He sat up and glanced at the empty place next to him. It took him half a minute for the fact to register in his brain. He saw the indention of her head in the pillow, so it hadn't been a dream.
Turania was gone.
His mind snapped awake. Where was she? He turned his head towards the scratching sound. Porthos whined and pressed his nose to the glass door of the balcony.
“Porthos!” He got up and let the beagle into the suite. Porthos jumped on his legs and he scratched the beagle behind the ears. “How did you end up outside? Have you been out there all night? I was sure I let you back in--”
Jon stopped as he saw his PADDs scattered on the table.His travel bag had been rifled through with professional ease. A quick inspection showed that nothing of value had been taken. Jon picked up one of the PADDs and tapped buttons. Every mention of the Tandarans had been neatly downloaded and erased from the PADDs' memories. Language, culture, star charts, history...
I choose not to dwell upon that time. It is long past...In any case, the guilty ones have been punished.
Jon's face reddened in horror and embarrassment. Turania had somehow drugged him, seduced him, and stolen information from him. Obviously, she wanted some sort of revenge against the Tandarans for whatever they had done to her. He had helped her with her vendetta.
Trip and Hoshi were not going to like this at all.
He sighed and gave Porthos a mournful look. “We're in trouble."
The next few hours passed quickly. The hotel security team efficiently searched Turania's suite, but she had left nothing behind. She had used Risan currency to pay for her room instead of a credit chit. The lobby cameras tracked the comings and goings of all the guests. The constables zoomed in on the images and matched the people on the hotel's register. Incredibly, none of the images matched one of an Ilarian female.
"If she was truly here, she wouldn't be hard to miss. It's the wings," the constable said laconically.
Jon was flabbergasted. "You mean to tell me she can change her physical form?"
"Either that, or she was able to disguise herself to the point where the cameras didn't pick her up. It's possible someone might have transported her out; even the Boomers could have used a cargo transporter, as dangerous as it is for humanoids. The problem is...we don't have any records of an energy surge to indicate one."
"She's a smooth operator," Jon muttered. "Wow."
"Yes. I'm impressed, and I've seen a lot of things in my forty years in security." The constable shook his head. "I'm sorry, Mister Archer, but it looks like we've hit a wall."
Jon sighed. "Thank you for your assistance, Constable."
"I wish we could help you further, but unless another clue is found, we can't do anything else."
Jon changed his passwords and access frequencies to Enterprise's computer, the Interspecies Database, the Vulcan Cultural Index, and other avenues of information. He used a private line to Ambassador Soval's office on Vulcan. After he explained the situation, Soval sat back in his seat and steepled his fingers.
"I'm sorry, Soval. I shouldn't have allowed my guard to slip--"
Soval's expression didn't change, but a hint of sympathy shaded his tone. "You were relaxed and had no reason to suspect deception. Although I believe there is more to this than is obvious. The Tandarans have been relatively quiet as of late, perhaps too quiet. If this 'Turania' spoke some truth, we should monitor the situation closely."
"The Tandarans aren't known for their humanitarian causes," Jon said dryly.
"No, they are not. As for this woman's escape from the hotel with no trace of her existence...it is obvious she had had some sort of espionage training, enough to slip out undetected."
"Perhaps she's some sort of shapeshifter?"
Soval arched an eyebrow at the possibility. "There is no race that possesses that kind of technology."
"No race that we know of so far. God, Soval..."
"I shall make some discreet inquiries from here. I would advise that you inform your captain, first officer, and Armory officer about this, and keep watch for suspicious people and activities during your voyage."
"I'll tell Hoshi, Travis and Trip. They won't be happy about this-"
"No, but they would be more disturbed if you did not tell them."
"Good point." Jon sighed. This was getting better and better. "Thanks, Soval."
The Vulcan nodded and gave him the formal hand salute before disconnecting the channel. Jon sighed and glanced down at Porthos, who lay on the floor next to Jon's chair with his paws on his nose.
"C'mon, let's go find Hoshi and get this over with."
