The silence in the shuttle was suddenly deafening. Mylanti suddenly realized just how loud she and Isi had been screaming at each other. It took them a while to slow their breathing and regain their composure, but when they spoke again, Mylanti's tone and was leaden and Isi's word bit.
"I don't owe you anything," Mylanti stated bluntly. "I'm not apologizing for anything."
"You don't have what I want," Isi rasped. "You're just the thing in my way. You were always in my way. And if this were a Section 31 mission, I'd shoot you all over again. This time simply on principle."
Mylanti's head snapped towards her, tone rising again. "And what principle would that be?"
"Now who's Cold Metal Perfection?" the Bajoran demanded. "You know...you're right. Upkins never did realize what a soulless, ruthless bitch you are. Shooting a fellow officer just to get ahead? Face it, Isi; you were good, but you just were never good enough. You had to catch me off-guard and unarmed, and you know why? Because you're weak, and deep down you're a coward. You lower people's expectations of you so you can easily impress them. You don't want a real challenge. You want to be the sniper on the roof, the only spy in the bar with the phaser, the only assassin with the poison. You wouldn't last a second in fair fight. Had you lived on Bajor during the Occupation, you would've been the first to drop to your knees and suck the nearest Cardassian's co --"
She should've seen it coming. She should've known by now Isi wasn't above sucker-punching her. The right hook knocked Mylanti's head over, forcing her whole body halfway out of her seat.
"You don't know anything about me," Isi spat. "You were always too self-obsessed, too stuck in your little world above the rest of us that you never bothered to get to know anyone. You were just --"
"Striking a fellow officer without just cause is automatic grounds for a court martial," Mylanti cut off her. She slowly adjusted herself, still not looking at Isi. "You're back on Starfleet's turf, remember? That was a practically a strike two. For someone who claims to want to be all she can be and have a career of legend, you're certainly willing to throw it all away."
Isi seemed to stop breathing. Her whole body trembled with rage as reality slowly dawned.
"It's called discipline, Isi," Mylanti told her flatly. "You don't have it. You're not about the mission. You want to make the mission about you."
"You're doing an awfully good job of fucking yourself," Mylanti snorted. "You know, you can curse me, shoot me, punch me and then some, but three guesses who will get to continue her career while the other has to go home to Mommy?" Finally, she turned to look at Isi. "You can hate my guts all you want, Isi. But at some point you're going to have to decide which is more important - hurting me, or staying in Starfleet."
Kloya sat down at her desk in her quarters slowly, in awe of the woman on her computer screen.
"Gaya Irian?" she hesitantly asked.
"The one and only," the lady bowed her head. And what a lady she was! She was a stunning beauty dressed in shimmering Tholian silk and wearing large platinum hoop earrings. She carried herself with a genteel, aristocratic air, and she had those same enigmatic eyes of her daughter.
"It is...an honor, Madam Gaya." Kloya was confused; she never got worked up over anyone. But there was something about this woman that stole her breath; she seemed like a creature of history and legend. The most successful comfort woman in all of Bajoran history was talking to her, and she was suddenly at a loss for words.
"An honor?" Irian raised an eyebrow. "If our brothers and sisters in the Underground had felt that way about me, I could have returned home with my daughter years ago. But alas, one by one they piled the bounties on."
Irian looked amused. "First rule of being a comfort woman is survival. If a spoonhead doesn't kill you, a fellow Bajoran most assuredly will. You must remain vigilant and distrustful at all times. And you must be willing to do anything, give up anything, to survive."
"Is that why you became a comfort woman in the first place?"
Irian's eyes darkened. "Ironically, no. This was something our terrorist friends never understand about us. It's easy to be brave and gallant when the enemy puts a disrupter to your chest. But what about when the enemy puts his weapon to your child's head? What's the brave and gallant thing to do then?"
Kloya nodded, trying to remain professional. "I understand that intimidation and coercion were popular tools for...recruiting comfort women."
Irian sighed wearily and shrugged. "You've read the tales. Some of us were dragged off by our hair, some of us were promised our children would eat well, a few of us even volunteered simply because we knew we couldn't survive anything else. Some of us weren't even women."
Kloya's eyes grew huge. "What?"
Irian's eyebrow went back up. "You mean in all your research you never came across the name 'Rinan Slava'?"
Next ~ Beyond Repair