At first Gaya Mylanti believed she and Isi Soyinka would spend the entire trip in cold silence.
And she was fine with that, because for one, they were traveling aboard the USS Ganges, a spacious runabout which neither looked nor remotely smelled like a freighter. They were armed and in uniform, so no skimpy Dabo girl outfits and flimsy aliases that no one ever seemed to fall for anyway.
This time, they had separate cabins, functioning replicators, and even a sonic shower. Compared to previous missions, this was a damn luxury cruise.
But the moment their ship left the docking ring, it was on. To Mylanti's surprise, she actually spoke first.
Isi rolled her eyes. "I could ask you the same. How come the Admiral hasn't summoned you back to Starfleet Intelligence?"
"I've decided to focus my attention on Bajor instead of Section 31," Mylanti replied honestly. "You?"
Isi practically growled under her breath. "Like you don't already know."
"No, Isi; I don't." Mylanti tried to keep her tone light. "What...did you change your mind too?"
"You know I didn't." Pause. "It's that stupid bitch Admiral. She never liked me. She always thought you were a better fit for the job. She never really wanted to give me the chance. She didn't like me, she sure as hell never liked Rindy, and she downright loathed the thought of us together. So to answer your question, Mylanti --"
"God, you haven't changed," Mylanti snickered.
Isi paused in the middle of reading her console and turned. "What?"
"You haven't changed," the Bajoran repeated, loudly this time. "You're still Poor Little Isi, the misunderstood party girl. 'Waaah, I look like a ditz, I act like a ditz, and waaah...people think I'm a ditz. It's never my fault, 'cause nobody likes me. They're all jealous and bitter and mean. Waaah.'"
"Excuse me?" Isi hissed.
"Oh, please," Mylanti snorted. "Get over yourself already, will you? You failed. Section 31 gave you a chance and you failed. You didn't pass the test. All these years you've thought that if you just played the role of the virginal idiot, and let people underestimate you, you'd always pass the test. You'd always nail the mission, and you'd always get the promotion. But then you finally met someone who saw right through you. You met someone who wasn't so easily impressed."
"Someone like you?" Isi cocked her head to the side. "I've racked my brain for hours wondering whom that cold, steely-eyed Admiral reminded me and then it finally hit me: you. That same smug sense of superiority. 'Dear God' - well, Prophets in your case - 'look at all these lowly, spoiled, selfish people. These children. They don't know anything about the real world. They've never lost anyone or had to give up anything. They don't know what real suffering is. What purpose could they possibly serve?'"
Mylanti shrugged. "I stand by that assessment."
Isi's low voice dripped poison. "You are not qualified. 'Waaah...my mommy married a rich Cardassian. Waaah, she lives in a palace and has servants, and could buy and sell Starfleet Academy a dozen times over, so I ran away to maintain my tough 'fugee street cred so no one would ever peg me for a collaborating poser.'" She cocked her head again. "'Waaah.'"
"I knew it!" Mylanti exploded. "I always knew you were one of those bitchy little Humans who called us Bajorans fucking 'fugees behind our backs!"
"You're really gonna make this a racial issue now?"
"This always was a racial issue, Isi!" Mylanti snapped. "You were always pretty little Miss Perfect, the exotic girl who was born and raised on Risa. You moved from one stable paradise to another, never starving or questioning how you were going to survive. You and your fucking Federation privilege! You have no idea how hard it was to reach Federation space after running away from a Cardassian stronghold. You called your mom a whore - you have no idea what a whore is! You didn't have to watch your mom touch a man she didn't love, an alien who'd conquered her world and treated her like property, and then threw money at her to shut her up! You whined, for years, about nothing! You whined and everyone patted you on the head, handed you a lollipop, and bent over backwards to make your life easier. You have No Clue the amount of bureaucratic bullshit red tape we Bajorans had to cut through just to apply to Starfleet!"
"Oh, I had the privilege?" Isi barked back. "You, little Miss Exotic? So dark, so twisty, and tormented, and haunted! Everybody was lining up to be your hero. Half the boys and girls in my quantum mechanics wanted to ride in on a white horse and save you. They only noticed me when it was time to party. After that, no one could remember my name. But you...it was always you. Why would Gabriel even look at me when he could dream about you? And yes, I realize my former childish crush on him is a moot point now - a joke even - but little did I realize then what huge problem that was a symptom of! Everybody wants you." To her horror, Isi's voice cracked and her eyes began to tear. "Admiral Upkins felt she had everything she needed once she met you. Every good word Sloan and Rindy ever put in for me went right out the airlock. Once again, I was good - and I was good - but I wasn't you. I wasn't cold like you. My past wasn't tortured enough like yours. I wasn't mysterious enough, ruthless enough, or unemotional enough. I was just another green Starfleet Ensign while you were Cold Metal Perfection, the natural born operative Starfleet Intelligence has wild wet dreams about."
Next ~ The Whores' Riddle