This is a story in the Blood Ties universe. All characters from the Star Trek, Forever Knight, and Highlander universe belong to their prospective creators. The actual Blood Ties universe and the original characters were created by a group of people who write the stories, which I am, obviously, one of <g>.

Many, many, many thanks to Denise, my beta-reader. If it hadn't been for her suggestions, attention to detail, and just plain nagging for me to write more, you wouldn't be reading this story...

This takes place after the story Ancient Whispers, and after the series ender of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact, I believe Denise and I decided that this story takes place between 'Generations' and 'First Contact'.


Moonshadow in Obsidian
by Ninjababe

"I'm sorry, but it's for your own protection," Stephanie stated, looking apologetic. "We've received word of threats against your life."

"If it's for my own protection, why can't I be let out with members of your security forces as protection?!" the Lindurian exclaimed, outraged. "And threats from who?!"

"I do apologize, Minister Amordan, but I only know of the threats, not who makes them. The Moria security force has their hands full with the conference coming up. We have informed your government of the threat against your life, and they are bringing you more men to supplement your personal guard. Until that time, you may leave the cell if you wish, but the Imladrin government will make no guarantees for your personal safety other than the guarantees made to all of our visitors."

"And what guarantee is that?" the minister asked.

"If harm should befall you, we will prosecute the offender to the fullest extent of our laws," Stephanie replied.

"But, I could be dead!"

"I'm sorry, sir, but that is the only guarantee I can give you outside this cell. It is, however, your choice."

"I want to speak to your superior!"

"I would contact my superiors, sir, but they are now investigating the threats against your life."

The Lindurian glared. "Then, I'll stay here until my bodyguards arrive."

"As you wish," Stephanie said with a bow of her head before she turned and left the detention cell block of Moria spaceport.

"So, who's trying to kill him?" the guard watching the security monitors asked after the door to the monitoring lounge slid shut behind Stephanie.

"Someone in the brawl he was in said he was going to kill our friend here while the fight was being broken up," Stephanie said with a grin before shrugging. "For all we know, he could be serious. Even if he wasn't, the Imladrin government doesn't like it when someone uses their diplomatic immunity to cause trouble."

"Sounds like this trick has been used before," the guard replied with a grin of his own.

Stephanie shrugged again. "When you've been in the business as long as the boss has, you learn a few tricks. Or, so she says. Now, I have to go make my report. Good luck watching him." As she was about to leave the room, she turned back to the guard. "Oh, and you might want to test all the incoming food and drink. I'm sure he's going to have a fit over the food we serve here. Even if this is only semi-serious, it doesn't mean there can't really be someone out there who would want to kill the Minister."

"Sure," the guard said with a nod as Stephanie left the room and locked the door behind her.

After walking the halls of the station for a few minutes, she came to the main transporter room. After identifying herself to the security system through a DNA match by placing her palm on the glowing plate beside the door, she entered the room and nodded to the two security guards guarding the doorway before turning to the transporter technician. "I need to be transported to the surface. The governor's residence actually."

"Yes, ma'am," the technician replied with a nod of his head. "If you would just place your palm on the pad in front of my station so I can get a DNA confirmation to make sure you have clearance to go to the upper continent."

Stephanie did as she was told, even though she and the technician had worked together in the past. "Still on your toes, eh, Trent?"

"Of course," the technician said with a grin. "Ready to go whenever you are."

Stephanie nodded and raised her hand to her ear to turn her headset communicator on. "This is Stephanie MacAlpine. I'll be on the surface if I'm needed." She then pushed the microphone part of the headset down and under her hair before nodding to the transporter technician. "Okay, I'm ready."

"Then step on up to the pad, and I'll send you on your way," the technician said with a grin as he set the controls.

Stephanie walked the few steps to the transporter pad and waited to be sent to the surface. A few moments later, she was standing in the courtyard in front of the governor's mansion.

Quickly walking forward, she threw the front door open, grinned, and called out, "Honey, I'm home!" When no one answered her exclamation, she pouted for a moment, then went off to find the others.

She quickly searched the main floor and found the others in the library. After hugging her sisters quickly, she turned to LaCroix.

"You're late," was his only greeting.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm lucky to even get here, LaCroix," Stephanie replied. "Let's just say I think that diplomatic immunity is more trouble than it's worth sometimes." She quickly raised her hand. "And yes, I know that we must give diplomatic immunity to diplomats and delegates if we wish to receive it when we travel out of the system. So, just let me grumble a bit every once in a while, and I'll be fine."

"Sounds like you need a vacation," Triona said, slightly concerned.

"Don't we all?" Lauren muttered.

"Oh, I'm taking a vacation. As soon as this trade conference is over with. Until then, I'll just have to try not to snap too much at everyone," Stephanie said with a smile.

"I take it we haven't come across any major problems with the conference?" Methos asked from the sofa he was sprawled on.

"Security is as tight as I can get it. The only weapons allowed in the area sealed off for the conference are those who have been cleared before the conference begins by Lauren, Triona, and me. We're still being petitioned. The security detail is only going to be wearing their swords, so that there is no chance of an attack by energy weapons. I've also placed guards on all the transporters, both the public and the ones for Imladrin usage. This is of course, in addition to our usual security measures. Can anyone think of anything I've forgotten?" After a few moments of silence and shaking of heads, Stephanie sighed in relief. "Good, then I can blame all of you when this all goes to hell," she added with a grin.

"What makes you think it will 'go to hell', as you put it?" LaCroix asked over the protests of the other women.

"I don't. I'm just planning for it," Stephanie replied. "And, that's the security detail."

Triona leaned forward in her seat. "Well, we have numerous governments coming to this conference. The Federation as a whole, then multiple systems from within the Federation are coming. And, we also have the Romulans and Klingons." Triona paused and turned to Lauren. "I do hope you put those delegates as far apart from each other as possible."

"Of course I did!" Lauren replied, affronted.

Nodding, Triona continued. "And, there is a Ferrengi delegation..."

"I'm starting to think the whole galaxy is coming here," Lauren interjected. "And I get the glorious job of making sure their quarters are all to their personal liking."

"You're supposed to delegate," Terese replied.

"I do! It just means that whatever is left over is the stuff nightmares are made of. You ever try to make four different gravity shelves on the same level just so that the delegates are comfortable? It ain't no picnic," Lauren snapped.

"Ladies, ladies!" Methos said to stop the developing fight. "Calm down."

"Ah, just like old times," Sarah said with a broad smile.

The weekly meeting continued, the upcoming trade conference taking up most of their time.

"It's going to be dark soon," Triona said after the business part of the weekly meeting was taken care off, looking through the window and towards the sun low in the blood-red sky.

"I miss a blue sky sometimes," Lauren replied.

"Me too," Stephanie said, sipping from the wine glass in her hand. "Although, the fact that I can at least see a sunrise and sunset here makes it bearable."

"Are you and Lauren staying tonight?" Triona asked.

"I would love too. I haven't seen you guys more than a few hours for the last month," Stephanie said. "But, I think I'd better be on the station, just in case."

"Me too," Lauren added with a sigh. "Remind me to never volunteer to be a station administrator again."

Stephanie put her wineglass down on a side table. "In fact, I better get back. I said I'd give Roland the next few days off."

"I never did find out why you chose him for your second-in-command," Methos asked, coming up behind the three women, who were still gathered around the window watching the sunset.

Stephanie shrugged. "He was my best applicant. He had all the experience and the requirements. And, since he's immortal, I don't have to worry about him dying on me when I just got him trained."

Methos though for a moment, then nodded as he wrapped his arms around Triona's waist. "All valid arguments. You're actually turning into quite a responsible young woman."

Stephanie stuck her tongue out at the immortal. "I would love to stay and trade verbal barbs with you, Methos, but I have to get back. I'll see you guys next week!" She said the last to the room at large as she left with a wave of her hand.

"Steph, wait!" Lauren called as Stephanie got to the doorway. "I'll go with you."

Stephanie paused to wait for Lauren to say her good-byes. The two then walked down hall toward mansion's transporter room.

Lauren turned to the technician on duty as she entered the room and smiled, "Evening, Charles."

"Lauren, Stephanie," Charles said with a grin and a nod.

"If you could send us up to Moria?" Stephanie asked.

"Sure thing," Charles said. "Just step up to the pad, and I'll contact the spaceport to inform them of your arrival."

Charles talked quietly to the technician on Moria for a few moments, then fiddled with his controls. "See you next week," he said as he activated the transporter.

The next Stephanie knew, they were in the transporter room of the Moria spaceport. After getting off the pad, she pulled her communicator microphone back from under her hair and turned it on. "This is Stephanie. I'm back on the station. Anything I need to take care of?" After getting a denial, she continued. "Then, I'll be going to the security office. Tell Roland I'm on my way."

"So, see you around," Lauren said with a grin.

"Yeah, if not sooner, then when we start meeting dignitaries in a few days," Stephanie added with a grin of her own as she exited the transporter room with Lauren and they both went on their separate ways.

=====

"The first group of delegates from the USS Enterprise are ready to arrive," the transporter technician said to Stephanie, Lauren, and the group of security guards waiting. Stephanie moved to the back of the group and nodded to Lauren.

"Then, by all means, give them permission," Lauren said with a grin.

A few moments later, the shimmer of the transporter dissipated and the delegates arrived, along with Captain Picard and Counselor Troi.

"Welcome to Moria spaceport," Lauren said warmly. "I'm Lauren Rhodes, the chief administrator of Moria. This is Commander Roland Ballas, the second in command for spaceport security."

"Welcome," Roland, a tall, thin man with bright blonde hair, said with a smile. "I must inform you, before you leave this room, of the laws of this spaceport. The first is that you do no harm to other beings without their explicit permission. However, those of you and in your delegations with diplomatic immunity will, of course, retain immunity against this law. Your governments have all agreed in your place on abiding by our second law, even for those of you who retain diplomatic immunity. Do not try to go to the surface of any of the other moons or the planet of this system without permission from the governmental council. If you do, you will be restricted to the planet surface for the duration of your natural life. You should have been informed of this by your governments, but I wished to reiterate our laws so there is no confusion."

"Now, if you will follow me, I'll show you all to your quarters," Lauren said, gesturing toward the door leading from the transporter room.

"Captain Picard, Counselor Troi, if you would wait behind," Roland added. "There are matters I wish to discuss with you."

A few moments later, the doors slid shut behind the dignitaries, and Stephanie turned to the Captain of the Enterprise and smiled. "Hello again, Captain, Counselor."

"Ms. MacAlpine," Picard said with a nod of his head.

"Actually, it's Commandant MacAlpine, but just Stephanie will do," she said with a grin. "I just wanted to inform you that my government has granted shore leave to all of your crew. We only ask that they be informed of our laws before they come here."

Captain Picard and Counselor Troi looked at each other in confusion. "I don't think we understand."

Stephanie smile broadened. "I'm head of security for this base. I've found that it's much simpler in the long run if Roland, who is my second in command, is presented to the public, and I remain a shadow figure. It gives me more freedom of movement, and I'm not inundated with diplomats insisting on my personally taking care of the little annoyances they come across."

