he eyed her up and down. "Have you given any more thought to having dinner with me one of these nights?"

"I still do not think your wives would appreciate that, so no," Naseema countered with a smile, and Elnor had to turn his head to hide the fact he almost laughed.

"It's your loss," Frooza replied with a shrug. "My wives live like queens, and I would treat you no differently."

"You should ask your wives to clean your office once in a while," Elnor remarked, and Frooza shot him a dirty look.

Naseema closed her eyes and let out an irritated sigh. "Pay no attention to him, Frooza," she said. "He has difficulty following instructions." Elnor made a face at her but kept quiet. "So, where did the Sulibans park that freighter they towed in here?" she asked.

The Ferengi returned his attention to the papers on the counter. "That's the Suliban's business. I don't ask questions, Valkyrie, you know that."

Naseema sighed again but seemed to accept Frooza wasn't going to tell her anything. "See you around, darling," she said, and Frooza nodded without looking up. As soon as they were outside, Naseema glared at Elnor. "What did I tell you about keeping your mouth shut?" she asked pointedly. "You offended him."

"Is Naseema even your real name?" he shot back. "He called you something else, Val-Valk-"

"Valkyrie," she finished for him. "We are not discussing me at the moment so stop trying to change the subject. He might have given me an answer about your ship if you had kept your commentary to yourself."

"No, he wouldn't," Elnor insisted. "He was done talking once you refused to have dinner with him and what kind of man has multiple wives, and cheats on them?! You can't possibly trust that guy!"

Naseema stared at him in disbelief for a few seconds. "You really were raised by nuns." Then she started walking away.

He quickly caught up to her. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"You are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy," she replied. "Propositions are a matter of doing business here. Trust does not have anything to do with it."

"Is Dorothy a girl's name?" he asked, angrily.

He was getting tired of her insinuations that he was too feminine.

Naseema stopped walking and stared at him again. "Is that what you took from what I said?" she asked. He stared back at her as he waited for an answer. "I was referring to an old story about a young person who suddenly finds herself in a bizarre new land and must learn to cope with a new set of rules," she told him. "The fact that she is female is incidental. I am not making fun of you, Elnor, settle down." He narrowed his eyes at her but nodded. She returned his nod cautiously and continued walking. "It is common for Ferengi men to have more than one wife. Frooza is not looking to cheat on his wives. He is interested in adding me to his harem," she said. "As far as Ferengi go, Frooza is one of the good ones, and I am still not happy you offended him. His office appears the way it does for a reason. If it is empty and dirty, he is less likely to be robbed. It is unwise to flaunt your wealth here unless you have the security to back it up, which Frooza does not. You need to watch your tongue."

"I'm sorry," he said and gave her a look that wasn't exactly apologetic but at least admitted to having made a mistake. "Are you interested in joining his harem?"

Naseema laughed. "Not in the least, but that does not mean I am unwilling to flirt with him to get what I want."

"Does that work?" he asked. "Flirting, I mean, to get what you want?"

Perhaps, if he flirted with her, she would be nicer to him. Now, he just had to figure out how to flirt without looking like an idiot.

"Sometimes," she replied with a shrug. "I am able to exert a certain influence over most humanoid males, and flirting can go a long way to encouraging them to be more cooperative than they might otherwise be."

"What kind of influence can you exert?" he asked, continuing his curious inquisition.

"I emit an energy field that causes most males to be sexually attracted to me," she said and laughed again as Elnor's eyes widened, and he took a step away from her.

"Oh." Maybe flirting was a bad idea.

"The effect is subtle, and you are not far enough away to protect yourself if that is what you are attempting to do," she told him. "If you have not already had such urges, it is possible you are somehow insulated. That is uncommon but not unheard of, either way, I am not going to make any attempts to entice you into bed so you can relax."

"Oh." Was he that unappealing? Definitely no flirting.

As they passed the storefront of a small grocer, Naseema paused. "We should stop here and get you something to eat. It is getting dark, and most of the shops will be closing shortly." Elnor nodded in agreement, and they went into the store. It was small but clean and well-stocked. "I will take the bags, go choose yourself whatever you would like, enough for a few days," she told him and went over to stand near the counter while he wandered around the store.

