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A tiger cannot change its stripes

Chapter Text

"Captain! We have an incoming distress signal. It's the away team! There is too much signal loss, I try to clear it up." notifies Lieutenant Bryce the Captain of the U.S.S. Discovery.
"Detmer, full speed to Drellion!" comes the imminent order from the newly inaugurated Captain Thoris.
It is rare that an Andorian is anointed to Captain a Starfleet ship, but here on the verge of the Federation-Klingon border, a militaristic attitude might come in handy. The only taint marring this position is that after he became the Captain of the Discovery there were still a lot of classified information about this ship and its crew. Information he is not allowed to know. And it irks him. Greatly. Most of them involves actions around a certain Commander leading the away team in question.
"Aye, sir!" replies the helm officer.
"Bryce, is there a message?"
"Yes, putting it through."
"..scovery! We're under attack, sur ... They are cloaked! ... can't see them! Sewers is down, Montgomery ... request imme... comms not working." the quality of the transmission is bad, but the voice definitely belongs to Commander Burnham.
Damn it, what did they get themselves into? It was supposed to be a simple archaeological expedition. "Detmer how long until we arrive?"
"Twenty minutes inbound."
"Lieutenant Owosekun, begin scanning!"
"Lieutenant Davies, set up an away team, expect hostiles! Be ready to be beamed down in twenty!"

"Sir, I've found the signal source of the away team." states Owosekun.
"Beam them up!"
"I'm afraid I can only lock on one person."
"Montgomery is beamed to the sickbay, sir. Sewers and Jameson is dead." That’s three of four.
"Where is Burnham?"
"I can't find her. "
"Davies, beam down, scan the area!"
"Owosekun, are there any signs of a ship, settlement, life signs, anything?"
"Negative, sir. No warp signatures, no movement, nothing."

"Davies, report!"

Drellion, halfway between the Hromi Cluster and Ramatis.
Sand everywhere where the eyes can see, there are two suns over the horizon. On this desert planet there is no night, only periods of times with one or two suns. Davies hates the desert, why would anyone want to live here? The shuttle of the first away team is closed, it is only a few hundred meters away from the location of the fallen away team.
“No one is in the shuttle. It is intact, everything works. The team must’ve been at the site when they were attacked.” reports Davies. “We’re heading there to investigate.”

In the centre of a small basin surrounded by sand dunes stands an old stone monument of sorts. Columns are arranged in a circle or at least what's left of them, most have collapsed. The columns situated about 10 m away from each other, in the middle, the area is more closed, a small altar stood there, hundreds of years ago.
This site was one of the targets of the expedition. They can see the body of two Federation officers lying 50 m apart from each other, barely outside of stone columns that must have served as their covers.
"Look around folks, eyes peeled! T'Lak, Lewis be on the lookout! I don’t want any surprises. Ayala, is there anything other than Sewers and Silek?" orders Davies everyone around.
"I can see signs of struggle. At least one of the assailants were shot, but they have not left him or her behind. I can't find anything that might have been used to identify them. The away team were shot with a phaser, only burn signs are apparent. There is nothing particular about them, standard Cardassian disruptor rifles and Nausicaan disruptor pistols. These are used by half of the mercenary groups around the quadrant. By the disturbance of the area I’d say there were at least 6 of them. The phaser burns on the rocks indicate that they are more than two hours old but in this desert, with the scorching sun it is more difficult to determine an exact time.”
“Come on Ayala, let’s take a closer look, there must be something left.”

They scout the area going in opposite direction, circling around the archaeological site. In one of the shaded areas Ayala notices something.
“Sir, over here! Behind this rock, there is blood. Lots of it. It is not a result of phaser fire.”
“Do we know whose blood is it?”
“According to the tricoder it's definitely Commander Burnham’s, but there is no indication that she is here in the vicinity. They must’ve taken her."
"Sir!" T’Lak waves them.
"What is it T'Lak?"
"I've found some device. I don’t think it still works. It doesn’t bear any Starfleet marks. Ayala should check it."
Ayala mounts the sand dune where T’Lak is investigating. "You’re right. This is a small, portable communication scrambler. It is offline, the battery is depleted, it was not meant for long duty just enough to hold us off for a few hours. Crafty device I might say. We should bring it back with us. Maybe Lieutenant Stamets can tell us more about it. I'll put it into a container, just in case."

"Captain Thoris," Davies begins his report on new findings "Burnham was most likely to be kidnapped, she is likely to be severely wounded, we’ve found her blood on the scene. This ambush happened at least two hours ago. We'll get the bodies and any evidence we might find, and head back with the shuttle of the away team."
"All right, Davies." accepts the answer Thoris. And this morning was starting so well.

The Discovery was sent here to the outskirts of Federation space to scout the region for a new Starbase. Starfleet would like to enhance their presence near the Klingon border and this place would be ideal, it is a sector away from Starbase 343. They’d found some small M-class planets and Drellion showed remnants of civilised structures. Half of the science team was ecstatic to go down there in spite of the harsh conditions. The other part of the team chewed his ears about a quantum singularity they needed to investigate. If it is not stationary, they had to find another place for the station.

"Sickbay, report!"
"Captain, Ensign Montgomery is being stabilized. He'll have to be off duty for a week, but he'll heal."
"Is he awake?"
"I'll be down there immediately."

"Owosekun make any scans possible, a two-hour leeway is not much. Saru, look behind every moon in the vicinity if you have to. You have the bridge, Commander."
"Aye, sir." assents Saru. He’s already using every scanning method available to find any evidence.

"Ensign, I'm glad you're alive."
"Sir, if I may, where are the others?"
"Sewers and Silek was killed, Burnham was taken. What happened in that desert?"
"Damn it. We were investigating the second ruins when Silek said something is approaching us. Then it became 7 signatures, one of them was lagging behind the others, it could've been a guard or the leader. According to our scanners they were merely 200 m ahead, but we could not see them. They must've had some personal cloaking devices." the Ensign is in shock, emerging himself in the events. He’s only a science officer, not a soldier.
"We'd readied ourselves but they began shooting out of nowhere. We could only shoot back blindly, trying to pinpoint their location by the movement on the sand on the ground and the direction of the shots. They were smart enough to constantly move around. Silek was the first that got hit. Commander Burnham shoved me behind the altar. The attackers were not even shouting, no sound, just the phasers and the wind howling. It was horrible. I tried to shoot at them stepping out of the covers. Then I got shot in my leg, got fainted I guess."

"Is that the only thing you remember?"
"We were trying to send out a signal to you, all we got back was static. The Commander tried an emergency transponder as well, but she didn't think it worked."
"They seemed to have a signal scrambler, that’s the only thing they left behind, and you. The message came through only after a few hours.”
“Sir, I … I try to dig into my mind what we could’ve done differently….”
“Don’t think about it. Write your report. It can help you in filling the blanks of your memory, remembering new details. The assailants were prepared for a fight, they had one goal only. You were down there looking for traces of an extinct civilisation. It is not easy to say, but you didn't have a chance. Get better soon!"
“Thank you, sir.”

Captain Thoris is unsettled, who would be stupid enough to kidnap a decorated officer of the Starfleet?