Picard nodded. "I can see how your way of administrating has its benefits. I also wish to thank you for your hospitality. But, I must ask, how do you stop people from using their ship's transporters to go to the surface?" Picard asked, curious.

"This section of transporters are for public use. They can't be set to go to any planetary surface. The transporters that can be set to go to the other moons or to the planet have a triple security system in place. And, we have a highly advanced detection grid in place for the system the detects anything that might be a transporter beam."

"The second group of delegates are waiting to beam down," the transporter technician stated.

"Would you like a tour of the base?" Stephanie asked the two Starfleet officers.

"I believe I'll wait here for the other delegates," Counselor Troi replied. "But, shouldn't you be here to greet the others?"

"I was here to meet the two of you. Roland is taking care of security announcements for the delegates. And, Administrator Rhodes will be returning any moment now to show the next group to their quarters. They'll then allow the next group to beam over. Coming, Captain?"

"Of course," Picard said with a nod as he followed Stephanie out of the room.

"I think we'll start with the Imladrin transporters," Stephanie said, gesturing down a hallway.

"I thought they were off-limits," Picard replied, puzzled.

"Yes, but you've been granted permission to visit the surface. We just have to register your DNA signature."

Slightly startled, Picard asked, "Why?"

"Minister of Defense MacAlpine arranged for your clearance. And, as this is your first visit to our home, this is the first chance we've had to register you," Stephanie answered before directing the lift they had just entered to the proper level. "You don't have to visit if you don't wish to, but you'll probably hurt Triona's feelings." Stephanie's voice made it clear that hurting Triona's feelings was not a good thing to do.

The rest of the trip to the restricted transporters was done in silence. Stephanie gestured toward a door marked 'Transporter Control. Access Restricted'. "Here's where we want. Just a moment, let me identify myself." After clearing her throat, she said to the door, "This is Commandant Stephanie MacAlpine, head of Moria security."

"Please place palm on lit plate for DNA match," the synthesized voice of the computer replied. After Stephanie did as she was told, the computer continued. "Primary match acknowledged. Minister MacAlpine, please place eyes up to lit panel for retinal scan." Stephanie leaned over and put her face in front of the lit panel on the wall in front of her. "Secondary match acknowledged. The purpose of access to the control center?"

"Registering of Captain Jean-Luc Picard for transporter access to Imladrin surface," Stephanie replied.

"Access granted," the computer said as the two heard the sound of a door opening behind them.

"Well, if you tried to break into the control center, wouldn't you go for the door beside the panel?" Stephanie said in reply to Picard's raised eyebrows as the two turned around and entered the control center.

"So, what is behind that door?" Picard asked, gesturing to the door beside the security panels.

"A wall, visual recorder, and an alarm," Stephanie replied as the doors slid shut behind the two. "Every time we've caught thieves who've broken into the door, they never even thought that the wall behind them was the actual control center."

"Your people value your privacy that much?"

"If not more," Stephanie said. "Now, the process of registering you is simple. You just have to stand where the line on the floor is painted. It'll match you with your pictures on file to make sure you really are Jean-Luc Picard and not an impostor. Then, when the panel on the wall beside you lights up, you'll just have to put your palm on it, it'll do a DNA reading, and we can continue on our tour."

"If I may ask, how did someone so young become the head of security for one of the most famous stations in the galaxy?"

Stephanie looked at Picard, then giggled. "I'm sorry, Captain, it's a personal joke," she said in apology for laughing. "I'm actually a bit older than I look. My family ages well."

"I... see," Picard replied, even though he obviously didn't.

A few moments passed in silence before the computer declared, "DNA match attained. Jean-Luc Picard is granted access to the planet Imladris and the moons of the system."

"Now that we have that formality out of the way, let's continue our tour. We can start at the top, with the area the conference is going to be held, or we can start in the middle, with the semi-reputable businesses. Unless you want to take a walk on the dark side and start at the underground areas, where the less-than-reputable businesses reside. But, if we do, we'll have to change your outfit and give you a weapon. Even security goes armed down there."

"I believe I'll skip the subterranean levels. And, I know if we start in the conference area, I'll be pulled off by some dignitary with questions they must have answered then and there," Picard said with an ironic smile.

"You and me both," Stephanie replied, bouncing a few inches in place. "So, the middle it is. Let's start at Obsidian. It's one of the major attractions of Moria."

"Yes, I've heard of it. A dance club, I believe?"

Stephanie laughed. "Not *just* a dance club, Captain. The Obsidian night clubs are said to be *the* place to be seen in the galaxy. And, since the club here on Moria was the first, it's also the most famous."

A few minutes later, they had arrived at the entrance of Obsidian. The door to the club was made of smoked black glass, as were the letters above the door. The wall surrounding the door and the letters were made of pristine metal that shined.

"I always have the urge to smear my fingerprints across the wall here," Stephanie confided to the Captain before opening the door. She paused after the door shut behind them to allow Picard's eyes to adjust to the darkness.

"Do all the clubs have the same policy, or only this one?" Picard asked a few moments later, nodding toward the brass plaque beside the doorway leading from the foyer and into the heart of the club, which read 'Synthahol is not served in this establishment. All drinks are made with real alcohol, and the management takes no responsibility for the reactions of its guests.'

"You mean you've never heard of Obsidian's wine cellars?" Stephanie said, slightly shocked. "They're galaxy renowned! If you play your cards right, I might be able to get us a bottle of Carnellian claret, 2348."

Picard just stood there, stunned at the chance of being able to taste such a rare wine. A few moments later, he asked, "They actually have that vintage here?"

Stephanie nodded before turning toward the doorman manning the inner doors. "Hello, Derek."

"Ma'am," the doorman nodded in reply. "Miss Janette is in if you came to speak to her."

"Thanks," Stephanie said. "Your eyes adjusted enough?" she asked Picard.

"Yes. If you're ready?" the Captain said, gesturing for Stephanie to proceed him.

Leading Picard into the club, Stephanie crossed the room and went around one of the four columns that made up the corners of the dance floor. Waving to the two women in a booth on the back wall of the club, she turned to Picard, "Looks like the owner of the club has company." Not waiting for his answer, she continued to where the two women were sitting. "Janette, Triona."

"Jean-Luc," Triona said to the captain with a broad smile.

"So, this is the dashing captain I've heard so much about," Janette said, looking Picard up and down.

"Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation ship USS Enterprise," Picard replied with a bow of his head.

"I *am* sorry!" Stephanie exclaimed. "I should have introduced you! This is Janette, one of the owners of the Obsidian nightclubs, and the manager of this particular club."

"Please, Captain, join us," Janette said, gesturing for him to sit next to Triona.

"It seems, Janette, that the good captain here has an appreciation for fine wines," Stephanie said with an innocent smile.

With a laugh, Janette shook her finger at the younger woman. "Now, now, now, petite, I know you just want the key to my cellar. However, that was a nice try. I need to return these data pads to my office anyway. I will bring us all a drink." So saying, Janette gathered the pile of papers that had been sitting in front of her and retreated into the private area of the club.

"It is good to see you again, Jean-Luc," Triona said.

"And you. Commandant MacAlpine here has been showing me a bit of the base here," Picard replied.

Stephanie rolled her eyes. "I told you, Captain, call me Stephanie. I only make people I don't like call me 'Commandant'."

"Then, you must call me Jean-Luc," Captain Picard replied.

"Thanks. Now, I better go see what is holding Janette up," Stephanie said as she pushed herself off the wall she had been leaning on.

Stephanie went off to find the older vampire, who she located in the back, behind the one way glass that made up one of the walls of the club.

"You say she likes this mortal?" Janette asked after Stephanie had shut the door marked 'Private' behind her.

"Yes. She talks about him a great deal. Especially after that experience with the alien probe they shared."

"Let's hope he feels similarly. She has been troubled lately. And, if he can lessen her unhappiness, then I will welcome him with open arms. But, if he hurts her..."

"You'll have to stand in line, Janette. And I think Methos, LaCroix, and I will all be fighting for the first position," Stephanie replied.

"Let us wait a few more minutes so they can catch up."

"Actually, I was wondering... Do you really need Triona here today? He's been given access to the planet, and if we work it right, we can get them both down there."

Janette looked shrewdly at the younger vampire. "You have an idea, petite, don't you? This isn't an elaborate scheme, is it?"

"No, nothing like that," Stephanie denied with a shake of her head. "I'll go out, say that you wish to speak with Triona. Then, you prod her into taking Picard to the surface while I develop an 'emergency' that needs my immediate attention. Voila! Instant togetherness."

"Yes," Janette said, nodding thoughtfully, "That could work. Take his drink to him, would you?" she said, gesturing toward the glass resting her desk.

"You weren't planning on giving me any at all, were you?" Stephanie pouted.

"Not now, my dear. You know I give you free drinks anytime you come in here. But, if you are to be pulled away for an emergency, do you really want to leave a drink behind?"

Stephanie sighed. "Waste not, want not, I guess." She picked the cut crystal wineglass up and exited the back area.

Arriving at the booth, she carefully put the half-filled glass in front of Picard. "Here you are, Jean-Luc. Triona, Janette needs your help in her office for a moment."

"Of course," Triona said, giving her sister a sharp look as she slid out of the booth and stood up. "I'll be back shortly," she added to Picard, who was just siting back down.

Sliding into the booth across from the Captain, Stephanie smiled. "See, I said I'd get you the claret."

"Thank you," Picard said as he sipped his drink with obvious delight. He paused as if considering his next words. "I do not mean to pry, and you don't have to answer, but are Triona and you related?"

"We're cousins. In fact, when my parents died, Triona took me in. She's my best friend," Stephanie said, slightly unfocussed. After giving herself a little shake, she grinned at the Captain. "Actually, I think that if it wasn't for her, I would have either ended up in prison or at least on the run from the law. Now, I am the law."

"I don't understand," Picard said, perplexed.

"I have a very wide mischievous streak," Stephanie replied. "Triona has done quite a bit in helping me tone it down."

"Tone it down?" Triona said with a snort as she came up behind the vampire.

"Yes, tone it down," Stephanie replied with an unrepentant grin. "You don't see me smudging fingerprints all over Janette's pristine walls, do you?"

"Because, little one, you know that I would end up doing something very unpleasant," Janette said as she also came back to the booth.

"Like that ever stopped me in the past," Stephanie replied with a grin.

Triona shook her head as she turned to the captain. "I've been told that your clearance to visit the surface of Imladris has been arranged. I'd love to show you my home-world, Jean-Luc."

"I'd be honored to join you," Picard replied, obviously pleased.

"You three go and have fun," Janette said, shooing them off with her hands. "I have much work to do before I open tonight."

"Coming, Steph?" Triona asked.

"Sure!" Stephanie replied with a grin. However, her grin was cut short as she raised her hand to her ear and pushed the microphone of her communicator up under her hair. "Go ahead."

"You're needed in the medical bay," an unknown male voice said over the channel.

Stephanie sighed. "I'll be there shortly."

"Problem?" Triona asked with an upraised eyebrow.