He looked at the items, but he couldn't understand most of the labels. Almost all of them were in languages he didn't understand. There was nothing that seemed familiar, and he suddenly felt homesick. He missed the foods he'd eaten since childhood. Fruits and vegetables, fresh-baked bread, and viinerine. It was silly how something as simple as food could trigger such feelings. He felt lonely, and he loathed having to ask Naseema for help. She seemed to think he was stupid, and she would just make fun of him again, but if he wanted to eat, he didn't have much choice.

He returned to the front counter. "I don't know what most of these things are, and I don't know what to choose."

She saw the look on his face, and she felt bad. Poor kid, this couldn't be an easy situation for him to find himself in especially, through no fault of his own. She knew she hadn't been very nice to him so far, yet he remained polite. He must be hungry, she realized, and he hadn't complained. He didn't deserve all the shit she kept dumping in his lap, and she knew she needed to show him a little more kindness.

"Alright, I will help you," Naseema said, and he was surprised she didn't make a joke at his expense. She went with him down the aisles and helped him choose some soup, cheese, fruit, a loaf of bread, and cured meat based on his descriptions of the traditional Romulan foods he was used to eating. Then she paid the short Bolian behind the counter, and they continued on their way.

"Thank you for buying all this food for me," he said as they walked.

"You do not need to thank me," she replied. "I can hardly allow you to go hungry after convincing you to come with me, and I do not have anything to eat at home."

"Where is your home?" he asked.

"It is just on the next block," she told him. It was dusk, and what little light existed was fading. Elnor noticed the thick grey clouds in the atmosphere seemed to be getting lower in the sky. He also noticed there were fewer people on the street than earlier.

Everything about this place seemed dirty but not the same way Vashti was dirty. The streets of North Station were literally dirt, so naturally, there was a lot of dust when it was hot and dry, and mud when it rained. The air was clean, though, and had a natural smell. Sweat and earth, hard work, and a touch of salt from the nearby ocean. This place didn't smell like that at all. It smelled like burning metal, smoke, and grease. Hardly any natural light leaked through the thick clouds overhead, and everything was covered in fine, dark soot as if the entire city had been on fire recently. He hadn't seen a single tree since they landed, and the only water they passed was a sluggish river with an oily sheen floating on top of the brown, murky water. There weren't even any insects. It was as if the entire planet was dead on the inside and everyone was living on top of the dried-out husk.

They reached a stretch of tall, windowless buildings just as the exterior lights started to come on, and Naseema abruptly diverted into an alleyway. She went behind a large pile of garbage and unzipped her jacket.

Elnor followed her with a confused expression. "What are you doing?"

She took one of the bags from him, opened it, and stuffed her jacket inside. "I cannot go inside while I look like this, especially not with you. It will raise suspicions," she said as she took off her weapons and put them in the bag too. Then she pulled her sweater off, and Elnor's eyes started to widen.

"Are you going to take all your clothes off out here?"

"No, calm down," she replied as she tore the bottom half of her tank top off and tucked the frayed edge up under her bra. Then she bent over, fluffed her hair out, and flipped her head back up before tugging her bra lower, and pushing her breasts together. She closed the bag and adjusted her pants, so the waistband sat well below her hips. "How do I look?" she asked.

He stared at her, convinced she'd just lost her mind. "Pardon?"

"Do you want to fuck me?"


"Nevermind, this will have to do," she said and picked up the bag. He followed her back onto the street and toward the entrance to the faceless tower. "Whatever happens, do not open your mouth," she instructed. Still confused, he nodded. Inside the building was a dark, tiny lobby, and another shielded counter. An older, red-headed woman who wore too much makeup sat behind it. She looked up as Naseema approached.

"Candy, I was beginning to wonder if you were coming back this time," she said with a smile.

"Oh, you know how those pleasure-for-business trips go, Nancy," Naseema replied in a high-pitched, saccharine voice. "There is always some excuse to stay another week."

"Yeah, I suppose so," Nancy chuckled. "A girl's gotta make a living, huh?" Then she leaned to one side and gave Elnor a once over. "Is he with you?" she asked and raised an eyebrow.

Naseema glanced back and smiled. "Yup."

"He's a cutie," Nancy said. "Much better looking than your usual tricks and younger too."

"I know," Naseema replied. "I picked him up at the shuttle station on my way in." Then she leaned forward and lowered her voice. "I am pretty sure it is his first time."