Chapter Text

"Commander Saru, do we have anything to go on?" inquires the Captain returning to the bridge.
"I'm afraid no, sir. There are no warp signatures, no irregularities, nothing. Engineering is also empty handed regarding the device Davies' team brought back. Lieutenant Stamets picked it apart, but he only found that it is handmade, at least mid-level black market technology. Almost every component originates from different sectors making it impossible to trace back to anybody."
“It is strange from a mercenary band to leave valuables behind. They could’ve stolen the shuttle or what was inside of it. Their orders must have been to grab Burnham only.”
“I agree. What I don’t understand is why leave any traces behind? Cleaning up Burnham’s blood and bringing the scrambler with them couldn’t have been a greater effort, than cleaning up after themselves. It could be that they’d left them behind on a purpose.” wonders Saru.
“But there was nothing on the origin of the device.”
“Perhaps it is not meant for us, but to whom we could turn to next. Burnham’s blood, now that could be meant for us.”
“What are you thinking Commander?”
“I believe that whoever orchestrated this, is not an ordinary person. It could be meant as a sign of dominance. To feel ourselves helpless, so we would look for such means or persons that we wouldn’t normally do to find her.”
"Who could have such technology and resources? And if we don’t read anything behind their action what do they want with Burnham?"
"Maybe ..."

"Do you have an idea, Commander?"
"They clearly wanted to get to Michael, and they have advanced equipment, in this we’re certain without any speculation. We’ve encountered someone before, who could be after her. Or at least have the resources, equipment and the connections."
"Who is it?"
"Harcourt Fenton Mudd. Even before the war, he was an arms dealer. He wanted to get revenge on Captain Lorca for leaving him in a Klingon prison, and sell the Discovery to the Klingons.”
“Why would Lorca leave someone behind?”
Because you don’t know he is from a backstabbing, murderous universe would have been the perfect answer, but Saru has to keep himself in check.
“Because Mudd rattled out every secret his cellmates told him to the Klingons. His only care was himself. Anyway, Burnham used herself to entice him, she told him that she killed T’Kuvma, an information Mudd didn’t have access to, which tripled the value of the ship. Using his greed, Lieutenant Stamets and Burnham managed to outsmart and capture him. Maybe he’d try to sell Michael again.”
“How did he even get on the ship? Why wasn’t he detained instantly?”
Saru purses his lips and puffs his cheek while looking intensely at the Captain.

“I get it, classified.” dismisses Thoris. He is not happy. He knew that someday all this classified information will bite him in the ass.
Saru nods and finishes the story “He was sent back to his spouse."
"How does a spouse get into this story?"
"Her father is a wealthy arms dealer, Baron Grimes, Mudd used to work for him. We left him under the supervision of the father. But it is possible that Mudd acts behind his back."
"Do we know where they are?"
"Yes, their estate is in this sector, on Ramatis III, only 3 days from our current location."
"Good call. Detmer, calculate the path to Ramatis, then full warp!" orders Captain Thoris. They need to start somewhere, sitting around and waiting for something to happen will not work in the favour of Burnham.
“Sir, may I remind you of something?” Saru interjects. “He is the only one in a 3 sector radius we know about, who would want to see Burham suffer. Aside from every other Klingon.”
“Yes, and?”
“Maybe the device will mean something to him. Or this is the part of a wild goose chase he planned, and while he misdirects us he sells Burnham to the highest bidder.”
“Noted, Commander.”

Tilly listens intently to the conversation between the Captain and Commander Saru. She knows that the amount of blood Davies’s team found could mean a fatal wound if not treated. Michael would be dead already but nobody would make such a great effort to kill her like that. It is difficult to think about it but it would’ve been easier to shot her down with the others if this is only about a trophy. And if they are treating her wounds then most likely they don’t want the Discovery to find them, because they have other plans with her. Selling Michael, as Saru said, is a high possibility. And the wound would also make Michael vulnerable, make it easier to detain her. Tilly doesn’t think that Mudd will be useful. Even if he doesn’t have his hands in the proverbial cookie jar he will just obstruct their search for Michael just to spite them. But there is someone who could help them. If she could convince Captain Thoris that is. Here’s hoping!
"Sir, if I may?" asks Tilly nervously, stepping closer to the Captain.
"What is it Ensign Tilly?"
"May I suggest something else as a backup plan? In your office preferably ... no it did not sound right .. still."
"All right," sighs the Captain - she really needs to learn some confidence to move up on the ladder "follow me."

"What is this idea of yours?" he can already feel in his antennas that this conversation will be anything but normal.
"We could contact someone with shady connections, to know whether there is something in some sort of a thug newsflash."
"Sure, let them know that someone kidnapped a Starfleet officer." replies Thoris malice in his voice.
"That's not what I meant." shies away Tilly.
"Any decent thug would alert whoever is holding Burnham captive or maybe they’d even come up with a false ransom demand, Ensign." anger is rising in Thoris.
"I did not mean to contact any mercenary, but a certain someone, one person." stammers Tilly.
Thoris squints his eyes at her and Tilly visibly shrinks herself. "And how would you know such a person?"
"Errr…you know.” Tilly waves her hand in a dismissing gesture.
Thoris looks at her with an unimpressed expression.
“With luck.” she says beamingly, then tilts her head and furrows her brows “Or misfortune. It depends on the situation."
"And what makes you think this person would help?"

A heavy sigh leaves Thoris, he will regret asking it "Because of what?"
"It is classified, I can't tell you why, but she would certainly help."
He has a headache creeping in at the mention of classified. He’d developed a definite allergic reaction to that word. He is massaging his left temple with his hand eyes closed, while leaning against the table. Tilly waits patiently, trying hard not to say anything unnecessary.

"And why would she care about Burnham's status? Who is she?" ask the Captain after a minute.
"Michael keeps tabs on her and vice versa. She is someone who could kick a Klingon's butt in a hand-to-hand combat and would ask for another round. If she doesn't already know what happened, she would offer to help us in at least gathering information.“ She stops there, unsure of herself whether she should continue. Probably not, her unfiltered mouth could cause serious damage.

The Captain has calmed down a bit, but he feels there is more to the story so he inquires:
“Someone like that would just sit around with the information?”
Oh no, she can’t lie to her Captain, can she? She takes a deep breath and tries to say it as fast as she can, perhaps the Captain will mishear it.
“Ugh… Then she’d probably slither away to get back Michael to safety while killing as many as she can in retaliation." hurries Tilly with a forced smile on her face.
"A homicidal maniac? Are you out of your mind? My answer is no." shouts the Captain.
Outside the ready room, on the bridge, Saru whips his head up at the yelling filtering through the ready room door. Fortunately, only he can hear them. There is only one thing he can think of that would rile up the Captain this much. Tilly couldn’t have suggested the Captain to contact Raven, could she?

"But Captain Thoris! Lady Raven ..."
"Raven?! Absolutely, no. And if you value you rank, you'll keep that in mind. Her gang already has a reputation in this region. Starfleet will not be associated with the likes of her."
"Sir, if there is one thing I'm sure of regarding Lady Raven is - aside that she terrifies the hell out of me - that she cares about Michael's wellbeing in a good way." Tilly tries to make the Captain understand.
"No. My answer is final. Do you understand Ensign?" says Thoris with a rigid stature, emphasising every syllable.
"Yes." says Tilly defeatedly.
"Good. Now return to your station. Dismissed!"

Tilly leaves the ready room almost in tears. On her way out, she looks up on Saru. Silly girl, she did suggest it. He shakes his head at her in a berating manner and indicates Tilly to return to her station.

The Captain begins to ponder. Ensign Sylvia Tilly is one of the most orderly Starfleet officers. Sure, she is quirky, and can't really keep quiet, but never in his days would he thought that she would suggest to contact a bounty hunter slash mercenary. Someone Tilly and Burnham for heaven's sake apparently know by person. It is true that there is no arrest warrant against this Raven, that her actions are always sanctioned by some authority but that doesn’t mean she is on the right side of Federation principles and directives. The only problem is that he doesn’t like that Mudd could be their only way to Burnham, and from what the Commander said, he could prove to be difficult. He must look into this Raven.