"Nothing I can't handle," Stephanie said with a smile. "Looks like you'll have to continue the tour without me though."

Triona and Picard had reached the inner doors before Triona said something and came back by herself, the captain waiting for her just inside the doors.

"Don't think I don't know what you two are doing," Triona told her two friends.

"Who, us?" Stephanie said, looking completely innocent.

"Yes, you. You know that look doesn't work on me, Stephanie," Triona said before her stern look softened. "Thank you, though."

Stephanie grinned. "No problem. Now, go on, enjoy yourself."

The two vampires watched Picard and Triona leave the club.

"So, little one, would you care for that drink now?" Janette asked, picking up Picard's mostly empty glass.

"That was actually a real call," Stephanie replied with a shrug of her shoulders. "It seems that Fate decided to play a part in our little conspiracy."

"So, there is a matter that needs your attention."

"Yes. And, I better get down to the medical bay. It sounded urgent. I'll see you later, Janette."

"Don't play too hard," Janette called out in reply.

Five minutes after leaving Obsidian, Stephanie was in the medical bay.

"Damn it!" she exclaimed. "You're positive it was poison?"

"Yes," the doctor replied with a sharp nod of his head. "Jerrad was poisoned. I'm surprised he lived as long as he did."

Face drawn, Stephanie stared at the prone body in front of her. "Was he able to say anything before he died?"

"Just 'assassin' and 'Beltresian'. That was all," the doctor said.

"Contact Roland and tell him of the death," Stephanie said as she walked over to the doctor's office. "I'll be searching your database for something."

The doctor wondered what the head of security was up to, but went to do as she asked.

=====

"I take it there's a reason you had Doctor Pedictor call me instead of having you fill out the report? Or is this investigation something else you want me to add to my growing list of things to do?" Roland asked sarcastically as he entered the doctor's office.

"What?" Stephanie asked, still involved in what she was reading on the screen in front of her. "Oh, Roland! I'm sorry! I didn't mean it like that. Please, sit down, take a break."

"Then, what did you mean?" Stephanie's second-in-command asked as he leaned back in the other chair in the office.

"The man who was poisoned was working undercover for me. And, from this point on, you are officially the temporary head of security. You see, I just developed a once in a lifetime disease. Complete bed rest is the best cure. So, I am about to be sent to Imladris for an unknown duration."

"But why?" Roland asked, confused.

"I'm going after Beltresian," Stephanie replied grimly. "And, I don't want any problems with the conference security while I'm gone. Putting you in command is probably the best way to deal with that."

"Beltresian!? But why?"

"I believe Beltresian had him poisoned. His name was one of Jerrad's last words. Since my face isn't well known, I'm able to move freely around the lower levels."

"So, that's why you always make it seem as if you're just a regular member of the security force."

She started to pace the office as she told her second-in-command her plan. "One of the reasons. Besides, it's easier to keep a job for decades at a time when people don't know what you look like," Stephanie said with a grin.

"Wish I knew that before I agreed to be your public front. But, wouldn't the tour you gave Captain Picard put you at risk?" Roland asked, worried for his superior, and his friend's, safety.

Stephanie shook her head. "Nah. He just wanted a tour of the station, so you assigned one of the guards to him, who happened to be me. For all people know, I could have just taken him down there, where he met some high-ranking official."

"Okay, last possible trip-up. You're publicly known as a security guard. How are you going to explain the fact that you aren't helping with the conference when every available security guard is on duty?"

"Already sorted out," Stephanie replied with a grin. "I'm going to quit. There's a sealed report in our database already with my name stamped *all* over it. There'll be lots of speculation over what happened."

"When did you have time to learn how to hack computers?"

Stephanie grinned. "I have spare time every once in a while."

"What did happen? I mean, what's in the file?"

"Why spoil it? Let's see what rumors they come up with. After Beltresian is taken care of, we wait a suitable period, the file disappears, and I come back onto the force with you being all apologies. No explanations."

"It sounds like it will work. But, is it enough? I mean, don't we need more details?" Roland asked, concerned.

Shaking her head, Stephanie replied. "I've found that it's the details that trip people up when they're undercover. Let rumor do the work."

"Well, you've been doing sort of thing longer than I have," Roland replied. "Haven't you?" he added, slightly suspicious. After all, Stephanie had never told him how old she really was.

"Yes, child. I've been doing this kind of thing much longer than you have," Stephanie replied with a grin as she patted him on the head. "Now, get out of here and get your side of this plan done with. I have to contact my family and tell them the news."

Seventy-four hours later, everything was in place and Stephanie was striding down the halls of level sub-C, looking for a good possibility for hiring as free-lance muscle so she could set up her background. Seeing a Ferrengi sitting behind a makeshift desk and surrounded by three large beings, one human and the other two of an unidentifiable race, she went up and looked him up and down. "You hiring?"

The man started to laugh. "I don't hire whores."

"Well, I'm muscle, not a whore," Stephanie replied coldly.

The Ferrengi snorted. "Right. Go try your tricks on someone else."

"You sign me own for a short-term contract. Say, two jobs? If you like my work, we do a contract for a longer amount of time," Stephanie replied.

"Leave child, before I make you leave," one of the men said menacingly as he towered above her.

"I do not hire those who cannot pull their weight," the Ferrengi replied. "Now, leave!"

"I'll prove it. I'll beat the man of your choice in combat, first blood." Stephanie looked confident as she made her boast.

"And if you lose, what do I get then?" the Ferrengi asked.

"What do you want?" Stephanie asked in reply, knowing with certainty how the Ferrengi would reply.

The Ferrengi licked his lips. "Then, you will work for me. Not as muscle, but as my whore."

Tilting her head sideways, Stephanie looked the Ferrengi up and down. "Deal. Who do I fight?"

The Ferrengi clapped his hands. "You will fight Lampresia."

The human member of the Ferrengi's entourage came forward and grinned, showing he only had a few teeth left. "That would be me. I'll make it quick, and I'll try not to ruin your looks. After all, he might let me have you after he's done with you."

"Whenever you're ready, Lampresia," the Ferrengi said with a negligent wave of his hand.

Lampresia lunged for Stephanie, who ducked under his arms and around to where she could kick him in the butt. "You know, you big brutes always think the same. You have no finesse." As she was saying this, Stephanie reached up her sleeve and pulled out a knife, which she threw so that it nicked Lampresia in the arm before he could turn and rush her again. "First blood, I win."

The Ferrengi, now livid, snapped his fingers. "Get her!"

The other two in the Ferrengi's entourage roared as they got up to grab Stephanie.

Stephanie didn't say a word as she easily dodged their attacks. Using her vampiric strength, she kicked one of them in the knee and left him to whimper on the ground as she turned to face her two remaining opponents. They circled around her in opposite directions. As they got into positions that were directly opposite of each other with her in the middle, they rushed Stephanie, thinking to trap her between them.

Stephanie didn't even need her vampiric agility to dodge the two, and they were both knocked unconscious after knocked their heads together. Staring at the three men on the ground, she shook her head. "Never mind. I don't want to be part of an outfit that doesn't have any brains."

Turning away, she sedately walked down the corridor.

"Very impressive display, sister," a voice said from the dark.

Slowly turning toward the voice, Stephanie replied, "Pardon me?"

"You showed that you could take on three beings larger and supposedly stronger than you and win," a man with blond hair said as he came out of the shadows.

"Your point?" Stephanie asked, wondering what he was up to.

Shaking his head, the man asked. "No point, sister. Just that you obviously know what you are doing."

"Why do you call me 'sister'? I'm not related to you."

"Could you be too young to be able to sense your own kind?" The man asked before his eyes turned golden.

"So? That doesn't make me your 'sister'," Stephanie replied coldly before turning away.

"You should be nicer to your elders, child," the male vampire said, grabbing her arm. "I have the ear of a very powerful man who is looking for someone of your skills."

Glad that the lessons LaCroix had taught her on masking her age were working, Stephanie raised an eyebrow at the vampire, who she knew to be much younger than her. "Oh? If he's hiring prostitutes, I'm not selling."

"My name is Lindor," the vampire replied as he released her arm. "And, no. He's looking for a personal bodyguard. You would pose as his mistress while you guard his life."

"And my fee?" Stephanie asked, pretending to be concerned with money only.

"Don't you wish to know who you are protecting?" Lindor asked.

Stephanie shrugged. "I don't care. It's money I want."

"You'll be paid well, and fed well."

After a pause, Stephanie replied, "I accept the job. But, for a day or two only to start with. I always have a probationary period."

"Not so fast, child," Lindor said, laughing. "First, I must make sure you're not a spy."

"How're you going to do that?" Stephanie asked, pretending to be perplexed, but mentally preparing herself for what was going to happen next.

"You really are young, aren't you? Didn't the one who created you teach you anything?"

"She didn't stay around long," Stephanie said, her face wooden. "She says I was a mistake. Besides, how do you know I'm young?"

"I can sense your general age, and you can't be very old. The old ones do not use hand to hand combat or weapons. They all rely on their powers to help them," the male vampire said bitterly. "I require blood knowledge before I will accept you for the job. So, I will need blood. Give me your wrist."

With a sigh, Stephanie held her wrist out. "I hope you don't need much for this."

"A few drops is all I require," Lindor said before slicing her wrist open with his fingernail. After licking the drops of blood that appeared before the wound healed, he stood with his eyes closed. "Yes, you are who you say you are."

'Idiot,' Stephanie scoffed to herself. 'You can't barely tell what a person is feeling from a few drops, unless you've been taught well and are good at it. You're obviously trying to seem older and more impressive than you are.' She smiled at the man. "I do hope you'll teach me how to do that someday."

"Perhaps," the other vampire said. "When you are ready. Come, I will introduce you to Beltresian, your new employer."

=====

Beltresian, who's good looks covered an evil mind, looked Stephanie up and down. "You want this... girl... to be my bodyguard? She can't weigh more than a few kilos. I like the mistress part, but a bodyguard?! Don't make me laugh!"

"I saw her take down three brutes that were each twice as strong as her, with her bare hands," Lindor replied from where he was lounging against the wall.

"So, she was lucky," Beltresian said as he circled what he thought was just a young woman standing in the middle of the room.

Stephanie, feeling like a piece of meat, decided to interrupt the conversation. "If you try checking my teeth, I'll tear your hand off."

Beltresian's eyes widened before he began to laugh. "I like you, child. I think I'll keep you around, just for a decoration."

"She's also a sister of mine," Lindor said, his tone bored.

Beltresian's gaze sharpened. "Really?"

"Yes," Lindor replied. "She's not as old or experienced as me, but she's not bad." The male vampire then turned to Stephanie. "He knows what we really are. He and I have an agreement. He feeds me and I help organize his affairs."

"So, she used her special 'abilities' to take the muscle on? Not very impressive," Beltresian scoffed.

"Those three?" Stephanie snorted. "I didn't need anything special to take them out."

"She's telling the truth. She didn't use her superior strength or agility during that battle," Lindor said. "She's actually quite good. She even threw a knife with great accuracy."