Nancy's eyes lit up with interest. "No kidding! Make sure you show him a good time then!"

"I always do," Naseema smirked. Then, with a goofy smile, Nancy pressed a button on her control panel and unlocked the inside door. Her eyes followed Elnor as he went with Naseema further into the building.

"You enjoy yourself, cutie pie. Candy will take good care of you," she said, still smirking.

"Thank you, I will?" Elnor replied, confused, and as soon as the door clicked shut behind him, he turned to Naseema. "What just happened, and why did she tell me to enjoy myself?"

Naseema laughed gently. "Nancy, believes I am a prostitute. Why do you think I stripped half my clothes off before we came in here?"

Elnor shook his head, still confused. "I have no idea why you did that. What's a prostitute?"

Naseema laughed harder. "Oh, Elnor, you are so precious. A prostitute is someone who has sex with people for money. It is a profession even older than sellswords."

"Wait, she thinks I am here to have sex with you?" he asked.

Naseema nodded. "And that you are paying me for it."

"Wow," he said, a little disgusted. "I am never going to pay someone for sex."

"With a face like yours, you will probably never have to, but lots of people do it for a variety of reasons," she told him as they got on the lift.

"If you say so, but why would you want people to think you're a prostitute?" he asked, still slightly grossed out.

"Prostitution is perfectly legal, but killing for money is not," she replied. "I do not care to advertise my actual profession for obvious reasons, and masquerading as a vendor of sexual services suits both the hours and the company I keep."

"I suppose that's fair," he said and looked her up and down. "I also suppose I could do worse."

"Well, I am sorry you were co-opted as a pretend trick in my pretend profession as a prostitute," she teased. "Good lord, Elnor, did you never play make-believe as a child?"

"Of course I did, but make-believe is not the same as lying, which is what you do," he retorted.

"Well, you got me there," she said. "You are such a boy scout."

"I don't know what that is."

"Of course not."

After they exited the lift on one of the top floors, Naseema led him down the hallway, unlocked the door and went in. Once inside, Elnor put the bag he was holding down and looked around. The apartment was very small. Every room he'd been in so far was very small. There was a sofa against the far wall, only big enough for two people, with a table at one end, and a lamp at the other. That space bled into the kitchen area, which consisted of a beat-up replicator, a refrigerator, a small slice of counter space, and a sink. A round table with three chairs buffered the kitchen and living spaces. At the back of the kitchen was a dark doorway, which he guessed was the bedroom. The apartment was shabby and sparse, but it was immaculately clean and smelled nice. He sat at the table while Naseema took the bags into the bedroom, and when she returned a few minutes later, she was wearing a new tank top. She deposited her weapons and jacket on the table and pulled her sweater over her head.

"You can put your food in the refrigerator and fix yourself something to eat," she said. "I will hopefully be back soon."

"Where are you going?" he asked with a worried expression.

"I am going to collect the bounty on Mr. Sutcliffe," she replied. "Stay in the apartment and do not answer the door under any circumstances."

"You are not leaving me here," he told her as he stood up.

"Elnor, these people are extremely dangerous," she said. "It is not a good idea for you to come with me."

"I don't care."

They stared each other down for nearly a minute until Naseema finally relented. "Alright, if you are going to be so insistent, I suppose I cannot trust you to stay here on your own."

"No, you can't," he said.

"Do you need to eat before we leave?" she asked. He thought about it for a few seconds, but by the time he decided, she already had a drink in her hand. "Get yourself some dinner, I will wait." She sat down at the table and watched him while he fixed himself a plate, and took a seat across the table from her.

"You still haven't told me why Frooza called you by a different name," he said.

"I have a few different names," she replied. "You may have noticed Nancy calls me Candy."

"I liked that one," he laughed and gave her a saucy look. "Mostly because of the irony. You're not exactly what I would call sweet."

She laughed too. "I suppose I deserved that." Then she looked at him and frowned. "I am sorry I have not been very nice to you. I spend most of my time alone, and polite conversation makes up very little of the time I do spend with others, but that is a flimsy excuse. You deserve to be treated better, Elnor, and I will try to do that from now on."

"Thank you," he replied. "I know I talk too much, and I ask too many questions. I haven't exactly been on my best behaviour either so, I will try a little harder too."

She smiled at him. "I think we will make a pretty good team once we stop purposely getting on each others' nerves."