Captain Thoris spent the next 12 hours trying to gather some information about her. In the local database, only her previous affiliations are listed, the oldest entry is only 6 months old. She has her own small cruiser, employs a group of about 20 people, oh and she’s a human and that’s about it. No real name, no age, no origin, nothing. She must’ve assumed a new identity 6 months ago, and has a good way of hiding her identity.
He also tried to reach every member of the Admiralty he knows, but he was stonewalled by each and every one of them. To his greatest surprise he even got the same response from Rear Admiral Shukar, his former mentor. Shukar explicitly told him to stop inquiring about Raven, and this comes from a person who doesn’t bat an eye when it comes to bending the rules. He needs to get some shuteye and start looking for new sources.

The next morning as he sits in his chair on the bridge looking around the crew an idea takes shape in his mind. He is aware that although Burnham and Saru are usually not seeing eye to eye, they were a team, even before the Discovery. Then Tilly and Stamets joined their merry band. He supposes doing most of the classified actions. Maybe he could get some information morsel from his First Officer. He stands abruptly and orders Saru:
"Commander Saru, to my ready room!"

Chapter Text

"Yes, sir?" asks Saru as he steps into the ready room as per the Captain’s orders.
Captain Thoris sits down by his desk, PADDs haphazardly thrown across it, the remnants of yesterday’s work. He motions Saru in front of his desk. Saru stands there, hands folded behind his back, pretending that he doesn’t know where this discussion will lead to.
"Commander, there is one thing about this ship that I despise, it is that three-quarter of the crew was involved in things that I - their Captain - am not allowed to know."
"I'm sorry, sir, but you know I can't help you there, as I'm one of them." comments Saru.
"I know. But I still want to ask you about something."
“I’ll see what I can do.” nods Saru.
"Ensign Tilly had a suggestion to contact a shady and dangerous person to help us find Burnham."
"I see." the Captain notices that the tone Saru uses is different than his usual calm manner. He must be holding back something. And he thought that this will be a far-fetched idea.
"Her name is Lady Raven.” moves on the Captain handing a PADD to Saru. “I suppose it is not her real name."
Without looking at the PADD, Saru answers. "No, it is not. Sir, you said you have a question."

So, Commander Saru knows about her as well. Great.
"The Ensign said this Lady Raven would help us in finding Burnham. What do you know about her? Can she be trusted?"
Saru stays quiet for a moment, carefully mulling over his answer. He is no fan of the Emperor, he would want to avoid her at all costs, but when it comes to Burnham's life he doesn't want the Captain to dismiss her help.
"I had little interaction with her, what good I know about her I concluded with my conversations with Burnham and Tilly, the bad I've experienced on my skin or read the reports about it."
"All right, I'll accept it." replies Thoris.

"This Raven is the very definition of a two-sided coin. She is someone who - in my opinion - could almost be considered a sociopath. She doesn't know the definition of a friend. Killing, maiming, blackmail is just another day at work which she enjoys tremendously. Yet as far as I know, ever since she parted with Burnham, she put a halt on her homicidal tendencies, because Burnham asked her to be good. In their small exchanges they always share a short story; its composition reflects how they are faring. I remember once Michael made a remark on Lady Raven being excited about something but to me there was nothing about that in the story Raven wrote.

The Captain stares at Saru, his mind is reeling. "Why would someone like this Raven do what Burnham asks of her? And why would she care about how Burnham feels?" ask Thoris.
"That is one of the universe’s greatest coincidence. Any more detail is classified I'm afraid. But before you ask, I can tell you that they are not related by blood neither in the literal nor in the figurative sense of the word. There is also no unpaid debt between them."

That eliminates a lot of possibilities and raises more questions to which Thoris suspects he won’t get answers. He makes a quick inventory of what he'd learned from Saru and Tilly. Saru had carefully chosen his words when he said that they are not a family by blood. That does not mean they couldn’t be family. Then again, Thoris would like to think Sarek would have told him about that, he’s known him since his early days in the Andorian Imperial Guard. Saru also reinforced what Tilly implied, that there is a deeper connection between Commander Burnham and Lady Raven.
"Now Captain, imagine, what would this type of person do if she finds out what happened?"
How would a sociopath act if someone – perhaps the only one – she cares about is taken and hurt? The answer is dangerously simple.
"She would raise hell if she has to, to find Burnham, and to find whoever did this to her." comes a dreadful answer from the Captain.
"My thoughts exactly." assents Saru.
"One more thing, Commander. When was this last time they see each other?"
"It is not relevant in Lady Raven's personality assessment." With other words, it is classified. Saru says this with a finality, signalling that this is all he's willing to share, so Thoris dismisses Saru.

The Captain doesn’t like his options. He will either has a diplomatic conflict over a kidnapped Starfleet officer on his hand, which is likely to be followed by a military conflict again. Or jump straight right to the military conflict started by a problematic mercenary. Just wonderful. He hopes this Mudd thread proves to be at least somewhat fruitful.

About two days later …
"Captain, we are approaching Ramatis III. We’ll be there in an hour." reports Lieutenant Detmer.
"Do we have a location on the Grimes residency?"
"Yes, sir." Owosekun replies.
"Davies, you're with me, get the scrambler. We'll transport down, and we’ll bring it with us."
"Owosekun, eyes on the area, I don't want any surprises."


The Captain and Davies find themselves in front of a lavish building, built in an old Earth style, painted white all around, golden ornaments accentuating the wealth of its owner. It is fitting to the name Baron. A footman welcomes them and leads them to the estate, where a man in his sixties is waiting for them.
"Baron Grimes. Thank you for inviting us in." starts Thoris and extends his hand toward the Baron for a handshake.
Unimpressed by a Federation Captain in his house, the Baron keeps his hands on his walking stick. "By the look on your face Captain Thoris, I would wager that you would not take a no as an answer."
"You're right.” straightens up Thoris. If that’s how we’ll play. “Where is Mudd?"
"What did he do again?" asks Grimes.
"For his sake, I hope nothing, though it would make our lives easier if he did." Thoris doesn’t want to share any information with the Baron.
"I'll show you to his office." and they start to walk along an extremely decorated long hallway. Walls adorned with old paintings and new, there are also different vases and busts of family members put on marble columns. It creeps Thoris out, there are way too many colours.
"Is he always here?"
"Is he allowed to communications?"
"All of his communications are monitored, and I have employed a code breaker, to see if he's communicating in secret." replies nonchalantly the Baron. He really doesn’t trust Mudd.
"There is no indication that he is doing anything he's not supposed to."

Walking into a similarly decorated room, Thoris spots Mudd standing in front of the large window, with a perfect view to the entry way. Damn. He’d at least 3 minutes to clear everything away.
"Mudd." addresses him Thoris.
"Oh, a captain of the Federation. An Andorian none the less. What a surprise! You must be Captain Thoris.” Mudd extends his hands toward the Captain, which Thoris doesn’t indent to take. “Harcourt Fenton Mudd at your service, to what do I owe the pleasure?" comes the sickeningly sweet greeting. In the corner of his eyes Mudd notices that the Baron is still standing at the door, watching the exchange with scrutiny.
"Do you have personal cloaking equipment on sale?"
"Ahh, you're here on business? I'm afraid we don't have such, though if you know any seller, I would be grateful to make such connections."
"What about mercenary gangs?"
"I cannot say I don't know any, they are our usual buyers. Not the lowlife thugs of course, but for example the more esteemed mercenaries of Corvallen."
"Do you know any with such particular equipment?"
"No. But what ails you captain? It must be something dreadful to travel this far?" inquires Mudd, with a tone that Thoris can't dismiss.