Hoshi sat in the hotel's patio, enjoying the selection of fruit for breakfast. Ravis sipped at his juice and spread strawberry jam on his toast. She was aware of his intense gaze and tried not blush. They'd spent time talking about themselves and each other's culture, and one thing had led to another.
Ravis's people were not a shamelessly hedonistic like the Risans, but they made up for it in spades. Some of their discussions didn't involve words, and actions meant more, if given freely from the heart, with nothing else expected.
She refused to feel guilty for what had happened between them. In a way, she was glad it had happened. Ravis provided insight into her problems, both professional and personal, and it was different when it came from someone who wasn't affiliated with Starfleet. He had a unique viewpoint that involved matters of the heart.
Ri'khallau, friend. Hoshi counted herself lucky to gain a friend on this trip to Risa.
“Your ship leaves this evening. I wish you could stay longer.”
She smiled and shook her head. “So do I, but we were lucky to have even this short time.”
“Yes.” Ravis matched her smile. “I hope the next time you visit Risa, we will be able to reconnect and extend our friendship.”
“I'd like that.”
“Then it's settled.” Ravis took a bite of his toast, then dabbed the jam off his chin. Hoshi laughed softly at the gesture, so ordinary yet so unique.
A dog barked and padded across the stones of the courtyard. Hoshi grinned as Porthos ambled in her direction. He stopped next to her and put his two front paws on her leg. “Hello, Porthos.”
“Hi, Hoshi.” Jon flashed a smile at her, but she noticed it didn't reach his eyes. Had something happened between him and that Iarian woman last night?
“Good morning, Jon.” She turned to Ravis. “Ravis, this my my friend, Jonathan Archer. Jon, this is Ravis, a linguist and translator here on Risa.”
“I'm pleased to meet you, Jon,” Ravis said as he shook Jon's outstretched hand. “I've heard of you. You are a diplomat, aren't you?”
“That's my day job. It's not often you meet people who share the same zest for other cultures. I'm glad to see that you and Hoshi have gotten along well.”
“Indeed.” Ravis inclined his head and added, “It's a pity that we've met at the end of your time here. Perhaps when your ship returns, we can discuss common interests.”
Jon's smile became genuine and he gave Hoshi an impressed look. “That would be wonderful, Mister Ravis.”
He got up from the breakfast table and bowed slightly at Jon, then turned back to Hoshi. He took her hand and drew it to his forehead, the same gesture as when they'd first met. “Fair journey, Hoshi, and until we meet again.”
“Fair journey, Ravis. Until we meet again.”
Ravis dropped her hand, turned and left the courtyard. Jon and Hoshi watched him go, then Jon arched an eyebrow at her. She only shrugged and gave him a look of complete innocence.
“I'm not going to ask what went on between you two.”
“Good.” She sipped her tea. “Sometimes there should be things left unsaid.”
Jon sighed and dropped into the chair Ravis had vacated. “And there are some things that need to be addressed as soon as possible.” At her inquisitive expression, he sighed again and added, “I think we might have a problem, Hoshi.”
May 2, 2151
“I didn't mean to cause all this trouble,” Travis apologized from his bed in Sickbay.
Hoshi clapped a hand on his shoulder. “It wasn't your fault. From what the Rescue lieutenant told me, you tried to save one your Climb Master from falling.”
“Though stopping your fall by jamming your leg in a crevice is hardly the way to do it,” Malcolm added mildly. He checked Travis's chart and nodded in satisfaction. “Unfortunately, it appears you are allergic to rhycosine, which is the standard painkiller in Risan hospitals.”
“I swear, I didn't know I was allergic, Doc-”
Malcolm shook his head and added, “Usually you don't find out until you have an allergic reaction, like Phlox with Pyrithian flowers. At least in your and Phlox's cases, it isn't life-threatening in small doses.”
“Yeah, but still-” Travis still looked abashed. “Sorry.”