He smiled back. "Why do use so many different names?"

"I live a dangerous life," she explained. "The name I use with the people in this building, Candy, is as much for their protection, as it is for mine. Valkyrie is the name I use with people I do business with. It is my assassin name. Frooza knows I associate with criminals, but he does not know in what capacity, and I would prefer to keep it that way."

"Is Naseema just another name?" he asked. "Was it your Enterprise name?"

"No, someone who meant a great deal to me gave me that name a very long time ago. It is the name I use with people I trust," she said. "It is my real name."

"Can I call you Naseema?" he asked with eyebrows raised expectantly.

She nodded. "Yes, Elnor, you may call me Naseema."

He smiled again but didn't say anything else until he finished his dinner. He took the plate over to the sink, washed it, and came back to the table. "I'm ready." Naseema finished the last of her drink and got out of her chair. She picked up the bag containing Alvin Sutcliffe's head and nodded at her companion.

"Well, Dorothy," she said. "We are off to see the wizard."

"Are there no other characters in this story you could refer to me as?" he asked.

"There is the scarecrow, who has no brain. There is the tin man, who has no heart, or there is the cowardly lion," she replied.

"What about the wizard?"

"The wizard is a sad, little man hiding behind a curtain."

"I'll keep Dorothy," he said, disappointed.

"Dorothy is a good choice," she told him brightly. "She has lovely shoes."

"I hate you."

"I hate me too, so at least we have that in common."

He rolled his eyes again and followed her back down the hallway to the lift. As it slowed near the first floor, Naseema pulled the emergency stop.

"Are we not getting off?" Elnor asked, and she couldn't help but smirk at his unintentional innuendo.

"We are getting off, just not through the door," she replied. "Come here and give me a boost." He looked at her quizzically but complied and held his hands down so she could put her foot in them. She jimmied the hatch in the ceiling loose, tossed the bag through it, and then pulled herself up. "Now, release the lever and give me your hands." He used his foot to nudge the emergency brake off and jumped to catch her hands. She heaved him up until he could grab the edge of the hatch, and once he was through, she quickly closed it before the lift reached the main level.

He looked up the long tube that surrounded them. "Now what?"

"Now, we go through the ventilation shaft," she told him as she pried the grate open. The opening was narrow, but Elnor managed to wedge himself through it and gratefully found the shaft itself was larger. She directed him as she crawled on her hands and knees behind him, and within a few minutes, he reached a dead end with another grate. "Can you get it open?" Naseema asked.

He could see the release on the other side of the grate, but his hand was too big to squeeze through the slats to reach it. "I can't get to it," he complained. "My fingers are too fat."

"I hardly think you have fat fingers," Naseema replied, and then he felt her hand pushing his backside out of the way. "Shove over a little," she instructed as she shimmed herself against him to get by. He pressed himself against the side of the shaft as far as he could go, but there wasn't enough room, and then they were stuck. "Well, this is a little awkward," she clipped as she tried to find some kind of handhold or leverage to pry herself past him. He held his hands close to his chest and looked at her uncomfortably. After another minute of struggling, she finally relaxed her body and let out an exasperated sigh. "Shit."

"What are we going to do now?" he asked, disconcerted.

He didn't understand why she would go to so much trouble to exit the building like this when they could have just walked out the front door. He was uncomfortable and awkward didn't even begin to describe how this situation was making him feel. He caught a whiff of her hair and noticed it smelled nice. Then he started to worry that he didn't smell as nice. He hated the sonic showers on La Sirena and only used them when he had to. Then he started questioning himself as to why he cared how he smelled. It wasn't as though he wanted to impress her. He didn't even really like her all that much. Then he remembered what she said about her energy field. That must be why he felt so weird and clumsy.

She pondered their unfortunate dilemma for another minute before she seemed to decide on a course of action. "Okay, I am going to lift myself up," she said. "I want you to get on your back under me if you can." He took an unsteady breath and nodded. She manoeuvred herself around him as he sucked his chest and stomach in. Then she used her forearm to shove herself over top of him as he wiggled underneath her. Their efforts worked. The shaft was taller than it was wide, and now she had room to move. She inched herself along him and grabbed his clothes to gain more leverage while he silently prayed his body wouldn't betray him by mistaking this scenario for something else.