“Davies” the Captain motions him to show the scrambling device.
“Have you seen any equipment like this?” asks Davies. Mudd reaches for it, he looks at it in wonder. Is it what he thinks it is? He’d only heard about it.
“What does it do?” asks Mudd.
“It’s a long-range communication signal scrambler.” Davies replies.
“Ooh, neat little device. I like it. Never seen one like this before though.” shakes Mudd his head, his eyes never leaving the equipment, as if he is trying to study it.
"I have a feeling you're not telling me the truth Mudd." states Thoris.
"On the contrary Captain." Mudd pulls himself out. "I have no other choice, I can either be a good boy, or be prisoned. And honestly, I had my fair share of imprisonment during the war and I have no intentions of ever getting back there.” Baron Grimes nods in assent.
“But back to business, I would like to buy this puppy off your hand." Mudd tries to throw off Thoris.
The Captain walks up to him, leans in, his head only three inches away from Mudd's. "I'm keeping an eye on you, you don't want me to come back, I assure you."
Mudd steps back with a grin "Pleasure making an acquaintance with you Captain. I would ask you to send my regards to Lieutenant Stamets and Commander Burnham but I was told to steer away from Starfleet as far as possible."
The Captain decides not to play along with Mudd anymore and leaves the room in a hurry.
“I think he’s hiding something” notes Davies.
“Yeah. But we don’t know what. He obviously saw the scrambler before.”

"Discovery, two to transport!" orders Captain Thoris angrily.
"Nothing sir, there is no data transfer, no communications."
"Mudd is a patient bastard, we will wait."

Burnham sits in her cell. After the attack on Drellion her captors sedated her and when she woke up, she was here. Her cell has a standard force field and based on the size of the room, this is the only cell in it. There are no guards in sight, they could be outside the room. Michael can feel they are at warp, concluding that she is on a ship. The design of the ship is unfamiliar to her, similar to Cardassian but more pristine, she cannot even guess the species of her abductors.

When it is meal time, they fill her cell with some sort sedative, axonol or perhaps anesthizine, and she is woken up with a meal tray inside her cell. She has an hour to eat then the gas comes again. This constant sedation also keeps her dizzy and disoriented. Her captors are doing everything to keep her in the dark. The only way to keep some track of time is her hunger and thirst. Based on her estimation they’d been travelling for at least 3 days. But without knowing their speed she could be anywhere between 3.21 and 8.47 lightyears away from Drellion, and that is if she counts with exactly 3 days and assuming that this ship is at least as fast as the Discovery.

Her stomach wound was stitched up, but it was a butcher’s job. It still oozes and based from her abdominal pains she is not entirely convinced that everything is sewn up as it should be. They’d also taken away everything from her that could be used as a tool or a weapon. For now, all she can do is wait for something to happen. She wonders what her captors’ intentions are, though she is not expecting any good, but she can still choose hope.

"Ma’am, we have an incoming priority private message from DaiMon Torg."
"What does that worm want now? Send it to my PADD." instructs Lady Raven her staff at the comms.
- Dear Lady Raven, you are cordially invited to our private auction. Only selected esteemed customers are invited. We have everything from antiquities through shuttles to slaves. Our most prized item on the list is Commander Michael Burnham, the one who started and ended the war with the Klingons. There’s even a mystery present accompanied with Burnham, only to be revealed at the end of the event. Attached you can find the full list of items on auction with pictures, videos and additional information. Sincerely, DaiMon Torg. -
"Fuck!" she almost throws the PADD at the nearest bulkhead in anger.
"What is it Raven?" asks Ashai, the second in command of Lady Raven.
"T'Les find the U.S.S. Discovery, they should be around in a sector radius!" orders Lady Raven the Vulcan at comm.
"Ma’am?" T’Les replies in question, this is not the order she’s used to, none the less she executes the order.
"Is there something you didn't understand?"
"No, but most of the time we avoid Starfleet. What business do we have with them?"
"You don't need to know. And if I have to search for them, it means that I don't have to employ you anymore, understood?"
"Yes Ma’am. I'm sorry. They are in this sector, at Ramatis III."
"Good. Matthews, plot a course towards halfway between Ramatis III and Korvat in an equal distance to our current location and go with full speed. I'll be in my room. Ashai, you have the bridge."

As soon as the door closes behind Raven, she jumps into action. First of all, she must meet up with the Discovery, get their help and preferably punch its Captain in the face if any of this was his fault or just do it because surely it would feel really good.
"Computer, open a subspace channel to the U.S.S. Discovery using my alpha-10-pi encoding."
"The message is "We need to talk!", code it as urgent, address it to the Captain, send the location we're headed now and my signature."
"Message sent." states the computer voice.
Next step is to find out everything she can about the auction and Torg’s recent activities.

"Sir, you have an incoming subspace message." alerts Lieutenant Bryce the Captain.
"Who is it from?"
"I don't know it yet, it contains a written message and a set of coordinates about 4 and a half days from our current location."
"I'll be damned if this is not about Burnham. What's the message Bryce?"
"The message is "We need to talk!" from someone called Lady Raven, it originates from the direction of Corvallen."
The Captain turns to Tilly in anger "I believe we had an understanding Ensign!"
"We … we did, sir.” stutters Tilly “It wasn't me. I swear. I told you she could find out on her own."

Had this message come from another person, Thoris wouldn't consider going. But both Saru and Tilly swears this Raven is to be trusted when it comes to Burnham and unfortunately Mudd had proven to be a tough head to crack. They’ve been stationed in the orbit of Ramatis III for more than a day now. Mudd kept up his usual business communications, and there was nothing hidden in those messages. This could be the only lead they have on Burnham.
"We don't have any more ships in the vicinity. Lieutenant Detmer, red alert and head towards the coordinates, warp 6. I’ll notify Command and ask for a backup. I have a feeling we will need it."

Lady Raven nee Philippa Georgiou sits in her chair, slouched over PADDs and monitors. She’s trying to reach out to her contacts to gather more information. So that was all the buzz about. She heard something was up with the Federation, and some of her connections were shuffling, but what the hell? There is a short video attached to the list of items, it shows Michael in a cell. She is obviously in pain from some sort of an injury. How did they manage to capture her? Torg is smart among his kind, he’s an engineer, a very good one, he always has the best and newest tech available. But to organise something this complex is way out of his league, he must be only the middle-man, acting out someone else’s orders. And when she finds whoever did this to Michael, mercy will be far away.

Chapter Text

"We're arriving to our rendezvous point Captain, there is an unmarked cruiser. Its shields are up, but their weapon system is not active, they have the encoded signature from the message. It seems like they are waiting for us."
"Maintain Red Alert, ready the weapons, shields at maximum. Open a channel. To the cruiser, this is the United Federation's ship Discovery ..."
Suddenly a woman dressed in all black appears on screen. Her hair style and makeup mask her face, there is no face detection program which could identify her. "Captain, you lost something precious to me." comes a furious hail from the cruiser’s owner. At the familiar voice Saru and Tilly looks at each other.
"Lady Raven, I presume."
"You're right Captain Thoris. And please refrain from shooting at us, I came on my own volition and I mean no harm. Although if you're too stubborn to acknowledge my help, it might change."
The cruiser couldn’t be the one Thoris read about before. This ship requires at least 40 people on board and not the 20 he found. That information was about six weeks old, this is a serious upgrade, they could cause serious damage to the Discovery and who knows what weaponry they’re hiding.
"What do you want?"
"I request to be beamed on board." says Raven sternly.
"Why would I allow it?"
"Because you have no idea where she is."
"Who are you talking about?"
"Please, don't play dumb Captain. Both of us are here because of Michael Burnham."
"Do you have her?"
"No. And you can't get to her without me. Unfortunately, I can't save her without you either, so let's chat. Efficiently I might add, because we're running out of time." Raven practically grits her teeth in frustration, the Captain is earning quickly that punch she envisioned.
"Fine. No weapons."
"I don’t need a weapon to hurt you Captain” smiles Raven “I want Tilly to be present as well." adds Raven.
Tilly looks scared at the Captain, who only nods his head toward the ready room not accepting any resistance from the young Ensign.
“Transportation, beam her to my ready room!”

