Chapter 4: Somee
Where Xakais had attempted to pass himself off as a Vulcan, Somee had no such inclination. She wore the standard bowl cut and prominent silvery garb of a citizen of the Star Empire. Her work for the Tal Shiar rarely took her behind enemy lines, but her talent for code-breaking and tampering was the stuff of legend. More even than this was her incisive tactical mind. Xakais himself had been present to witness her best a Zakdorn at a game of Strategema. In just shy of 1000 moves she conquered her opponent. Such was her strategy; Somee always played the long game.
"I was unaware my life was in danger," Xakais began innocently. "Certainly I've met with the ire and suspicion of a few of Starfleet's most... tenacious pawns. But nothing I cannot handle."
"If you think you can insult my intelligence because of our friendship, you haven't known me long enough," Somee replied, folding her arms and leaning back against the chamber wall. "I know that Chairman Koval does not approve of your little crusade."
Xakais bristled at the name but shook his head. "Nothing I have done in any way violates the guidelines of the Tal Shiar, nor does it jeopardize our standing with the Federation."
Somee extracted herself from the wall and began to pace around the spartan accommodations. "It's not Koval who is likely to kill you. But Koval is the reason nobody will know you are gone. Except me, that is."
This was a peculiar sentence. It demanded further investigation, but doing so would only result in him tipping his hand further. Somee knew what he was doing here, obviously. Less so was whether or not she knew how he intended to go about it. How he loved the elegant dance of Romulan conversation. The steps and missteps, parries and thrusts, captures and losses. It was much like a game of Strategema, and Somee was no less skilled at it.
"I joined the Tal Shiar expecting to die in obscurity. You will have to do better than that," Xakais smirked.
"Oh, forgive me," Somee sighed. "You've dressed like a Vulcan so long I thought perhaps your mind had faded, but I did not realize it was completely withered. By you, I am referring to the work you are doing. Uncovering the grand conspiracy of Senator Vreenak's assassination."
"I see. So are you here to put a stop to that work, or to aid me?" Xakais asked. Admittedly this was a poor time for this question, but he had hoped to catch the expert strategist off-guard. There was no better way to stagger an overthinker than a direct question.
"I see no reason to do either. Yet," Somee replied coolly. "Almost everybody believes you're mad. We have clear evidence of a Dominion plot to invade Romulan space recorded on a device impossible to replicate. And we have a senator who died trying to return it to Romulus. Where is the evidence for your claim?"
It seemed Somee too knew the trick.
"I admit, I have none. But I am about to get some, I think. That wretched Ferengi-" Xakais stopped. He had fallen for it. What a magnificently laid trap it had been.
"Ah, so Quark is your angle. I doubt it will be very fruitful. The shapeshifter watches him with intense scrutiny. But perhaps you will get a crumb of useful intel. In the meantime, I will do my best to keep your would-be assassins out of the loop," Somee preened.
She made for the door but then stopped, and slowly turned to face him.
"I do feel bad about how they treated you, you know," Somee said. "But maybe some things are better left alone?"
This was unexpected. It was also completely genuine, which made it even more unexpected.
"I cannot," Xakais gasped out, stiffening up. "The truth must come out for the sake of the Empire. We are laying our lives and the lives of our entire civilization on the line to help the Federation. I tell you, as sure as I know my own name: this was a trick and we fell for it."
Somee sighed and lowered her head.
"You know where I've been the last two months? Investigating Chancellor Gowron of the Klingon Empire," Somee explained.
"Fascinating, but I'm not certain why it is relevant," Xakais goaded.
"I spent a considerable amount of time pouring over details regarding which prisoners the Klingons have recently been pardoning. The idea is to follow up on those individuals to find out what they have done to merit the forgiveness of that barbarian they call Chancellor."
"You suspect Dominion involvement?"
"We did. General Martok had already been impersonated by a Founder once. Officially that is tabled for now, but we remain ever watchful. However, one name came up that I had ignored until your recent claims: Grathon Tolar."
The name meant nothing to Xakais, which was unfortunate considering the lengthy preamble his inclusion in this conversation warranted. With no clever avenue for appearing well-informed while also getting necessary details, he gave up.
"And who is that?" He asked.
"I'll let it slide this time. Nobody really cared about him. He is a minor criminal. But his hobbies and connections were of supreme interest to me. The vermin was something of an expert at crafting custom holoprograms."
Xakais stood somewhat taller and leaned into her. This was already a compelling lead. And yet, he was not prepared for the second revelation.
"I thought you might find that intriguing. Moreso when I tell you he was to be executed not even a week before Vreenak's death," Somee elaborated, extending her arms as if presenting a gift.
A gift it was. This was exactly what Xakais had been searching for all this time. But there was just one more thing he needed before he could make a definitive move. One last piece of the puzzle.
"Curious coincidence to be sure. Where is this man now?" Xakais asked.
"Missing, presumed dead," Somee shrugged. "But that isn't the question you want to ask, is it? Come on, Xakais, drop your games for a moment and admit you need my help on this."
"So you want to help me now?" Xakais folded his arms.
"If there is a truth to be learned, I would prefer to know it," Somee explained. "After that, we will have to see. I still think you may be in over your head."
"Not much has changed, it seems," Xakais sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Very well. How did our friend manage to escape his execution?"
Somee smiled and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "An interested party requested a pardon on his behalf."
This woman was a horrid tease. She was literally making him beg for it. "Who?"
With a triumphant sigh, she removed her hand and opened the door.