He'd never had anyone so physically close to him for so long before. Her face was almost touching his, and he could feel her breath on his cheek. She really did smell good, and she had pretty skin too, like fresh cream with a rosy tint. He imagined it was soft and pleasing to touch. He noticed the trail of brightly coloured scales on her neck disappeared under her sweater and started to wonder how much of her body they covered. He could feel his ears growing warm as he thought about it and realized he was probably blushing. He tried to divert his thoughts to something unpleasant and hoped she was too preoccupied to notice.

She slid her fingers through the slats in the shaft cover and pulled herself forward. Now, her breasts were in his face. He closed his eyes, turned his head sideways, and held his breath. Then, he finally heard the grating pop open. "Got it!" she said triumphantly and continued to wriggle past him. She let herself drop from the opening and rolled at she hit the ground. Elnor tossed the bag down to her, and then she watched as he exited the shaft far more gracefully than she did.

She was impressed with his elegance. His lanky frame belied how lithesome he was. She quietly examined him as he straightened himself up and adjusted the scabbard on his back. The Qowat Milat vestments she made him take off were designed for ease of movement, probably more comfortable, and likely tailored to him. The clothes he wore now were a little snug on him, and he was taller than Rios, so the shirt exposed his abdomen whenever he raised his arms, but they made it obvious how toned his body was. She hadn't taken the time to really look at him until now. He was an attractive young man. Big, dark eyes, bronzed skin and a warm smile. His long hair was a little unconventional, but it suited him. She knew she'd been pushing his buttons and realized it was likely he was quite sweet and polite otherwise. It surprised her that he suffered from such a lack of confidence in his romantic endeavours. Sure, he was shy, but in her experience, young people often found that an endearing quality, and even if they didn't, it certainly wasn't a deal-breaker. It was too bad the girl he fancied couldn't get past the fact that he was Romulan because she guessed he'd probably be a good boyfriend if given the chance.

He noticed her looking at him and shifted uncomfortably. "What?"

She opened her mouth to tell him what she had just been thinking but changed her mind and shook her head instead. "Nevermind." They were in the same alley as earlier, and Naseema led him in the opposite direction out onto another street. "Do not make eye contact with anyone if you can help it," she told him. "We do not need any extraneous problems, especially while we are still in possession of a severed head." Elnor nodded in agreement, and they continued into the night.

After several blocks and only a few scattered, bedraggled bums, they reached a busier street. Shuttles were whizzing by, large crowds of people and businesses that were still open. Elnor moved a little closer to Naseema after an enormous alien with spikes running along the top of his bald head, and a vicious scar across his face, angrily eyeballed him as they passed each other.

"He is a Separ," Naseema casually commented when she noticed Elnor glance back to make sure the giant man didn't decide to follow them. "They always appear confrontational but are usually quite pleasant."

"Why did he stare at me like that?" Elnor asked.

"Romulans are uncommon here," she replied. "He was probably just curious." Then she abruptly grabbed his arm and yanked him out of the path of a tiny, orange-skinned lizard-like creature. "That is a Grunite. They are not pleasant." Elnor glanced over his shoulder again and saw the Grunite standing on the sidewalk. It was watching them walk away, and when he met its eyes, it pulled a large knife from inside its jacket and grinned. Elnor quickly turned back around and kept walking.

"How can you live in a place like this?" he asked. "Everyone seems so angry and miserable."

"That is because they are angry and miserable," she chuckled. "Nobody chooses to live in Black City because it is a nice place."

"I don't understand why anyone would choose to live here at all," he said. Naseema turned to respond, but then there was a loud crash, followed by a bang, and the sound of weapon fire. They both looked in the direction of the commotion. Two shuttles had collided, and several people were shooting at each other. Naseema turned her eyes to Elnor's, arched her eyebrow, and kept walking. He clutched the strap of his scabbard and held pace with her.

What an awful place this was, he didn't like it here at all. Everyone seemed threatening, and he felt threatened. He missed La Sirena and his friends. He thought about what Picard said to him after the incident in the market, that he was hot-headed and too eager to find trouble. He was beginning to believe maybe that was true, and now, he'd found himself way more trouble than he anticipated. This wasn't exactly what he spent all those years tirelessly training for, sacrificing friends and fun to earn his tan qalanq.