As Georgiou materialises in the office, she quickly scans her surroundings and sizes up the Captain standing 3 meters in front of her, Tilly by his side.
"It is nice to see you again, Tilly." greets Raven making Tilly nervously shuffling closer to her Captain.
Thoris is bemused by Tilly's actions. She is really terrified of her. And yet, she would be willing to work with this persona. Who is this woman?
"What do you want Lady Raven?"
“How could you let this happen?” Raven’s demeanour shifts from pleasant to hostile, disregarding Thoris’s question, her hands are folded to fists ready to jump at him.
“Excuse me?” retorts the Captain disbelievingly, picking up a stance to defend himself if it’ll come to blows.
“She was taken from under your nose, under your command.”
“Commander Burnham chose to lead an expedition on an uninhabited planet, we were 20 minutes away. How is it my fault?” Thoris tries to defend his actions, there was no foul play on his side.
Tilly senses that the Emperor will move in any second to attack the Captain, so she clenches her teeth together and steps forward to situate herself between Raven and Thoris. The Emperor wouldn’t hurt her, would she?
“Please … khhm … Raven. The Captain is not at fault. Nobody saw it coming.” states Tilly in defence of the Captain.
Georgiou regards Tilly, gazes locking, but she wouldn’t move. Tilly makes another attempt to cool down the situation.
“If you attack him, you’ll be sent to the brig, no matter what happens. And then you can’t help Michael.”
That does it. Thoris can see the change in Raven’s look. She finally backs down and turns away from them to recollect herself. Tilly lets out a deep breath. She almost peed herself. She resumes her position behind the Captain.

After a minute, Thoris becomes impatient, “Earlier you’ve said something about the whereabouts of Commander Burnham." remarks Thoris. “And choose your words carefully, that is the only reason you're on board this ship. Especially after your little stunt. So, where is she?" the Captain can’t back down. He had a glimpse of this woman’s determination and rage and though he wouldn’t want to get into her way, there are still rules to follow.
Georgiou turns back to them, anger still residing in her eyes, but the previous fire had been calmed to a smoulder.
"I don’t know exactly where she is, but I can get to Michael. Unfortunately getting there is the easy part, getting out is another question. I couldn’t make it on my own with the resources I have, I need some things and your help ensuring our escape. "
Thoris mulls on her answer, ingesting every word she said and watching her like a hawk.
“And,” continues Georgiou, “we both know that's not the only reason I’m here." indicating towards Tilly.
“Go on.” prompts her the Captain.
"She's being held captive at an unknown location, waiting to be sold to the highest bidder." the Captain and Tilly shares a look, they’ve anticipated something like this to happen.

"How do you know about her situation?"
"I have been invited. There is a location near Korvat where they are going to pick me up in 4 days, but I don't know where the auction will be precisely. I suspect not too far from it, but there are a way too many small moons and asteroids with mining facilities near."
"Do you know if she's still alive? We've found lots of blood on the premises of the abduction."
"She was bleeding?" Raven seems genuinely surprised to Thoris. She shows a PADD to him.
"There is no information about her precise injuries. Only a short video, it was sent with the invitation. It is updated every 8 hours. They’d decided and I quote "to do a small surgery to heal some of her wounds", but from the looks of it she is still in a bad shape."
Thoris hands her back the PADD. "And what makes you the only person to get to her?"
"Only guests with invitation can get in, and their DNA is tested. So only those are invited with whom the seller has already met before and trusts them.” she tilts her head mockingly “Well, as far as you can trust us low-lives of course."

"Can the invitation be forged? Maybe we could even intercept someone." Tilly inquires.
"It can't be forged. DaiMon Torg works with the best technology. And I must go alone. Only the wealthiest can have one escort. Unfortunately, here, I'm not one of them."
What did she mean about here? wonders Thoris.
“DaiMon? A Ferengi is behind this? It is highly unusual.” asks the Captain incredulously.
“I don’t think he’s behind it. The Ferengis are good at making money from the most various resources. An auction is something any one of them would participate in.”
"If we're to transfer you the money to buy her out..."
"First of all, we both know you wouldn't trust me with that amount of money. And besides, everybody has been vetted before, DaiMon Torg knows everyone's value. It would be suspicious enough to not let me in had I arrive with the amount of credits to buy her."

Then she must have other plans. Here comes the headache.
"You said you need us to get out...."
"Yes, since I don't know the location, escaping might be difficult with the most valued asset. And I'm sure you have some handy equipment I might need to get Michael out."
"And how would you leave the premises?"
"Fortunately, shuttles are also on sale, and since Torg knows that I need a new one, he wouldn't bat an eye on me buying one. Keep an eye out for a Romulan shuttle. I intend to escape to the other direction, not the one where we'll be picked up. There would be too many unwanted ships."
“And you’d want us to help you out there I assume.”
“Yes, and call for backup, a handful of Federation vessels can frighten away anyone who would chase us.”

Thoris still can’t wrap this around his head. She is here, showing confidence in her plan to get to Michael. It just doesn’t add up, he must voice his uncertainty.
"I still don’t understand. Why would you help risking your life? And how could I know you won't be using us to steal something and leave Burnham behind?" Tilly snorts at this. The Captain turns back to Tilly at the noise she made. "Do you have anything to add Ensign?" Tilly purses her lips, shaking her head.
"Well?" directs his question back to Raven again.
"I can't tell you." answers Georgiou coolly. She knows she’s still a classified secret to the Captain, maybe she could ruffle his feathers, or antennae in his case with this … if she can’t punch him now.
"Why?" continues Thoris with a one syllable question.
"If you don't know me, then you're not on the need to know list." Georgiou watches with delight how the Captain’s face contorts.

Thoris huffs "This is non-sense." his headache is well founded, he doesn’t need to be told that it is classified.
"Do you trust Ensign Tilly's care for Burnham?" comes a surprise question from Raven.
"Excuse me?" asks the Captain and Tilly at the same time.
"Do you trust her?" Raven asks again, seemingly losing her patience.
The Captain looks back at the Ensign, who wears a startled expression. "Yes."
"Then why are we still arguing, when we could be planning ahead?" Raven’s tone is impatient at best.

Captain Thoris finally caves "What else do you need?"
"I can only bring one small arms and maybe two knives with me. Explosives, laser cutters, cameras and comm devices will be confiscated on entry. In excessive cases it can even end in denying entry. I almost have everything I need. My small untraceable cameras need concealment I know Discovery has on hand. And I still need some small explosives, the new Triceron-Ultritium prototype you have on board would do. Oh, and 2 small high-end tracers with long-range subspace connection for transporter localization."
Thoris is surprised “How do you know that we have such equipment? We’re even the only ship in the fleet with the explosives you require.”
“I’m not telling you my source, but I assure you it wasn’t Michael nor Tilly.
“Who was it?” tries Thoris again.
"It's classified." grins Raven.
Thoris sighs, this is getting on his nerves "Ensign, how long would it take to get everything?"
"Ugh … Everything is in engineering, it just needs to be fitted, maybe an hour."

"What do you want with the tracers?" asks the Captain.
"One goes under my skin; your doctor can inject it, if you don’t trust me with it. If I can't give one to Michael, you can transport the two of us on my signal."
"Wouldn't it be detected?"
"No, I'll turn it on after a few hours of my arrival. Its frequency is too low for any current detector. It will emit the location of the auction, so you'll know where to find us."
"We can't barge in there if something were to happen."
"Of course, most likely you would be shot down. But I assure you, you'll notice when we'll be on the run."
"A sub-space message?"
"Most likely an explosion." states in a matter of fact Raven.