"Why didn't you use your 'abilities' against them?" Beltresian asked Stephanie.

"Why use skills I don't need to? I keep my... 'abilities' as you call them... in reserve in case I need to surprise people later," Stephanie replied with a shrug.

Beltresian nodded. "Very well. I'll hire you on Lindor's recommendation. But, if you don't do a good job, I'll have you both thrown into an incinerator."

"Whatever," Stephanie said, shrugging again to show that the threat didn't bother her.

"You should know," Beltresian continued with a rather large leer, "all my 'mistresses' wear skin-tight, rather skimpy outfits. I do hope you can work around that."

"If I can make adjustments to the outfit to hide my weapons, no problem," Stephanie replied, mentally rolling her eyes.

"And, my dear, I must say, you will look smashing. With your pale complexion and dark hair..." Beltresian continued, turning the charm on.

Smiling sweetly, Stephanie replied, "I think you should know before you say any more... The last two men I tried to take to bed ended up dead." Eyes wide, Stephanie continued, looking saddened. "I can't seem to control my bloodlust in the heat of the moment."

Beltresian smiled lecherously. "Then you should know, my dear, I like to watch."

It took all of her willpower not to curl her lip and snarl at the man in front of her. "Don't I need to get outfitted?"

"Yes, of course," Lindor replied. "This way."

An hour later, Stephanie was wearing a skin-tight catsuit with clear panels positioned in the most inconvenient places. "I look like a stained glass window," she muttered to her reflection. "And this was the best of the bunch." Shaking her head and sighing, Stephanie patted the suit and looked at herself from the side and the front to make sure her knives and mini-phaser were unnoticeable. If she had been human, it would have taken her far too long to pull her weapons out of their hiding places, but having vampiric speed was a plus.

"Come on then," Lindor said from the back of the room. "Time to earn your food and your money."

"So, am I to act simpering or tough?" Stephanie asked as the two vampires walked to where Beltresian held 'court'.

"Somewhere between the two. He doesn't like parasites, but he also doesn't like his women to fight him."

"Got it," Stephanie said with a nod.

"Oh, and Stephanie," Lindor said, grabbing her arm to stop her progress down the hall. "He's the only one who knows what we are. Don't go blabbing it out to others. Anyone you feed from, you kill."

"From the few lessons I was given," Stephanie replied slowly, as if she was choosing her words carefully, "Telling mortals about us is forbidden. You put his and your life in danger."

"I made him fully aware of the danger. And now, you are part of that danger," Lindor said with a grin. "You know that he knows about us, yet you are now working for him, guarding him from any harm. Including others of our kind."

Pursing her lips, Stephanie looked angry, but nodded agreement. 'How the hell did you get away with being here for this long and we didn't pick up on it?' she asked herself. 'When I get out of here, I'm going to have to reevaluate our security network.'

They stopped before a pair of oversized doors that opened silently. Glancing quickly around, Stephanie's eyes widened. "It's like they recreated the set of Jabba's palace," she muttered to herself.

"What?" Lindor asked, having heard her clearly.

Grimacing for the slip of the tongue, Stephanie replied. "It's from a very old vid from Earth. I saw it once when I was a child. Jabba was a crime lord who's public room was something a lot like this."

Nodding, Lindor led her to were Beltresian was lounging on his dais.

'Stupid, stupid, stupid!' Stephanie berated herself as she followed the younger vampire. 'You just have to chatter to yourself, don't you?' Noticing the looks the others in the room were giving her, she quickly looked around to gauge who could be a problem in the future and possible escape routes.

When they reached Beltresian, Stephanie glared directly into the crime lord's eyes before looking demurely at the floor.

"So, my dear, you have finally joined me!" Beltresian exclaimed. "Come, sit at my feet."

Respectfully nodding her head, Stephanie did as she was told and sat down at the edge of the dais.

"Closer, darling, closer!" Beltresian said, waving Stephanie over to in front of him.

Smiling winsomely, Stephanie did. She had to forcefully stop herself from shuddering or flinching when Beltresian put a hand on top of her head and started to play with her hair.

The next three hours passed slowly, and Stephanie was bored out of her mind. Having already gone through all the possible ways in which to inflict pain onto the man fondling her hair, she searched her mind for something else to think on as she did periodic sweeps of the room for any possible attackers.

"My lord, a man in need of discipline," one of the door guards yelled out across the room as a thin, quavering man was brought in and thrown to the ground in front of Beltresian's dais.

"I'll deal with him later," Beltresian said, obviously bored. "Put him in a holding cell." The crime lord got up and pulled on Stephanie's hair. "Come along, my dear, let's go for a walk."

Stephanie growled low in her throat, causing Beltresian to snatch his hand back rather quickly. "I will suffer pretending to be your mistress," she whispered to the man, "But, watch your step. Don't go too far."

"If you kill me..." Beltresian started to threaten in a low voice.

"I won't get paid. Your point?" Stephanie replied, tilting her head to the side and shrugging her shoulders.

"Let's go for a walk," the crime lord said, leading the way out of his audience chamber.

They were met at the doors by two guards who fell into step three paces behind them.

Beltresian offered Stephanie his arm, which she took, resisting the urge to squeeze.

They wandered through the lower levels, Stephanie looking slightly vapid while Beltresian looked around what he considered his domain.

After an hour of this, they returned to Beltresian's residence and Stephanie was dismissed. "I'm going to be in private, with my loyal guards around me for the rest of the evening," the crime lord told his new bodyguard. "Enjoy your refreshment."

Stephanie raised her eyebrows at the last comment, but shrugged it off as she continued down the hall to her room.

'Oh hell,' she thought as the door slid open to reveal a bound and gagged human on the floor of her room, a note pinned to the woman's dirty shirt.

The stench of fear was almost overwhelming Stephanie as she took the note off the woman. 'Tonight's dinner. You *do* know how to use a phaser, don't you? -- Lindor'.

'So, he is using disintegration to get rid of the bodies,' Stephanie thought to herself with a shake of her head. 'And, of course, since I don't know if this room is bugged, I can't sneak her out or calm her down.'

With a mental sigh, Stephanie hauled the scared woman to her feet. On noticing the bound woman's tears, Stephanie stared deeply into the woman's eyes and felt the woman relax. 'I am sorry,' she thought before allowing the vampiric aspect of her nature out. The vampire struck quickly, wanting to end the woman's suffering as soon as possible.

The woman's blood made Stephanie almost giddy and she staggered back after drinking her fill. The woman's body fell to the floor with a thump as Stephanie tried to overcome the euphoria she felt.

'Damn, I forgot what draining someone can do to a girl,' she thought to herself after she had calmed down. Looking down at the body in front of her for a moment, Stephanie reached over and put the note back on the body. She then pulled out her mini-phaser, set it to its maximum setting before aiming at the woman's body and disintegrating her.

Stephanie went through the same routine for three days. She'd sit at Beltresian's feet in his audience chamber for the majority of the time, and the two would go for a walk for an hour every day. The nights were the worse, as she'd come to her quarters to find a tied and gagged human for her 'meal'.

On the fourth day, Beltresian received a message and went off to his private chambers. "You have the rest of the day off, my dear," he told his bodyguard. "I'm going to be in my private quarters till morning."

Nodding, Stephanie went to her quarters where she changed into a jumpsuit that allowed her to blend into the background when she wanted. She then went off to try and find a secure terminal so she could report in without giving her cover away.

After wandering around for two hours, she found a secure enough terminal and put the privacy lock on the cubicle. She then turned the terminal on and started a program she had activated when she had gone on this assignment. After a few moments, the screen blinked green, showing that the cubicle's surveillance devices were having a malfunction.

"Computer, connect me with the main office of Moria security."

"Connecting," the computer replied.

"This is Moria security, how may I help you?" the woman on the other end asked when the connection was secured.

"I wish to speak to Commander Roland. It's imperative," Stephanie replied, putting authority in her voice, her eyes never leaving the still blinking green border of the screen.

"One moment," the receptionist said with a plastic smile. The screen went blank as the receptionist patched her through to Roland's office.

Traci, Roland's personal assistant, came on the screen and started her standard greeting, "Commander Roland's office, how may I... Ma'am!" The woman was obviously not expecting the head of security to call in.

"Patch me through to Roland, *now*!" Stephanie ordered, still watching the green border, which was now blinking rapidly.

"Of course," Traci replied with a nod. A second later, Roland appeared.

"This better be good... I said not to disturb me while the conference was in session... Ste?!"

"Roland, shut up and listen," Stephanie interrupted. "I don't have much time, and don't use my name in case someone is listening on your end. Move in on the target in exactly forty-eight hours from now. I'll make sure he and the majority of his followers are in the main room. And, their guns will be empty if I have to drain them all myself. You understand?"

"Yes, I..." Roland began.

Having noticed that the border had stopped blinking and gone to red, Stephanie started to scream, "What the *hell* do you mean I don't get my pay!! You *owe* me!"

Roland paused momentarily before understanding. Pulling himself up to his full height, he said coldly, "If you are going to do nothing but scream at me, this conversation is over." The screen then went blank.

"Damn him!" Stephanie growled before kicking the wall below the communications unit, leaving a small dent. She then released the privacy lock on the cubicle and left, staring at the ground.

"So, this is how you repay your government. By working as a hired assassin for a known criminal," a male voice growled as a pair of boots came into Stephanie's vision.

Slowly looking up, Stephanie's eyes widened. "Worf."

"You're coming with me," Worf said, grabbing Stephanie's arm.

"Worf, don't do this," she hissed, pulling her arm out of the Klingon warrior's hold. "Get out of here now before someone gets suspicious and my cover's blown."

"You want me to believe you are undercover?" Worf growled out.

"Go back to the Enterprise, ask Captain Picard what I'm doing down here. But, *leave*," Stephanie replied, catching Worf's eyes and trying to force him to do what she wanted.

"No. *You* will tell me what is going on," Worf said as he grabbed Stephanie's arm again and tried to drag her down the hall.

"I'm sorry, Worf," Stephanie sighed before attacking the Klingon and shouting, "I told you, I'm not that type of girl!"

She then pulled a knife out, knowing that she now had the attention of at least a few people, and she had to make this seem real. Of course, Worf would help it seem real because he thought it *was* real.

Eyes narrowed, Stephanie started to slowly back away from the Klingon. "Just stay away from me," she said loudly, adding a derogatory remark in Klingonese, before disappearing into the crowd.

She went straight 'home' after that and was on her way to her room when she was stopped by Lindor. "I want to talk to you."

"Yes?" Stephanie asked, stopping in the hall.

"Where did you learn Klingonese?"

"What?" Stephanie asked, looking perplexed, her insides clenched. "Oh... the guy who tried to pick me up. I don't know the language, I just know a few cuss words."

"I see..." Lindor paused, staring intently at the woman in front of him. "Do you know who that Klingon was?"

Stephanie shrugged. "No, should I?"

"He's someone we need," Lindor replied, still staring intently at Stephanie.

"Never met him before today," Stephanie replied, looking straight in Lindor's eyes.

"Then, you won't mind bringing him to us."