"Most people are here because they have few other choices. They are desperate or trapped...or hiding. The only rule in Black City that matters is, do not ask, do not tell," she said. "Do not ask unnecessary questions and do not offer any unnecessary information."

Elnor sighed with defeat. "Wonderful."

She glanced at him sympathetically. "You can talk to me, alright?" she offered. "I promise I will not make you feel stupid."

He sighed again but nodded. "Alright."

When they finally reached their destination, there was nothing remarkable about the building. It had the same colourless, unimaginative facade as every other building Elnor saw, but once they were inside, he found himself awed by the elaborate, richly decorated interior. They entered onto a wide landing with curved staircases on either side and a view of the enormous space below. The carpets had intricate woven designs with deep, vibrant dyes. There were dramatic light fixtures and beautiful murals on the walls. The room was filled with tables of all sorts of people playing games and others seated at tall machines with colourful, flashing lights. He could just barely hear music playing over the din of the crowd. "What is this place?" he asked as Naseema took him down the stairs and into the excitement.

"It is a casino," she replied. "A gambling house and probably the most cliched front for a criminal organization in existence." She turned to Elnor. "Is gambling a past time on Vashti?"

"For some people," he said and looked around as they made their way across the room. "There is nothing like this place though only the Romulan Social Club." Then he turned his eyes to her. "Do you gamble?" he asked.

"Only with my life," she replied, and he let out a snort of laughter. They reached a door with two guards on either side, a Suliban, and a Beta Annari. Naseema approached the pair and smiled. "Gentlemen, if you would be so kind as to let Sajek know I am here."

The Suliban guard leaned over and whispered something to the Beta Annari, who then eyed Naseema up and down. "He's been waiting for you, Valkyrie."

Naseema nodded, and he opened the door. As she and Elnor walked through it, the Beta Annari sniffed the young Romulan. Then he turned to the Suliban. "Not in the last twenty-four hours," he said, and they both laughed. Elnor didn't understand what was so funny and ignored them as he kept his eyes ahead. In the next room, a human man sat in a large wingback chair behind an even larger desk with two more guards on either side. There were a couple of other people in the room, seated near the desk. All their eyes turned to the Feeonix when she entered.

"Who's your friend?" one of the guards asked.

Naseema glanced behind her. "He is my apprentice," she lied. Elnor stayed near the door and quietly kept his eyes on the room's other occupants as Naseema went up to the desk, and plunked the bag down on it. "The esteemed Mr. Alvin Sutcliffe," she said sarcastically. Sajek motioned to one of the guards who took the bag and opened it. Then he nodded at his boss before dropping the bag on the floor. Sajek opened one of the drawers and pulled out another small bag. He placed it on the desk and slid it toward Naseema. She opened it and examined the contents. "This is not what we agreed upon," she said with irritation, and Elnor felt a knot start to form in his stomach.

He was sure there was going to be a fight.

Sajek reclined in his chair and tapped his fingers on the desk. "You fucked up, Valkyrie."

"Pardon me, but is that not Sutcliffe's head in the bag?" she asked.

"It is definitely Alvin Sutcliffe's head," Sajek replied. "However, you were supposed to eliminate him once he reached his destination, not in transit." Elnor's eyes widened at the revelation, and Naseema's heart sank as she realized Sajek was the one who sent the Suliban mercenaries to take La Sirena.


Sajek leaned forward on his desk. "You left behind a bunch of witnesses who reported your little escapade to the Fenris Rangers," he continued.

Naseema could feel Elnor's eyes burning a hole in the back of her head. "You kidnapped the crew," she said to Sajek. He didn't respond verbally, but the reptilian smirk that crawled up his face did the talking for him. "What are you planning to do with them?" she asked confrontationally.

"We'll discuss it tomorrow," he replied. "For now, you should take your money, go buy your little apprentice a drink, and teach him how to follow instructions better than you do." Naseema glared at him as she yanked the bag off the desk, turned on her heels, and grabbed Elnor's arm as she exited the office. Neither of them said a word to the other as they made the walk back to her building, but she could feel him stewing in his anger the entire way. They went through the ventilation system again and rode the top of the lift up to her floor before they dropped down into its compartment. Once they were inside her apartment, he unleashed on her.

"I knew this whole awful mess was your fault!" he shouted. "You have been lying to me from the beginning!"