Ugh, he must see the doctor after this, his headache is just getting worse. Maybe it is best not to ask for details regarding her plan. Though judging by her quick responses, she must have thought about everything already.
"Anything else?"
"We need to be ready in a few hours. I have to get back to my ship, to arrive at the given location. You need to cloak yourself and follow at a great distance. Expect about 50 invited customers, all arriving on different vessels."
"Yes, and knowing Torg, there will around 50 armed guards as well."
"How do you expect to get away with an injured Burnham by your side surrounded by that force?"
"With style.” grins Raven. “Don't underestimate me Captain." and she winks at Tilly.
"Ensign, escort our guest to engineering to prepare the equipment. Don't let her out of your sight, and don't let her touch anything. I’ll have two security guards tail the two of you. “
"Aye, sir." Why couldn't she keep her mouth shut? How she is supposed to stop her doing anything? She hopes the Ex-Emperor will behave.
Just before the Georgiou leaves the ready room, she turns back to address Thoris, “Captain, I’ll give you a fair warning, don’t threaten me again, you don’t want me as an enemy.”
Thoris can only stare back at her. "Let's go." announces Georgiou to Tilly, then, when she is a step away from her, she adds whispering "Killy". Tilly gulps, so much for behaving, and she heads toward the elevator trailing Georgiou.

They’ve jumped out of warp. Michael listens intently, there is a shuffle at her door. Perhaps they’ve arrived at their intended location. She feels herself feverish, nobody listened to her pleading before, maybe this new location at least will have a doctor. An hour passes, and without warning she’s transported from the ship. Michael assesses her newest surroundings. This place is definitely of a human design, but the cell is even more poorly equipped, it is scabby and there is a foul smell floating around. There is only a cot and a bucket. Wonderful. On opposite ends of the cell, bars detain her, the other two sides are walls. She finds the cot and sits on it. Michael can hear moving. A guard. He is Nausicaan. Sneering at her, she fights down the urge to growl back at him. He’s waiting for someone. The next minute a Ferengi stands in front of her cage – she couldn’t call this a cell.
“Welcome Commander Burnham to my humble abode, I hope your accommodation is to your liking.” grins menacingly. “I’m your host DaiMon Torg. Should you need something, I would consider not telling it to the guards, they don’t like to be bothered.”
“Really, even if I were to tell you, that my wound is still open and it is infected? Whatever plans you have I’m sure I’m more valuable to you alive.” replies Michael tiredly.
“You’re right.”
“Guards, grab her! We’ll take her to the doctor. A few shots of meds will do. We only have to keep you alive for the next five days.” laughs Torg at Michael.

On their way to engineering Tilly tries to look straight ahead so the Emperor would not engage her in a conversation, but Georgiou has other ideas.
"Tilly, your Captain said that Michael is heavily injured, do you know to what extent?"
"She lost about a litre of blood, most likely from a blade to the stomach."
"Do you know what happened exactly?"
"They were investigating some old ruins on a deserted, small planet. There was an ambush. The others on the team were shot down or incapacitated, we don't know too much. The attackers had personal cloaking devices and a communications scrambler. We have the scrambler if you'd like to see it."
“Was there anything particular about this scrambler?” asks Georgiou.
“We picked it apart with Lieutenant Stamets, almost every part of it is from a different sector. We’d identified 24 different source locations for the material that was used to build it.”
“That’s Torg’s signature.” states Georgiou.

"Did you have any other leads?"
"Commander Saru thought about Mudd. We paid him a visit. The Captain is suspicious, but there is no evidence on his involvement."
"Do you trust his suspicion?"
"Sort of. He is a grump, but he reads people quite well."
Georgiou nods, "I still want to punch his blue face."
“Well, you can’t.” remarks Tilly.

Tilly stops for a second and looks at the Emperor, and she tries to put on her serious face.
"You know, Michael wouldn't appreciate any unnecessary killings on her behalf. Especially from you."
"If I can't get to her in time, and she ends up dead, she can't be disappointed in me." retorts Georgiou.
"Then I suppose, we have to make sure you'll save her." and Tilly marches determined forward to the engineering.

Chapter Text

Four days later at the pickup location of the auction invitees.
Georgiou arrives on her cruiser, the Phoenix, where a large Romulan Warbird awaits the invited guests. Yep, the Discovery would not have a chance. She also has to find a way to disable this monster before getting away. Good start, she notes to herself cynically. The Warbird is a rare sight, Torg or his accomplices must’ve acquired it from the Klingons.
“Ashai, when all of the ships have arrived scan them, but do only a quick scan nothing too suspicious. Then, send a coded message to the Discovery about the ships. They should know what they’re up against.”
“And what should we do in the meantime?”
“Wait. This should be concluded in two days, then I’ll send a message with my instructions. If not, you'll get a message from the Discovery in three days.”

As Georgiou steps on the ship she is escorted by two Klingon guards to a room full of people. Torg seems to be hosting a small reception for the guests. On her way there she made note on the variety of guards, Corvallens, Nausicaans, Klingons, Xindi-Reptilians and few Cardassians and Andorians are serving as muscles, the most irritable species anyone can find around the Federation.
"Ah, Lady Raven what a sight for sore eyes! Here, have a drink." welcomes DaiMon Torg Lady Raven.
Raven accepts the drink and begins evenly "Oh, it will definitely be sore for you, you bastard!" leading the DaiMon aside.
"We don't need to be out of sight." the Ferengi tries to reason with her, helplessly trying to lock gazes with one of guards, but none seems to be noting their confrontation.

She leans into the Ferengi's face and asks pointedly "Where. Is. My. Money?"
"You'll get it. I’ll invited you as an apology." cowers the Ferengi.
"I don’t need an apology, I need my money. I thought that was clear when one of your informants had an unfortunate accident. Or you know what? I can acclaim it to every attendant loudly, that their gracious host did not pay my last job in full and still owes me 100000 darseks. And to bout he is reluctant to pay. “ DaiMon Torg gasps.
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Wouldn’t I? Maybe, that message will be clearer for you to hear with your small ears.” insults Raven and continues on “Imagine the scandal, since you claim all auction items are to be authentic, yet you're unable to pay the amount of a mediocre item on your list. Do you want that?"

"Why are you really here?" asks Torg suspiciously.
Georgiou feels herself strange. Great, she was right. Again. The bastard put truth serums in the drinks, he was just waiting for it to have its effect. It's good she'd come prepared. "For my money of course. And I was interested in some of your items on sale. Like that neat little Romulan shuttle." She makes it look like she needs to struggle a bit with her answer. She has to admit, the stuff is more potent than usually, but she can deflect it with a few well-chosen words with truth in them.
"How about the Starfleet Commander?" challenges Torg.
"Pff, we both know I don't have the resources to even pitch in at start and that I have no interest in Starfleet. I'll just stay here for the fun of it." continues her answer.

Torg regards her sceptically, but decides to bargain with her "How about I increase your funds with 125000 darseks when you're bidding? Will it suffice for you not to cause a scene?"
"Make it 150000. And if I don't buy anything, you’ll give me 130000." negotiates Raven.
"125000 if someone outbids you on the shuttle you wish to buy, and your money will be transferred to your account at that instant." grumbles Torg.
"Deal. But if you neglect to pay me again, you'll have an on-hand experience of my abilities."
"I understand." and Torg tries to sneak away but Raven grabs his arm.
"When are we leaving?" asks Raven louder.
"In an hour, we are waiting for two other guests, then we're off to a station on Daimos. In the meantime, please try to refrain from maiming any well-paying customers."
"I'll see what I can do." sneers Raven.