Cocking her head to one side, Stephanie thought for a moment. "I was hired to be Beltresian's bodyguard, not to kidnap people. How much of a bonus do I get?"

Grinning, Lindor replied. "You can have him to toy with after we're done with him. That, and an extra week's salary."

"Done!" Stephanie stated, grinning. Inside, she was anxious, trying to figure out how to get Worf out of this situation. "When do I go after him?"

"He's already left the station. When he returns, we'll grab him then."

"Right," Stephanie nodded. "If you'll excuse me, I'm off to bed."

=====

'Time to start the endgame,' Stephanie thought as she sat at Beltresian's feet the next day. "May I speak to you in private later?" she asked the crime lord.

"Of course, my dear. Let's retire now, shall we?" Beltresian leered.

Stephanie rolled her eyes. 'Brother. He thinks I want to go to bed with him!'

After the two had entered Beltresian's private quarters, Stephanie wandered the main room while the crime-lord put the privacy lock on.

Before he could speak, Stephanie said, "I think you have a traitor in your ranks."

"Who?" Beltresian asked, suddenly all business.

"I don't know," she replied with a shake of her head. "I overheard some people whispering in your public room."

"I heard nothing!"

"You forget, sir, I have enhanced hearing," she replied. "The two were plotting to take the trade conference hostage, kill the delegates after receiving the ransom, and then framing you for it."

Beltresian picked up the cut glass figure he had been toying with and threw it across the room. Ignoring the crash and the resultant mess, he turned to his bodyguard. "They'll ruin my plans! We must kill them."

"I believe I would recognize their voices if I heard them again, sir," she said, looking thoughtful. "But, it is imperative that they don't suspect. They might disappear."

"Yes... They mustn't interfere with my plans," Beltresian mused. He then looked sharply at Stephanie. "But, why should I trust you?"

Shrugging, Stephanie turned to admire the shelf of art beside her. "You don't have to. Don't listen to what I say, it's up to you."

"Why did you warn me?"

"I'm happy with my... pay."

Throwing his head back, he roared with laughter. After calming down, he turned back to his bodyguard. "Tomorrow, I'll make attendance to my chamber mandatory."

"Perhaps you should find some excuse to have everyone but yourself, and perhaps me, disarmed. Less chance of things getting messy."

"You'd go unarmed?"

Stephanie tilted her head to the side. "I can guard you without my weapons, but I'd rather not. I might give away what I really am..."

"No, you'll be armed," Beltresian replied.

Before the conversation could continue, the chime meaning someone wished to enter the room sounded.

"Yes?" Beltresian called out.

"Worf has returned to the station," Lindor's voice stated over the intercom.

"Well, my dear, it seems it's time for you to earn your bonus," Beltresian stated before releasing the privacy lock.

Stephanie nodded before leaving the room and joining Lindor in the hall.

"He's at Obsidian," Lindor told Stephanie. "You're dressed well enough to go there. Let's go."

Groaning mentally, Stephanie followed the other vampire. 'It would have to be there. Janette is going to *kill* me if I'm the cause of a mess at her club.'

=====

"Here's what we do," Lindor said. "We'll be waiting here. You go in, get Worf, and come out again."

"I take it I have to come up with a way to bring him out?" Stephanie asked dryly.

"That's what you're getting the bonus for. Take all the time you need. We'll wait here for two hours, then come in after you," Lindor replied, gesturing to the two men standing behind him.

"And, if I get into trouble?" Stephanie asked, looking at the man guarding the door to the club.

"You're on your own. We have no one inside the club," Lindor said. "Now, get going."

Nodding, she went up to the front door of the club and waited in the line to get in.

One of the club's bouncers was walking up and down the line to keep order, and to find people that would receive preferred treatment. When he got to where Stephanie was standing, he looked her up and down before nodding. "You can go to the front of the line."

Smiling brilliantly, Stephanie replied. "Thank you." She then went to the front where the doorman allowed her to pass the propped open door into the foyer of the club. She could feel the beat of the music through the soles of her feet before she even crossed through the doorway that lead into the club. Passing through the light forcefield that covered the doorway to keep the sound in the club, she looked around the room, trying to find her quarry in the crowded room.

"Looking for someone?" A male voice asked in her ear.

Whirling around, surprised, Stephanie's eyes widened as she mouthed, "Methos."

"Come with me," Methos said, grabbing her hand and pulling her to the other side of the club, going through the thickest section of the dance floor. When they reached the other side, he only slowed down enough to slide a keycard through the lock beside the door leading to the private area of the club before pulling Stephanie into the back.

"We can talk now," he said after the door closed behind him and the sounds of the club were quieted by the forcefield all the club walls and doors carried.

"You could have jeopardized the whole thing!" Stephanie shouted, glaring at the immortal.

"Why do you think I pulled you through the thickest part of the club?" Methos replied. "Anyone following us would've found it hard to follow. Besides, I have people watching the crowd. They'll take care of anyone who takes too much notice of us."

"It's still too much of a risk," Stephanie replied, still glaring.

"It's too late now. So, why are you here? It was a bit of a shock when Derek radioed in that you were waiting in line. We formed a quick plan to cover your butt so we could pull you back here to have a talk."

Sighing, Stephanie said, "I do hope we're ready for the raid tomorrow. I really don't think I can set it up again."

"We've got everything ready to go," Methos replied with a nod. "But, what are you doing here? Isn't it dangerous?"

"I've been sent to kidnap a member of the Enterprise crew," Stephanie replied as she started to look at the crowd through the one way glass. "Their head of security, Worf, has something Beltresian needs for whatever he's up to."

"We know that maggot is after something or someone at the conference, but we haven't figured out what."

"He's out to assassinate someone, if what Jerrad said was correct."

"Jerrad?" Methos asked, not knowing the name.

"He was the last spy I sent to Beltresian. He was poisoned. I have a feeling Lindor, Beltresian's pet vampire, had something to do with it. That'll teach me not to send someone who isn't a resistor into an undercover job."

"You couldn't have known," Methos said, trying to comfort her.

"Yeah, but I should have at least tried to plan for that," Stephanie said before noticing Worf sitting at a corner table, glaring at the dance floor. "There he is. But, how am I going to get him out of here?"

"Let me handle that," Methos said as he turned on the communicator on the wall. After a brief conversation with a member of Janette's security force, he turned back to Stephanie. "He's about to be asked to a private meeting with the owner of this establishment in her office. Come on, we better get there before he shows up, or he'll see the secret door."

"Race you!" Stephanie grinned before starting to jog down the hall. The two slipped into Janette's office, causing Janette to raise an eyebrow. "To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure? And, petite, aren't you supposed to be working for some... 'slimeball' I believe Terese called him?"

"That's the reason I'm here, Janette," Stephanie said as she perched on the edge of the older vampire's desk. "I'm here to kidnap a man about to enter this office."

All three turned to the outer wall of the office, which was made totally of two way glass, and watched as a member of Janette's security led Worf and another man in Starfleet uniform to the door and waited.

Janette reached down and pressed a button under the edge of her desk, opening the door. After the two members of Starfleet entered the room, the door slid shut and Janette waved them into chairs. "Please, sit down."

"We'd like to know why we've been called in here," the man with Worf asked.

"Mr... Riker, if I remember right?" Janette asked, continuing after receiving an affirmative nod. "Mr. Riker, we didn't call *you* in here, just Mr. Worf."

"Why?" Worf growled.

"I'm here to kidnap you," Stephanie replied, swinging one of her legs back and forth, causing a repetitive thumping sound every time her foot hit the desk.

"What?!" Riker exclaimed.

"I have been ordered by Captain Picard not to interfere with your business," Worf replied, "But that does not mean that I won't defend myself."

"Listen to me," Stephanie replied, suddenly very serious. "I'm currently working on bringing in someone who's been a thorn in the security of this station, and this sector, for years. Every time we get close, he slips out of our grasp. However, in order to keep my cover, I have to kidnap you."

"Why do you think you have a better chance at catching him now. And, just who *are* you?" Riker asked.

"He's planning something," Stephanie replied. "We don't know exactly what, but he's overconfident, as if he thinks he's already won. As to who I am, I'm the head of Moria security."

"You are head of this base's security?" Worf asked, looking Stephanie up and down incredulously. "You're a fine fighter, but aren't you young for that responsibility?"

"A common reaction to when people see me," Stephanie said with a sigh. "I'm older than I look."

"They'll torture Worf when you bring him in," Riker stated.

"Maybe not," Stephanie said with a grin. "Not if he's drugged. He'll be so out of it, they won't be able to 'interrogate' him until it wears off. By that time, we'll have captured the lot of them."

"But, what will you drug me with?" Worf asked.

"Oh, just leave that to me," Stephanie replied. "Will you help?"

"It is up to my superior officer," Worf said in reply.

"Well, Riker?" Methos asked from where he leaned against the wall. "Does he have your permission?"

"I'll have to clear it with the captain," Riker said, raising his hand to his communicator.

"Stop!" Stephanie yelled, jumping up from Janette's desk.

Janette, who had been pretending to ignore the conversation, looked up from the work on her desk. "What is wrong?"

"They have open channels under surveillance. And, they'll be suspicious if you ask for a secure channel, considering you're in the same club as me and the person I'm kidnapping," Stephanie replied. "Do you have to have Picard's okay?"

"It's Starfleet policy," Riker replied, looking to the hand on his arm.

Stephanie removed the hand she had used to keep Riker from turning his communicator on. "Then, we'll just have to kidnap him without your permission. But, one way or another, I am taking Worf out of here. We can do it the easy way, or the hard way."

"Are you threatening us?" Riker asked stiffly.

"We're stating facts. The man we're after is planning something to do with the conference, and members of my family are there. We're not going to let anything happen to them if we can help it," Methos said as he pushed himself off the wall he was leaning on.

"You're going to make a mess of my club," Janette sighed. "I just know it."

"We'll keep the damage minimal if we can," Stephanie replied, not taking her eyes off the two Starfleet officers that were now standing on guard.

"But, we're representatives of the Federation!" Riker exclaimed.

"And, we're Imladrin," Methos replied. "Your point?"

"Sir, I want to volunteer for this," Worf said. "From what I have heard, it is a worthy cause. And, we were ordered to help the security on Moria in any way we could."

Riker sighed. "Then, go ahead, Worf. But, I'm telling the Captain about this as soon as I return to the ship."

"Which should be as soon as I pull Worf's unconscious body out the back," Stephanie replied with a grin.

Riker pointed at Worf, who was a good foot taller than Stephanie. "You're going to carry him all by yourself?"

Shrugging, Stephanie rummaged around the belt pouch of the outfit she was wearing. "I don't have to take him far." Pulling out a small vial, she handed it to Worf. "Here, drink this. It'll knock you out for a good seventeen hours."

"What if they try to revive him?" Methos asked.

"Wouldn't work," Stephanie replied, shrugging. "He'd wake up, but he'd be so groggy, he'd be useless."

Worf looked to Riker, who shrugged then nodded. Receiving tacit permission, Worf opened the vial and drank the liquid inside.