"Elnor, I am sorry-"

"No! I don't want to hear it! You'll only lie again!" He was so angry, his face was flushed, and if he could cut her heart out with his eyes, he would have. "You tried to kill me! You have been nothing but mean and spiteful since you yanked me from my bed, and convinced me to come with you! Everything I had is gone now because of you! What am I supposed to do now?!"

"Please calm down," Naseema said quietly. "My neighbours can probably hear you."

"I am not going to calm down!" he continued as his voice became even louder. "What is so wrong with you that you just had to kill poor Mr. Sutcliffe onboard our ship?! Why couldn't you wait until we dropped him off like you were supposed too?! What did he do that was so terrible, you just had to kill him that night?!"

"We will get the others back, I promise," she said as she held her hands up.

"Stop making empty promises and answer my questions!"

"Alvin Sutcliffe was a terrible person, a predator who didn't deserve to continue existing," she said as she went to the replicator and got a drink.

"You already said that, and I don't believe you," Elnor spat. "You are nothing but a drunk and a liar, and I am finished with you!" He moved for the door, but Naseema blocked his path.

"Where are you going to go, Elnor?" she asked, and her condescending tone only made him more upset.

"Anywhere is better than here," he snapped. "I can't believe Picard ever considered you his friend. You are the worst person I have ever met."

Her expression abruptly changed when he said Picard's name.

She was tired of this ignorant little twerp lording his moral superiority over her. He had zero fucking idea what he was talking about and how dare he judge her for choices he had no understanding of. Well, she would make him understand. She would show him exactly what kind of monster Alvin Sutcliffe was, and then maybe he would shut his obnoxious little mouth.

"Fine, if you really want to know what kind of person Alvin Sutcliffe was, I will fucking show you," she snarled and then stormed into the bedroom. When she came back a few seconds later, she had Sutcliffe's travel bag in her hand. She dumped its contents out on the table and grabbed the small green bag. She opened it, pulled out the handful of vials, and thrust them toward Elnor. "Do you know what these are?" she demanded as she glared at him.

He glanced down at her hand and glared back at her. "No, I don't know what those are. Why don't you enlighten me?" he sneered.

"Oh, I will," she replied venomously and picked through the contents of her hand. "This one is a euphoric-uninhibitor. It will poison your brain and make you believe you want sex more than you have ever wanted anything. This one will make you forget everything you have done for the last forty-eight hours, and this one will paralyze every muscle in your body while you remain conscious and aware of everything happening to you."

Elnor looked at her and scoffed. "Why are you telling me this? What do any of those things have to do with you killing Mr. Sutcliffe on La Sirena?"

"Dear, Mr. Sutcliffe, who you so foolishly pity, had a thing for boys your age," she replied, her tone still dark and combative. "Have you ever been sodomized, Elnor? I have heard it is rather unpleasant when non-consensual."

Elnor's expression turned from scornful to troubled and confused. "I-I don't understand, what are you saying?"

Naseema softened her tone. "I saw how he looked at you in the market," she told him. "He would have drugged you with one of these and had his way with you while everyone else slept. I went after him on your ship because I was hoping to head him off before he got to you." She paused for a second before she added, "You do not even lock your door at night, Elnor, you were an easy target."

He looked down at the handful of vials and then met her eyes again. "How do you know he was going to do that?"

"I had been tracking him for several months. I knew his habits, his routines...and his preferences," she said, then she sighed mournfully as she dropped the drugs on the table and picked up her drink. "His last victim died because I waited for a better opportunity. I did not want him to claim yet another one." She downed the glass and returned to the replicator for a refill. With the fresh drink in hand, she turned back to her bewildered young companion. "I am sorry I fucked your life up, it was not my intention to do so, and I will do whatever it takes to get Jean-Luc, and your friends back from Sajek, but if you still wish to leave, I will not stop you." Elnor lowered his eyes, unsure of what to think. Naseema turned to the replicator again, and when she finished, she brought a bottle of clear liquid and a glass over to the table, and set it down. Then she looked at him ruefully. "Help yourself you may find it eases the unsettling thoughts. I am going to go shower now. You are welcome to have one when I am finished, and the bed is yours, I do not need to sleep." She took her drink and disappeared into the bedroom.

Elnor watched her go, looked at the vials again, and then at the bottle on the table as he worried about what he was going to do now.