“Sir, we’re half a light year away from the pickup coordinates.” reports Detmer.
“Thank you, Lieutenant. Lieutenant Owosekun, is anybody aware of our presence?” asks Captain Thoris.
“Nothing to report, sir.”
Bryce interjects, “Sir, we’re getting a transmission from the Phoenix. They’re sending us tactical data and visuals on the ships at the pickup point.”
“Lieutenant Rhys, once all data have been downloaded put it on screen. Let’s see what we’re dealing with.”
“Aye, sir. Wow, you’ve got to see this! Sending everything to the screen.”
The crew is in awe of the scene, various ships – mostly cruisers are gathering around – but what caught their eye is the enormous green ship in the centre.

“Lieutenant Rhys, what kind of a ship is that?” inquires Thoris.
“According to the Phoenix’s report, that ship is a Romulan warbird. Warp 8.5 capable drive, cloaking device, aside that, we’re outgunned by 4 to 1. “ says Rhys after checking the data Ashai sent them.
“Damn, that ship is huge. What does it do in Federation space?”
“It is repurposed by the Ferengi, there are no Romulans aboard.”
“Sir, the Phoenix just sent us a report that the Warbird left the area. They’ve given us a warp vector but the First officer thinks it might be a bogus to throw everyone off.”
“I agree, we’ll wait for Lady Raven tracer’s signal.” states Thoris.

Upon arriving at the station on Daimos - a small creepy looking moon in the system - everybody was directed towards their respective quarters to unpack and unwind. The auction is to be held on the next day evening. Until then, the would-be customers could check their intended items in person, even the live merchandise. They’re told that there is an extra secured area opposite of the office of Torg if someone would wish to store something valuable. Georgiou has no time to lose. She has to go, map the area, check the guards, the holding cells and if possible the Romulan Warbird. She turns on her tracer, tucks her small gadgets in her attire and sets out.

As expected she's not the only one roaming around. It is not late, it's still around 4 in the afternoon and the raunchy low-lives and warlords are not likely to be sitting around in their quarters.

The station on Daimos seems to be a repurposed mining facility. It has a rectangular design with connected corridors on each side, every corridor is sealable in case of emergency. There are two entrances, the docking bay they’ve used to enter the facility and a shuttle bay on the other side. The area of the docking bay leads to left and right to corridors of the quarters and to a bar opposite of the dock. She heads first through the guest corridors to the back area of the station. In the corner, Georgiou places a camera beside a relay box when the guard patrolling is not looking. There is a small corridor on the left leading to the bar and a bit further another corridor on the right leading to the office of Torg and storage area which she must check out. There is only a short corridor with Torg’s office on the left and the storage room on the right, only two Xindi-Reptilians guarding it. She holds up a small packet for the guards to show that she’d like to store it. They let her in, it is just a small room with numerous vaults without any surveillance. Then she walks along the corridor she’d come to find a corridor leading to the holding cells on the left. One Cardassian guard is standing at his post, who grunts at her to move along, the cells must be empty if there is only one guard. Further along there is too much movement so Georgiou decides to go back to the bar through the connected corridor.

The bar is vast, two-level establishment at the centre of the station, from the second floor one could oversee the outside of the whole station. Most of the customers taken up a residence here. Some she knows, some she doesn't really want to get to know. There are two guards at each of the entrances on the four sides of the bar.

As she enters, some eyes turn to her. They’re sizing her up, just like she'd done before from the shadows on the Warbird. She is the only human here, which can cause difficulties if she wants to interact with Michael. Probably half of the attendees already think she is here because of her. It's not like they are wrong. But still, she has a reputation to upkeep and she needs to deter any unwanted attention. The best way is to cause some trouble. Georgiou eyes the Klingon acting as a guard for Mork'Sho G’ordul, he looks like a good target. He is boasting at his killings loudly for everybody to hear while G’ordul listens quietly. Mork'Sho G’ordul is a respected, old Klingon with a lot battles and fights under his belt, his wealth is known by many. They are drinking with four other Klingons.

Georgiou gets herself a bottle of liquor and a glass, looks around and her eyes settle on someone she didn’t expected to find here. Tadras Pren, a Trill hacker. He is even sitting at the perfect location, a table away from G’ordul and his man. She waves at her connection and moves towards him.
"Tadras Pren, what a surprise!" exclaims Raven loudly and she sits down, opposite to the Klingons just so they have a clear view of her. She needs it to anger the henchman.
“What are you doing here? I thought auctions were not your thing.” starts Raven their conversation.
"Raven! Never thought I'll see you here as well. I was doing some business with Torg before and he extended his invitation to this auction as a bonus for a job well done. “
“What job?”
“The type of job you couldn’t do.” brags Pren with a grin. He gulps his drink and pours another one for himself from Raven’s bottle. “Heard you'd a beef with Torg."
"Yes, I’d had some unfinished business with that worm. But, he’d come to his senses and realised that fucking with me is no fun, so he invited me here to iron out our differences. With interest I might add. "
She hears a loud murmur from G’ordul’s table at her blustering words.

"Surely you're here for the Starfleet officer?" asks Pren with an obnoxiously conspiring voice. He plays right into her hand, as if they’d agreed on it before.
"Me? Bah, no. Little brat not knows when to stop. And what would I do with her? She is only good at causing trouble but can't really get herself out of it as it seems. I can clean up the floor with a KLINGON in two minutes at worst, she could be no help to me." a loud snort from the opposite table signals her that the Klingons are now fully listening in. Perfect!
"But Starfleet would be grateful." tries Tadras to reason.
"Just because I'm human that does not mean I want to do anything with Starfleet." and she gulps her drink. First rule of starting a new life is to have the perfect backstory. She spent a few days perfecting it, now it rolls out of her as if she lived through all of it.
"I've lost my only son because of the war with those animals. And Starfleet? Pfft. And all they could say, we're sorry, but this is war. And what could a mother do who lost everything?” Georgiou is acting with conviction, her eyes fill with unshed tears, then she barrels her fist down on the table with rage, glasses clinking together and exclaims “During the next raid on our colony, when the Klingons came to rob and kill everyone they saw just for the fun of it, I went and one by one killed every single one of them!"

As the last sentence leaves her mouth, the henchman sits up from his table knocking away chairs, shoving Pren and their drinks out of the way and shouts in Raven’s face while leaning intimidatingly on their table.
"You, puny human. You, killing Klingons? I'd like to see that happening. This place is far too boring for my taste anyway." Others begin to gather around, cheering at the henchman. Oh, this is so much fun, she almost laughs out loud.
"I'm not here to kill anybody." and she calmly stands up and turns to G’ordul.
"If you’ll allow me walk away after our fight, I would like to introduce your insolent tool to the ground. I promise to try not killing him, but it depends on him." offers Raven. In the corner of her eyes she sees Tadras picking himself up from the floor and he gives her a slight nod.

G’ordul regards her. He is interested. He can see that this woman has strength beyond her size and thinks that his guard could use a little lesson in business communications. And yes, this place could use a little sprucing up.
"I’d like to see that! If you hand his ass to him in 120 seconds I'll pay you 25000 darseks." challenges G’ordul. The crowd roars up and begins to make bets in no time.
"Double, if I make it in 60 seconds" she ups the ante. She glances over Tadras, he is already collecting betting money from others on her behalf. G’ordul agrees. It is an impossible task, there is a reason why he chose this hard-headed soldier as his only escort.

The Klingon henchman pulls out his Mek'leth, hands waving up in the air enticing the crowd. He easily weights 3 times as Georgiou and has a definite advantage in height. Or a disadvantage from Georgiou's point of view. The people are pulling away tables and chairs creating a makeshift ring for them to fight in. The guards are not even concerned they are used to events like this. Georgiou heads to one side, puts down her coat and pulls out her knives. Her frame looks even more fragile without it and the Klingons and Nausicaans begin to laugh loudly, pointing at her light figure.