"How long does it take effect?" Riker asked.

"He'll be out in a few seconds, maybe a minute," Stephanie replied, taking the vial from Worf and putting it back into her belt pouch. "You should probably wait till after we disappear, then call the Enterprise in a tizzy fit to be transported back."

"'Tizzy fit'?" Riker asked, eyebrows raised.

"You're agitated," Methos replied shortly before turning to Stephanie. "You be careful, young lady."

Sticking her tongue out, Stephanie replied. "I'm not a lady. Say hi to everyone for me," About to turn away, she peered closely at Methos. "And, whatever's bothering you, we can talk about it tomorrow, when this is over."

"Nothing's bothering me," Methos replied stonily.

"Tell that to someone who doesn't know you," Stephanie replied before turning to watch Worf slump into his chair. "Well, time for me to get out of here."

"You sure you don't want help?" Riker asked as Stephanie put the unconscious Klingon into a fireman's carry.

"Wouldn't it look suspicious if I dropped him off with his superior officer helping me carry him?" Stephanie said with a grunt.

"Allow me to open the door, petite," Janette said, punching in the security code that opened the door that lead to the corridor behind the club. "Good luck."

Stephanie smiled. "Thanks." She then went down the hallway, bent over as if Worf was almost too much for her. When she heard the door behind her slide shut, she straightened and continued down the hall.

"That was quicker than we thought," Lindor said when she dumped the Klingon at his feet. "But, why is he unconscious?"

"Only way I could get him here," Stephanie replied with a shrug. "He'll wake up sooner or later."

Motioning his lackeys to pick Worf up, Lindor lead the way down the halls and toward the lift they had commandeered for this mission.

=====

After Worf had been secured to the bench Beltresian's men were using to hold the Klingon down, Beltresian turned to his bodyguard. "What did you give him?"

"Dythanol," Stephanie replied.

"What?!" Beltresian screamed. "He'll be out for almost a day!"

"It was a last resort!" Stephanie replied hotly, defending herself. "I tried everything else!"

"Sir, Commander Riker just asked to be transported back to the Enterprise. He sounded agitated," a man in the corner said before going back to the equipment he was watching.

Beltresian nodded then sighed. "No help for it now. We'll just have to wait till he wakes up to interrogate him. I'm tempted to take this out of your bonus."

"I wouldn't," Stephanie growled. "You said you wanted this guy. You didn't say he had to be awake."

"I'll think on it," Beltresian said in reply. "We'll retire for the night now. I'll see *all* of you in the public room tomorrow."

Stephanie nodded before hurrying to her room. Noticing that her daily 'meal' was absent, she shrugged. 'So, I'm being 'punished'. If they only knew...' Having had a few glasses of Janette's private stock was more than enough to tide her over till the next morning.

Pinching the bridge of her nose, she told herself she only had a few more hours to go before she could stop pretending she was less powerful than she really was. This assignment and the fact that she didn't like killing were starting to get to her.

She was getting ready for bed when the doorchime sounded. Quickly pulling her robe on, she called out, "Come in!"

Beltresian entered the room and looked around. "A little austere, isn't it?"

"I haven't had time to really buy decorations," Stephanie said with raised eyebrows.

Beltresian stared at his bodyguard for a moment before nodding. "I've decided to trust you, my dear. If you would get dressed and come with me, we'll talk in my rooms. We'll be more... comfortable." Seeing Stephanie hesitate, he added, "I have no intention of seducing you, my dear. For one thing, I still remember the warning you gave me when we met. I'll wait outside for you to get dressed."

Stephanie quickly put her clothes back on, curious as to what Beltresian was up to. She then left her room and followed the crime lord to his quarters.

After engaging the privacy lock, Beltresian waved a bottle at Stephanie to silently offer her a drink. "No, thank you," Stephanie replied with a shake of her head.

"I'm sorry. I had forgotten that your kind only like liquor when it's laced in blood," Beltresian replied before pouring himself a generous portion. "I bet you're wondering why you haven't received your meal yet... I wished to speak to you before you fed. Lindor has told me that you young ones usually fall into a deep sleep after feeding."

Stephanie nodded before replying. "Yes, he's right. However, I had something to drink at Obsidian, so it would be wasteful for me to have more. I'd never be able to finish."

"So, you don't fall into a stupor?"

"Only if it's fresh... Being bottled mutes the... intricacies of the blood," Stephanie replied, uneasy with discussing such matters with a mortal.

After a few moments of silence, Beltresian nodded. "I've only known you for a week, but the work you have done is quite outstanding. And, I've decided to trust you."

"After only knowing me for a week?" Stephanie asked, eyebrows raised.

"Well... I do have pictures of you feeding off of all of your victims and then disintegrating their bodies."

Stephanie stiffened. "You're blackmailing me, then?"

"No, my dear. Call it... insurance. I have no need to blackmail you, as you already work for me."

"I see..." Stephanie replied, forcing herself to relax.

"So, my dear, you should know at least the general outline for my plans. You know the trade conference that is happening here on Moria?"

"Yes," Stephanie replied, fighting to stay relaxed and not tense up again.

"Well, the Orion Syndicate wishes to use the conference as an opportunity to strengthen their influence in this system. I've been told that if I can assassinate a certain official at this conference, I will be promoted in the ranks. The assassin is already in place, and with the information I will receive from Worf, I'll even be able to assassinate some of the Federation officials that have been a thorn in the Syndicate's side for quite awhile and earn myself a bonus."

"Interesting idea," Stephanie replied, not wanting to seem too eager for details. "This assassination happening soon?"

"Not for a few days. It was scheduled for tomorrow, but I want to do all the killings at the same time to create more havoc. We'll have to wait for the Klingon to wake up for that."

Nodding her head, Stephanie held her tongue. Since they had a few days before the assassination attempts, she knew they had plenty of time to get the details out of Beltresian during his interrogation.

"So, you grew up on Earth?" the crime lord asked. "Is that where you were made a vampire?"

"Yes..." Stephanie replied hesitatingly.

"I just want some general background information on you, child. Get you know you a bit better," Beltresian said with a brilliant smile.

'Child indeed!' she snorted to herself before replying. "I was raised on Earth and lived there until my master decided the planet was getting too small to hide in. I followed her to the stars." She smiled to the man sitting across from her as she thought, 'The best lies are grounded in the truth.'

After a few more minutes of small talk, which consisted mostly of thinly veiled inquiries to Stephanie's personal life by Beltresian and her generally phrased answers, the crime lord stood up.

"I must get some rest for tomorrow. It's going to be a big day and all," he said as he released the privacy lock on the door. "I'll cancel your dinner for this evening, unless you've changed your mind?"

Shaking her head, Stephanie replied, "No... I can last till tomorrow."

"Then, my dear, good night, and I'll see you in the morning."

Stephanie hurried down the hall and went to bed, glad that this farce would soon be over.

=====

The next morning, Stephanie strode into the public room of Beltresian's domain and sat gracefully at his feet, as she had for the last week.

"I do so like that outfit," the crime lord said softly into her ear.

Stephanie turned and gave Beltresian a strained smile before turning back to watch the crowd. She had to resist the urge to pull on her outfit, which was the 'stained glass' catsuit she had been wearing the first day of her undercover assignment.

After an hour of watching, Beltresian leaned forward again. "Have you discovered the traitors yet?"

"Not yet," Stephanie replied with a shake of her head.

The same conversation happened over and over every few minutes for the next hour, and Stephanie was about to turn around and snap the man's neck.

Before she could growl "Not yet!" for what seemed the hundredth time, the over-large doors that were the only entrance to the room burst open and members of the Moria security force streamed in, shouting for everyone to freeze.

Stephanie quickly turned and pulled a phaser on Beltresian before he could pull his own weapon out. "I wouldn't if I were you," she said menacingly.

"You... you betrayed me!" the crime lord sputtered. "Who are you?"

"You may have heard of me," Stephanie replied with a grin as Beltresian's hands were being cuffed behind him. "My name is Stephanie MacAlpine."

Beltresian's face turned white what Stephanie said sunk in. Before he could reply however, he was taken away.

"Very... interesting outfit you're wearing."

Stephanie turned to glare at Methos, who was looking her up and down. "If you like it so much, I'll make sure to have one made in your measurements."

"No, no, that's all right," Methos replied, trying to stop himself from laughing.

Stephanie looked around the room. "Did we get them all?"

"No one got through," Methos replied.

"Even Lindor?"

Methos didn't recognize the name. "Who?"

"Beltresian's vampire lackey," Stephanie replied as she strode across the room.

"Why isn't this woman in restraints?!" one of the security guards asked as he stood in Stephanie's way.

"It's all right, Sergeant. She's with me," Methos said in reply.

"All right?! My orders were that all members of Beltresian's organization were to be restrained and taken for interrogation. Restrain her!" the sergeant ordered another member of the security force.

"Sergeant," Roland said as he came up to the group. "She's on our side."

"Sir?" the Sergeant asked, looking Stephanie up and down with obvious dislike.

"How do you think we were able to take so many of Beltresian's people?" Roland asked in reply before pulling the Sergeant away.

"Remind me to give that man a little talk later about who the authority figures of this system are," Methos muttered, his eyes glinting dangerously.

"You can't have it both ways, you know," Stephanie sighed. "You can either be a well known member of the government, or you can be the shadowy string puller."

"Let's see about that vampire of yours," Methos said, ignoring Stephanie's comments.

Shaking her head, Stephanie followed the immortal to where the prisoners were being rounded up. After searching the crowd of restrained beings, she growled, "He's not there!"

"We'll find him," Roland stated after hearing the situation. "It's not like he can hide forever."

"Come on," Methos said, pulling at Stephanie's arm. "LaCroix is waiting for your report."

Glaring for a moment at the hand on her arm, Stephanie followed Methos down the halls to the transporters that would take them to the surface.

After they had passed the security checkpoints and had materialized on the surface, Stephanie hurried through the front door of the family home. "He's in his study?"

"Yes," Methos replied before following the woman down the halls.

"So, you are finally home," LaCroix replied, his eyebrow raised at Stephanie's outfit.

"Don't you dare comment on it," Stephanie warned.

"Of course," LaCroix replied before looking at her sharply. "Why are you shielding?"

"Oh, sorry," Stephanie replied. After a few moments, she sighed in relief as she dropped the shields that hid her true age and abilities. "Beltresian had a vampire working for him, and I found it was easier to appear much younger than I am."

"Tell me what happened," LaCroix said as he motioned for her to sit down.

Half an hour later, Stephanie had told her story, leaving no details out.

"So, he's after someone at the conference. You didn't find out who?" LaCroix asked.

"No," Stephanie replied with a shake of her head. "But, from what he said, I have a feeling it's an Imladrin. He says the Syndicate wants a better hold on this sector, and we're the ones who control this section of space."

"As this is a matter that a concern for the safety of our whole system, I will personally oversee Beltresian's interrogation."

"I don't know if that's such a good idea, LaCroix," Methos replied.

"This... mortal is threatening my family and my home. And he is a mortal who knows about the vampire community," LaCroix replied coldly. "It is my place as the leader of this community to take care of the problem."