“Get some rest, Travis.” Hoshi smiled and left her exec to rest, with Malcolm close behind her. When they reached the main part of Sickbay, she added, “Risan Security told me that you, Trip and T'Pol thwarted a pair of shape-shifting thieves.”
Malcolm nearly blushed. “Ah...yes, that's true. It was fortunate that T'Pol arrived at a critical moment.”
“That's what Trip said too.” Her smile became wicked. “Good work, Malcolm.”
He only nodded. “I understand you enjoyed yourself on Risa. I'm glad to hear about it; the captain needs some time off now and again, without any worries.”
Hoshi raised her eyebrows at his tone of voice, but didn't comment. Instead, she said, “Did you see the souvenirs Phlox and Kov found from the Fabric and Jewelry show? They have a definite eye for the aesthetic.”
“They do. The winged griffon hologram Kov found for me is beautifully detailed.” Malcolm looked at his chronometer. “Kov comes in for his shift in a few moments, and I need to get everything ready for him.”
“All right, Malcolm. I'll see you later.” She inclined her head, then left the room.
As soon as the doors closed behind her, Malcolm sighed heavily and leaned against the edge of the examination table. A moment later, Kov entered the room with a PADD in hand. The Healer took one look at Malcolm's expression and immediately sobered.
“Will you be all right, Doctor Reed?”
He took a deep breath and managed a smile. “I will be.”
Trip scowled at the missing information from Jon's PADDs. His hands needed to stay busy as he listened to Jon. “So this gal was using you to gather information about the Tandarans. You think she's out for someone's hide?”
“I'm pretty sure of it. She wasn't specific, but she did mention that she'd suffered under the Tandarans' rule. That matches with what Travis told me about the Montana's visit to Tandara Prime.”
“The one where Captain Hayes was tortured. Yeah, that wasn't pretty. Matt was lucky he survived at all.”
“Dammit, I shouldn't have been caught off guard-”
Trip held up a hand. “Don't be too hard on yourself, Jon. A friendly smile and kind words can hide a darker motivation. You're lucky there wasn't anythin' classified on your PADDs, like weaponry specs or stuff like that. If she was looking for anythin' to help in some sort of rebellion, she'd be disappointed. I think she downloaded everythin' at once and was gonna sort it out later when she had more time.”
“Still...she managed to get past my passwords-”
“You changed 'em, right?”
“Already did, on Enterprise's database, my personal files, the Vulcan Cultural Index and the Interspecies Diplomatic Exchange's base. I've also alerted Hoshi and Travis too, and they've informed Admiral Forrest. Soval's looking into the Tandaran side of it; he knows a couple of people who might shed some light on the situation.”
Trip whistled in admiration. “You've already got this covered. That's a good thing.”
“Well, it was my fault this happened in the first place. It's the least I can do.”
“And I'm gonna say it again: it wasn't your fault. And you're saying the went poof! like she used pixie dust or something?"
Jon gave him a sour look. "I don't think she was Ilarian at all."
"Yeah, you can't hide the wings, though I'd like to know how she did it." Trip frown became thoughtful. "Although--"
"Somethin' happened to me and Malcolm on our shore leave--"
Jon sighed heavily and ran a hand through his hair. “I meant to ask you about that...what's this I'm hearing about you and Malcolm and a pair of muggers? And T'Pol actually saved you?”
Trip flushed crimson. “Ah...well...it's a long story. How the hell did you hear about that anyway?”
His smile was mysterious. “I've got my sources.”
"And I bet your source had pointy ears. In any case..." Trip summed up their adventure as quickly as possible. He saw a look of understanding come across Jon's face by the time he was finished.
"Shape-shifting muggers that can change from women to men--"
"Yeah. Startled the hell out of us, but apparently, they do exist." Trip raised his eyebrows. "You think this 'Turania' might be of a similar race?"
"It's too much of a coincidence. You don't happen to have any information about--"
Trip shook his head, but brought out his own PADD. "Just the basic stuff the constables put in their report, and they didn't know the name of their species either, but it's a place to start."
Jon nodded. "Yes, it is."