The walk down the pristine white hallway was more nerve-wracking than even he had anticipated. It seemed as though there was no one in the complicated complex, but his instincts told him otherwise. For some reason he just couldn't see or hear others, and that thought kept his senses on edge without making it obvious he was nervous.

His eyes keenly registered every minute change in the wall's structure and color as he passed, and though he was only barely able to, he restrained himself from reaching a hand out to the subtle imperfections. Though rare, perhaps they were holo-projection walls, covering a doorway so as to deter random passers-by from looking in. Making his way through such a state-of-the-art facility, though, he didn't immediately dismiss the idea.

Finally reaching the door he was instructed to enter through, he paused briefly, taking a moment to gather himself before he met his newest employer. He had previously arranged the deal through encrypted messages, and only after successfully completing his first mission was he able to make a more personal approach. He almost regretted agreeing to the job, but he had somewhat remedied his issue he had with it. He idly wondered what kind of trouble he was going to get for it.

Releasing a slow breath, he pressed the panel to open the door and stepped inside. A pair of anonymous armed guards stood just beside him, but surprisingly they remained motionless. Though curious why a scientist required such a guard, he watched them warily as he passed, moving on into what looked like a cluttered lab.

Dozens of organized containers and tubes lined table after table, and what free space there had been was taken up by strange equipment and tools. Scientific projects and research were as foreign to him as politics and etiquette, so he was far from his comfort zone, nevermind having to be somewhere he wasn't familiar with. He almost always had an escape route planned wherever he was, but deep within such a fortified complex, he had few options. He had to go through with the meeting to its end.

Behind a tower of intricate equipment sat a spiky blond-haired man, hunched over a small display. Based on the man's white lab coat that hid a thin frame and a sharp, defined face, he knew he had found his new boss. The doctor set down his tool he had in his hand as he silently turned to face him, his hard gaze expectant.

After a brief moment, he reached into his pocket and pulled a few vials from his pocket, setting them on the table beside the tools. The doctor looked them over, his eyebrows arching as he counted them, fingering the lone silver one between two filled with black liquid.

"I specifically recall requesting both samples."

Though he knew he was testing fate, he lied. "One got lost in transit, sorry. You should send an assistant with me next time. I'm not very organized."

The doctor leveled a piercing glare at him, seemingly having seen through his false report. He returned the glare, though, not backing down from his choice, and the doctor continued after a long silence.

"Indeed. I assume it's effective?"

He hesitated. "...Mostly, yeah."

The doctor's eyes narrowed even further. "Explain."

"I'll let you and your science buddies figure it out, but yeah, for the timeframe I was given, it works. Do you have what I asked for?"

The doctor maintained his cold stare for a few long, intense moments, but he eventually nodded and out of nowhere, an assistant appeared from behind a shelf, handing him a datapad.

"She was a very difficult woman to track down. Apparently even before her husband was killed, she didn't want anybody to find her."

Taking the datapad, he looked over it, doing his best to hide his surprise. "...husband?"

"All on that datapad," the doctor answered uninterestedly. "As per our agreement, you will have no contact with her until we say otherwise. As a favor for you, we...acquired a property on Malastare near hers. The Huxnel's reach cannot extend into our territory, so they cannot touch you there, and for our trouble, a few of my associates will always be on hand to contact you when we need you." Pausing momentarily, the doctor studied his expression. "...Is there a problem, Mr. Sheridan?"

Blinking himself out of his daze as he clicked through the datapad's information, Horatio shook his head. "No...no problem, Dr. Tzymo."

"Good," he responded quickly. "As we speak, your ship is being stripped and sold for parts. If any request we make of you requires the use of transport, weapons, or other equipment, it will be provided to you. Contact with anyone with whom you have worked recently is strictly limited and will be monitored. You will be credited a monthly allowance that will be more than enough to sustain you if you spend wisely, and I suggest you do. I take care of my people, Mr. Sheridan, but for that I demand unyielding loyalty. If you cross me, as you have your previous employers, believe me, there are things far worse than death."

Allowing his threat to sink in, Dr. Tzymo continued with a lighter tone as he moved his gaze about his lab as though in thought. "I am a man dedicated to education. If you are dead, you cannot learn, and everyone can learn something from a simple scientist like me."

Another assistant appeared beside Dr. Tzymo, handing him a second datapad. Without even looking at it, he passed it to Horatio, his voice cold once again. "Your next assignment."

Reading its contents, Horatio felt his stomach turn to ice. Anything but this...

"...you're sending me back there?"

Dr. Tzymo nodded. "Eventually. We'll inform you when you're to report to your contacts there. More details will follow later, as well. For now, I suggest you take the time to evaluate your actions." Turning in his chair to face him, Dr. Tzymo stood up, his lanky frame just taller than Horatio's. His icy glare was penetrating, but Horatio held his own. He had been threatened by street thugs more intimidating than the wiry scientist, but as Dr. Tzymo continued, Horatio felt the weight of his words.

"If you ever defy my orders again with a laughable attempt at heroics you thought you could get away with...there will be consequences. Am I understood?"

Horatio's eyes narrowed, but instead of firing off his patented wit, he conceded...for now.

"Yeah. Got it."

Dr. Tzymo returned to his table after an intense silence, waving him away with a bony hand. "My men will take you to our hold on Malastare, where you're to stay until I give you the order."

As the armed guards who had earlier paid him no mind herded him away, Dr. Tzymo spoke without looking back up.

"Rest well, Mr. Sheridan. You're going to need it."