"Yes, but we want to get information out of him, not torture him to death," Methos pointed out.

Stephanie sat silently, letting the two ancients fight it out between the two of them. After a few minutes of very heated argument, LaCroix finally got his way.

"I would say wait till I could get a security detail to guard you on the station," Stephanie said with a wry smile, "but that would draw attention to you, and if there's anyone in this galaxy who I know could take care of himself, it's you."

"Your faith in me is touching," LaCroix replied dryly before crossing to the study door. "I'll go conduct the interrogation now." He then turned to Stephanie. "You rest here until I learn more."

"Sure, I can do that," Stephanie said with a grin. "I think the bathtub is calling to me..."

=====

Stephanie had just started to unwind when LaCroix contacted her.

"It's only been a half hour!" she exclaimed into her headset communicator.

"Child, I have had immeasurable years of experience at this," LaCroix reminded her. "You had better come up here immediately."

Noting the edge to LaCroix's voice, Stephanie quickly dressed in her usual black jumpsuit and dug around the trunk at the foot of her bed for her spare sword. Hanging the weapon from her belt, she then pulled on a cloak so that the sword wasn't obvious. She hurriedly walked to the transporter station, pulling her hair back into a ponytail as she went.

After she had materialized on Moria she hurried down the halls to the detention area of the base. "You figure out the plot?" Stephanie asked as she entered the room LaCroix and Beltresian were in. She glanced once at the ex-crime lord, who was slumped in the chair he was strapped to, no mark on his body.

"He's going to kill Triona," LaCroix growled.

Stephanie's eyes widened in surprise before narrowing in anger. "Who's the assassin?"

"He doesn't know."

"What?!"

Glaring at Beltresian, LaCroix continued, "His lackey, Lindor, hired the assassin. Only Lindor knows who it is."

"And, let me guess," Stephanie said grimly. "We don't have Lindor in custody."

"Exactly. Which means the assassination is going to go ahead as planned. It's almost a certainty that Lindor will contact the killer and give the signal to kill Triona."

"Then, she just got another bodyguard," Stephanie said as she moved toward the door. Before leaving the room, she turned back. "Did he say what method the assassin is using?"

"Since they can't be sure if Triona is a human or vampire, they're using disintegration by phaser."

Nodding, Stephanie left the room and started to move down the halls as swiftly as possible without drawing attention to herself. She soon came to the entry point to the levels the conference was being held.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," the sentry said as he and his partner drew to attention, their guns at the ready. "You'll have to leave. This area is restricted to the conference delegates and their personnel."

"Let me through," Stephanie replied, putting authority in her voice.

"You're not on our approved list," the sentry said. "Please leave before I am forced to arrest you."

Sighing, Stephanie raised a hand to stop the guard. "I'm Commandant MacAlpine, and if you wait one moment, I'll prove it." She then raised her voice, "Computer, access code Trafalgar Delta Culloden. Identify voice."

"Voice belongs to Commandant MacAlpine, head of Moria security."

"Would you like a DNA check?" Stephanie asked the two wide-eyed guards sweetly.

"No ma'am!" the guards said in unison.

"You were only doing your job," Stephanie replied. "May I pass?"

"Yes ma'am!" the guards said again in unison as they snapped to attention.

Hurrying through the door, she almost ran down the corridor till she reached the main conference hall. Slipping through the doors, she looked around, trying to find the Imladrin delegation or Roland.

Spotting the gold uniform of Starfleet security, she quickly went over to see if there was a familiar face she could ask questions. Seeing Worf against one wall and glaring around the room, she slipped over to him. "I see that you came out of your kidnapping all right," she said as she leaned against the wall beside the Klingon.

Worf started with surprise as he turned to face Stephanie. "How did you do that?"

Stephanie cocked her head sideways and looked slightly perplexed. "Do what?"

"You snuck up beside me, without me noticing. How did you do that?"

"Maybe I'll tell you later. Right now, I need to find the Imladrin delegation. Do you know where they are?"

"There," Worf replied, pointing to a section of the room near the center.

"I see them," Stephanie replied. "Thanks." She started to slip away, but stopped to smile sweetly at the Andorian who had turned to glare at the two for talking during the speech he was listening to.

She moved through the crowd quickly and silently, and most people didn't even notice she was beside them as she passed by. Stephanie was soon at the Imladrin delegation and stood beside Triona.

Turning to her sister, Triona raised an eyebrow.

"Your life's in danger," Stephanie whispered in Triona's ear. "Assassin."

Triona raised both her eyebrows.

"Is Roland in the room?"

Triona nodded before whispering, "Do you know who's after me?"

"We have the man who's behind this in custody. But, he used a middle man to hire the assassin," Stephanie replied before turning on her communicator. "Should have done this before, but I wanted to warn you." Lowering her chin to her chest, she spoke softly into her communicator. "Roland, this is Stephanie. There's an assassin in the room after the Imladrins."

After cussing softly for a few moments, Roland went to his communicator's general frequency. "This is Commander Ballas. Seal all exits to the conference room. I repeat, seal all exits. We have an assassin."

Stephanie was relentlessly scanning the crowd, looking for anything out of place. She noticed movement from the middle of the room and saw Roland quickly stride toward the podium.

"Excuse me please," he told the delegate speaking.

"At least he waited till she was finished with her sentence," Triona said dryly as Roland got up onto the podium.

"See anything out of the ordinary?" Stephanie asked.

"Not a thing," Triona replied as she continued her scan of the crowd. "Then again, there's over a hundred people in this room, and our assassin knows something's up now."

"I'm sorry for the interruption," Roland said to the muttering crowd. "But we seem to have a slight security problem. If everyone would remain calm and where they are, my men will do a quick scan. Thank you." He then jumped to the ground from the platform the podium was on and hurried over to the Imladrin delegation. "What sort of weapon are we looking for?" he asked his superior.

"Probably a phaser of some sort. Our source said that disintegration was the mode of death," Stephanie replied.

"It's going to have to be shielded and low on power to get through our security measures. Which means, they have enough for power for maybe three shots."

"But, any one of those can kill if it hits the target," Triona said dryly.

The three of them were constantly scanning the crowd during their conversation, and all three noticed Picard, followed by Worf and Riker, weaving his way through the throng of delegates to where they were.

"Is there any way we can help?" the Captain of the Enterprise asked when he reached the trio.

"Thank you, Jean-Luc," Triona said with a smile.

"What is going on?" Riker asked.

"We have an assassin in the room," Stephanie replied. "Trie, you need to get out of here."

"No," Triona replied with a sharp shake of her head. "If I leave, the assassin will just strike at another time."

Stephanie glared for a moment at her sister. "If you're gone, he won't have a target to strike at, and we can sweep the room without worrying about protecting you."

"And, if the killer escapes detection?" Triona asked.

"It may end up breaking some trade agreements, but we're not letting anyone out of this hall until the assassin is caught," Roland replied grimly.

"Triona, if your life is in danger, you must leave," Picard said forcefully.

"Thank you, Captain Picard," Triona said coldly. "But, *I* will choose when to leave my own conference."

"As you wish, Minister," Picard replied formally. "But please don't forget that while you are here, you are presenting a danger to the other members of this conference."

"I haven't forgotten," Triona said, her eyes snapping. She then turned to Stephanie, "Coming?"

Stephanie nodded as she put a hand on the hilt of her sword. "You might want to get your sword ready."

"Not till we're out of here," Triona replied. "Don't want to startle everyone."

"Please, take some of my men," Picard offered. "You are not equipped to take on attackers."

"Thank you, Captain," Stephanie replied, her voice like ice. "But our weapons and skills are more than adequate for any enemy."

"At least let us accompany you to the doors," Riker suggested, trying to smooth over the situation.

"It's a good idea," Roland interjected.

"Then, come on," Stephanie said before turning to push her way through the crowd.

The group reached the doors of the conference hall with no problems and passed the guards only after Roland gave the okay for them to be let past.

"I'll go help with the search," Roland said before re-entering the hall.

"Thank you for your help, Captain. But, Commandant MacAlpine and I can take it from here," Triona said, still angry.

"Sword, Triona," Stephanie prompted as she drew her own sword and started to fiddle with the hilt.

Nodding, Triona pulled her sword from the sheath that lay under her ceremonial cloak.

"How can you protect yourself with archaic swords?" Worf growled, incredulous.

"Oh, we'll manage," Stephanie replied as her sword transformed. The blade came apart in the middle to reveal the barrel of a gun and part of the hilt rotated to become a hand-grip.

"Your sword's an energy weapon?!" Riker exclaimed. "How did it pass through our security scans when you were on the Enterprise?"

"We have to *some* secrets, Commander," Triona said with a grin.

"And is your sword...?" Worf asked, gesturing to Triona's sword.

"You mean, is my sword a phaser-blade? No, Lieutenant. Mine is just a ordinary sword," Triona replied with a shake of her head while Stephanie raised a hand to her communicator's earpiece to activate it.

"Roland, I'm taking Minister MacAlpine to the surface. Contact me when you capture the assassin," the head of security said into her communicator's microphone.

"Will do," Roland replied.

Lowering her hand, Stephanie turned to the Starfleet officers. "Time for us to separate. Until later."

Triona nodded to the three men before following her sister down the hall.

"Wait," Picard called out. "I'll come with you." Everyone looked at the Captain in shock. "Before I hear objections, I have matters to discuss with Minister MacAlpine, and I have been given access to the surface."

"If you go with them, sir, your life will be in danger," Riker pointed out. "As that is so, I cannot allow you to go... alone."

Stephanie shook her head. "Picard is the only one that has been granted access to the planet."

"Can't you get access for one of us?" Worf asked.

"No." Stephanie and Triona denied together. "Impossible," Triona added.

"Then, Captain, I can't allow you to go with these two women," Riker stated formally.

"Well, then, Will, you'll just have to knock me unconscious," Picard said before striding down the hall to were the two women were standing, eyebrows raised. "Shall we, ladies?"

Stephanie and Triona exchanged looks before nodding. "It's your head," Triona said before she and Stephanie started down the hall again.

"Captain!" Riker called out, but Picard ignored him.

They were halfway to the lift leading to the transporter rooms when Picard saw the glint of metal in a supposedly empty corridor.

"Get down!" he exclaimed as the first shot was fired, pushing Triona to the ground.

"Stephanie!" Triona yelled, seeing a phaser blast hit the wall close to her sister's head.

Stephanie dived for cover on the other side of the hall and aimed for the assassin. "Crap!" she cried when a blast hit her phaser-blade.

"Is it still active?" Triona asked.

"No... it's dead," Stephanie replied in disgust as she dropped her weapon to the ground. "Our only long range weapon, and it's useless."

"Stephanie, you're going to have to take him out," Triona said as she slid her sword across the hall to the vampire.

"How can she?" Picard asked. "Your sword isn't an energy weapon like hers."

"Are you sure, Trie?" Stephanie asked as she picked the sword up, looking at Picard.

Triona nodded. "It's the only way."

"Okay, if you say so," Stephanie said before standing up from her crouch. Moving as fast as her vampiric abilities allowed her, she rushed up the corridor, sword in hand. When she reached the assassin, she hesitated when she saw what he was wearing. 'Starfleet?!'

Quickly overcoming her hesitation, she drove the hilt of the sword onto the assassin's wrist, causing him to yelp in pain as he dropped the phaser and his wrist broke. She then grabbed the man by the neck. Growling low in her throat, she pushed him up against the wall and dangled him by his neck.

The man took one look at Stephanie's face and screamed.

"Stephanie, you can let him down," Triona said softly, carefully putting a hand on her sister's arm. "We need to question him."

Still growling softly, Stephanie slowly lowered the man to the ground, but didn't release her hold on his throat.

"What was the plan?" Triona asked.

"I... I'm not saying anything," the man said, looking at Stephanie in wide-eyed terror.

"I'd talk if I were you," Triona replied in a reasonable tone. "Or I'll turn my back and let Stephanie deal with you. I can tell you that it won't be pretty."

"Minister! This is a Federation citizen!" Picard protested.

"Who has broken our laws on our soil and is subject to our modes of punishment," Triona replied in a steely voice. "We are well within our rights."

"I must protest," Picard exclaimed.

"So noted," Triona replied before turning back to the prisoner. "Now then, are you going to tell me what I want to know, or am I going to leave you to Stephanie?"

The man's frightened gaze jumped back and forth from Triona to Stephanie. Seeing that the women weren't bluffin, he began to speak hurriedly in a voice tight with terror. "The Syndicate said I was to wait in this hall, because it's the most likely way you'd take to the transporters leading to the planet surface. When I received word from my back-up that you were leaving the conference, I would hide, then kill you. Then, I was to contact my back-up to get transported to another section of the station where I would be hidden until I could be taken out of the system," the frightened man replied, still staring wide-eyed at Stephanie.

Triona nodded. "Solid plan. Who's your accomplice?"

The prisoner audibly swallowed. "He's with the Borminian delegation. Name of Kelbor."

"How much of this is him and not you?" Triona muttered.

"It's all him," Stephanie replied, her voice sounding as if it hadn't been used in awhile. "I'm too pissed to do anything."

"What are you two talking about?" Picard asked, perplexed and still angry.

"I'm sorry, Captain, that's Imladrin business," Triona replied. After pausing, she turned to Picard. "Jean-Luc, this is one of those things you'll need to pretend you didn't see." She then turned back to Stephanie and pulled the vampire's headset off, turned the mini-speaker on, then put the microphone close to her mouth. "Roland, this is Triona. We've captured the assassin, but he has an accomplice. Kelbor in the Borminian delegation."

"Problem," Roland replied after a moment. "That delegation insisted on diplomatic immunity for the whole group."

"Then get them the hell off this base," Triona replied. "They'll be informed by the Imladrin government that their government is now forbidden from this system until we can rule out that this was only one individual and not done with the government's consent. And, we'll need to evaluate all of the Borminians that have prior clearance to this system to see if they should continue to have access."

"Minister, is the Commandant all right?" Roland asked, concerned.

"Yes, your boss is fine. Who do you think is keeping the assassin under control?" Triona replied.

"Thank you, ma'am," Roland said before turning his communicator off.

Pressing the button that switched the communicator from mini-speaker to headphone, Triona draped the headset around Stephanie's neck. "Let's get... I didn't get your name."

"Nikels," the man replied.

Nodding, Triona continued, "Let's get Mr. Nikels here down to a detention cell."

Handing the sword back to Triona, Stephanie transferred her hold from the man's throat to his upper arm. Squeezing slightly, she nodded when the man's eyes widened again. "Just so you don't try anything stupid. Let's go."

The four traveled the halls, drawing looks from passers-by. On reaching the detention block, Stephanie handed Nikels over to the guards.

"Search him and put him in a maximum security cell," Triona ordered.

"Yes, ma'am!" the guard replied before dragging the prisoner down the hall.

"That man is not to be touched until I can report this to my superiors," Picard ordered.

"Of course not," Triona replied. "I wouldn't think of it." She paused as she began to leave the room. "Are you still accompanying us to the planet surface?"

"I wouldn't miss it," Picard replied as he followed the two women to the transporters.

After they had reached the surface, Stephanie was the first to open the door to the mansion and cross the threshold.

"Triona!" Methos exclaimed as he rushed across the room. He stopped suddenly when he saw Picard. "I'm glad you're all right," he continued stiffly.

Sighing, Triona nodded. "Yes. The assassins have been captured."

"He was a member of Starfleet," Stephanie interjected.

"So, the Federation wants this system so badly, they'll kill the current government to get it?" Methos asked coldly.

"My government had nothing to do with this," Picard said stiffly. This was as much a shock to me as it is to you."

"Then, Starfleet better start taking a hard look at their security procedures," Methos said frigidly.

"I'll make the suggestion," Picard replied, just as coldly.

"Well, I'm glad it's all over," Stephanie said with a sigh.

"Actually, Dr. Adams," Picard interjected. "I had hoped I'd run into you. I wished to talk to you and Commandant MacAlpine about the incident last night. I wanted to inform you that you didn't need to threaten my officers. We would have co-operated fully."

"You did *what*?!" Triona exclaimed.

"It became necessary," Stephanie said with a shrug, leading the way into one of the many public sitting rooms and sprawling across a chair. "I needed Lieutenant Worf's co-operation, but Commander Riker insisted he needed to get approval from higher-up. We couldn't allow communications because we knew they were monitored, but Riker was insistent. So, I said we'd do it with or without their approval."

"You shouldn't have done that!" Triona exclaimed.

"It was necessary for Stephanie to complete her mission. If she hadn't, she, and you, would probably be dead now. You'd know that if you actually thought for a moment," Methos stated, in a voice like flint.

Stephanie stared at Methos, wide-eyed at his tone of voice. At the most, he should be annoyed at Triona's protestations, not near a full-blown rage. 'Definitely something else going on here.'

"Now, see here," Picard replied, trying to stand up for his friend.

Jumping up, Stephanie brought everyone's attention to herself. "I take full responsibility. If we hadn't kidnapped Worf, it's possible that my life would have been forfeit. But, more importantly, we wouldn't have learned the full details of the assassination plot in time to save Triona's life. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, even if I *did* have to kidnap Worf for real."

Turning to the starship captain, Triona looked contrite. "I apologize, Jean-Luc, for any insult we have given you or your government."

Methos snorted before striding over to the drinks cabinet.

Triona glared at the older immortal. "I guess this is as good a time as any for me to tell you. I'm leaving the system for awhile. I need some space to think."

Whirling around to face his love, Methos growled, "A whole planetary system isn't big enough for you to think in?! Where are you going?"

"Since I have decided to travel to Earth, Captain Picard has graciously allowed me to stay aboard the Enterprise, as they are heading there next," Triona snapped in reply.

"I see," Methos said angrily, his face set, before storming out of the room.

Stephanie looked at her sister, who looked ready to cry, then to Picard, who stood in the background, looking grim. And finally, she looked towards the door Methos had stormed out of and nodded as she made her mind up. "Excuse me. Triona, I'll see you before you leave?" she asked as she got up and gave her sister's arm a reassuring squeeze.

After seeing Triona's nod, Stephanie quickly left the room in search of the oldest immortal.

"What the hell was that all about?" Stephanie asked when she caught up to Methos in the gardens.

"It doesn't affect you," Methos said quellingly before turning to leave.

"The *hell* it doesn't!" Stephanie yelled as she grabbed Methos' arm.

"Let me go."

"Tell me."

"Go to hell," Methos said coldly.

"I'll see you there first," Stephanie replied, just as cold. "What is going on?!"

Turning back to the vampire, Methos nodded. "Fine, you want to know? Triona wants to have a child."

Stephanie let go of Methos' arm, shocked. "I knew she was looking into it, but I thought it was just another one of her hypothetical situations."

"It's a reality. One of our scientists said it could be done. She just needs genetic material from Triona and whoever the father is going to be."

"She asked you, of course."

Methos glared. "I turned her down."

"Ouch," Stephanie muttered to herself.

After a few moments of silence, Methos shouted out, "It's all your fault she's going off system!"

"Excuse me?"

Methos glared. "You just had to get the two of them together so they could spend some time alone."

"Like they wouldn't have ended up together anyway!" Stephanie said with a snort.

"If it hadn't been for you, they wouldn't even have met up until the conference started, and there wouldn't have been time for their heart-to-heart!"

"Bite me!" Stephanie shouted back before she paused to think. "What do you mean by that anyway?"

"Picard's agreed to be the biological father of her child."

Stephanie's eyes widened. "Oh... What did LaCroix say to that?"

"He's all for it because it'll make Triona happy," Methos replied bitterly. "How is she going to feel when her son or daughter grows old in front of her eyes, then withers and dies?" He abruptly turned away from Stephanie and stared out into the gardens.

Stephanie put a hand on Methos' upper arm and forced him to look at her. "You're crying," she blurted, shocked.

"I just don't want her to have to go through that pain."

Sighing, Stephanie pulled the immortal into a hug. "You'll have to come to terms with it. I know Triona, she's made her mind up." She tightened her hold on the struggling man before continuing. "Listen to me, Methos! Don't think of it as a mistake. Triona will watch her child grow old, yes. But, she'll also have the joy caring for someone brings. Don't think of it as a mistake!"

"What if I can't?" Methos whispered dejectedly.

"I know you. You'll take one look at the baby and fall instantly in love."

"But..."

"No buts!"

After hugging a few more moments, Methos nodded and pulled away. "Thank you, Stephanie. But, I'd like to be alone for awhile."

"You sure?" Stephanie asked, searching the immortal's face.

Methos only nodded in reply before walking across the gardens.

Shaking her head, Stephanie wandered back into the house to find her own quiet place to think.

=====

"This is something I have to do. There's no other way to accomplish this," Triona said to her gathered family.

"Take care," Methos replied with no emotion. "But, perhaps you're leaving so you won't have to think of all the consequences."

Triona herself stiffened, but ignored the comment. She then turned to give everyone in her family but Methos a hug.

Stephanie sighed to herself. 'Those two need a good kick in the butt sometimes.'

"I'm... I'm ready to go," Triona told the transporter operator before stepping up to the pad.

After Triona had dematerialized, the family started to trail out of the room, and soon only the operator, Stephanie and Methos were left.

Putting an arm around Methos' waist, Stephanie started to pull the immortal out of the room. "Come on. Let's get drunk."

Methos raised an eyebrow. "You really think that will help?"

"I know it won't. But, it's either get drunk, or do paperwork."

"I prefer drinking," Methos said dryly.

"Thought you would," Stephanie said with a nod as they went down the street back to the mansion.

*****

The End!

Author's notes continued:

The energy weapon hidden in the sword wasn't my creation. I got it from an episode of 'Farscape'. I saw it, went 'oooooo!' and knew I'd have to use it.

Denise came up with the title of the story, the name of the moon, the name of the nightclub, and almost all of the other names used in this story. *Thank you* Denise!


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