Michael is jolted awake by a sound of a roaring crowd. What is happening down the halls? She is sitting on the floor of a cell they’d brought her this afternoon before the guests have arrived. For a change, this cell has force field shielding instead of simple metal bars, but its size is appalling. She is too tired and too sick to care anymore, so she did the only thing she could, she slumbered over the increasing background noise. Now, from her point of view, she can see various objects on display, along with some slaves. There are guards at the entrances and some guests are wandering around checking the objects and slaves alike. But this loud chanting? She wonders, what got them so excited.

As bets are finished, G’ordul walks to the centre of the ring and the crowd hunkers down. He signals for both contestants to come closer. He asks Raven if this is really what she wants, and nods. G’ordul can only say "It's your funeral." and with that he starts the countdown to 2 minutes.

Georgiou knows that Klingons usually fight with brute force and in order to maximize that force they are slow to hit and move. Whereas she is faster than most humans and her punches are delivered strongly than expected, with an added precision of a sharpshooter. She just need to be perceptive and move only when the Klingon is close and not be grabbed by him.

The Klingon charges at her and she grips her knives and waits for the perfect time to spring at him. When the Klingon is just 4 feet away, he raises his right arm to deliver a blow with the Mek’leth. Georgiou ducks under his arm and quickly drives her knives in between his ribs then pulls them out instantly and the Klingon roars up in pain. In the next second, she kicks the back of his knee, making him collapsing to it. The crowd cheers the Klingon to get up, but he is too slow for her. Before he can gather himself up, Georgiou spins with a roundhouse kick and delivers a blow to the back of his head, rendering him unconscious. The crowd falls into a quiet murmur. As the heavy Klingon collapses he also earns himself a hit from the ground and the sickening sound of his nose breaking is heard in the startling silence. Everyone expected a different outcome. The Klingon is sprawled out on the ground unmoving. Twelve seconds, that's all it took. She even left him alive, they should be grateful.

G’ordul slowly walks over to her. He extends his arm for a handshake.
"You have my sincerest recognition. We've agreed on 50000 darseks but I'll give you 75000 in the appreciation of your feat."
At the peaceful exchange the audience rumbles. The few who bet on Raven cheer, the others are walking away grumbling.
"Thank you. But I only accept what we’ve agreed on. How about instead you recommend my services to your acquaintances?"
"Certainly. What is your name?"
"Lady Raven."
"I'll keep it in mind. This sight will surely be embedded in my memories for a long time."
and with that G’ordul instructs others to get a doctor. Georgiou picks up her coat, some come up to her to congratulate her (mostly small statured species) while she is trying to leave the ring and the bar.

Tadras is already waiting for her outside.

Chapter Text

"Congratulations. It seems your neat little move still works. Here is your share of profits." and Tadras Pren hands her 200000 darseks. Not bad. She can definitely buy that Romulan shuttle now and still left with money to bribe some guards if needed.

From where they are standing they can see that the guards are calling for a doctor to the henchman instead of directing G’ordul’s helpers to the sick bay.

Pren pulls Raven into one of the booths on the corridor out of sight of prying eyes and ears.
"So, what's your plan?" asks Tadras.
"What are you talking about?"
"I know you well enough that you didn't come here just for shopping and getting your money."
"I need a new shuttle. That idiot friend of yours crashed it during my last mission." hisses Raven.
"Riiight. Now that you mention it, do you know what happened to him?”
“Stupid people don’t tend to last long in our business.” answers Raven angrily.
“OK-OK, no need to be hostile.” Pren holds up his hinds in mock defence.
“I’ve come with a present. Torg employed me to reprogram the Warbird. He had a tracking algorithm watching my work, so I wouldn’t leave anything unwanted program behind, but he is no match for me. I can render it inoperable for a few hours or just control it remotely for a few minutes. Imagine the fun we could have with it?" grins Tadras.

"You are crazy!" she hushes him.
"Says the woman who wants to leave with the most expensive item on auction without paying." boasts the Trill.
She glares at him. Usually people are afraid of her but this pesky little Trill is apparently not. She met Tadras a few times before, cocky bastard saw right through her. The problem is that she didn't know any Trill before. For some reason there were no Trills in her Empire. Maybe they were as annoying as Pren and one of her predecessor weeded them out. There is something that she not understands in him, something she cannot really put her finger on. He is a youngling but with a confidence of a seasoned veteran. He definitely knows his trade, can break into any system on a whim, which makes him quite arrogant, but in the same time she knows he is exaggerating his behaviour for his own entertainment.

"What do you want?" she relents.
"I want to be in your merry little gang of misfits."
"You get good customers, and a lot of well-paying – and not to mention mostly exciting – jobs, and you could use my expertise in computers and hacking."
"You've already established yourself. Your share in my group could be less than you'd earn on your own in one job. I don't see it why you would want to join."
"I don’t get that many jobs on my own. And besides I'm bored and lonely and you seem like a lot of fun." whines Tadras like a 5-year-old.
Another curve-ball. Did not see that coming. Where she comes from, this would most certainly mean someone is trying to take her down. Here, he just might be some oddball genius with a bad taste in people.

"Tomorrow after the auction, wait for my signal. But I can't get you to safety, you have to do it by yourself."
"Already done."
She shakes her head and heads toward the shuttle bay. Suddenly she turns back and walks up to Tadras.
"If you're planning to cross me, you fuck with the wrong person."
"I know. Oh, and by the way, the code is 31527."
"For what?"
"Torg’s office of course. Here, this keycard will help you to bypass the handprint reader." he grins and walks back to the bar.
So far, everything is according to plan – as far as she can call a plan the steps of 1: cause mayhem, 2: grab Michael and 3: get the hell out of here. Hell, it is even better with Tadras on board, she wanted him on her team for a while. She cannot wait for the universe's biggest fuckup to happen.

She dons her coat and walks up to the area where the auction will be held. It is similar to her throne room on the Charon, but the side corridors of the station run through its backgrounds. The corridor on the right leads to the shuttle bay, where only the auctioned shuttles are on display. In the shuttle bay there are three guards patrolling, there are no blast doors to the bay only a force field separates the vacuum of the space and the insides of the station.

She inspects the Romulan shuttle. It still has cloaking ability and is able to fly immediately after payment. Good. She checks whether it has a standard medkit onboard, it could be very useful. And with luck everything is in place. She sits in the shuttle driving seat and begins to ponder about what could go wrong the most unexpected way. After 10 minutes she reminds herself that she still has work to do. She gets out of the shuttle and walks back over to the display area.

The display area of the other, smaller items is arranged in a triangle. The side which is in parallel with the corridors hosts a desk where the items will be issued upon payment. Right now, no one is there at the desk, but Georgiou expects about 2-4 guards to be there during the auction. The side closer to the shuttles is used for larger objects, while the third area is for the display of slaves. In the centre the small but valuable jewelleries and antiquities can be found, strictly stored in transparent cases.

Five slaves of various species are available, 2 men and 3 women, and Michael is also on display. She still wears her uniform, though it is tattered almost to recognition. She sits on the floor of a 1.5 x 1.5 m cell, behind a force field. She can see a narrow corridor leading to the ramp of the slaves, a guard is standing there watching every movement like a hawk. Michael seems disoriented, even though Georgiou stands about 20 m in front of her, yet there is no recognition in her eyes. While feigning interest in one of the trinkets in the centre Georgiou peaks through her hair fanning her face. Michael looks too ashen to her and her skin clammy, she must be still sick. At least she doesn’t have a collar on her neck like the others, but they are not behind a force field either, anyone can inspect them freely. She can tell that the women had already been felt up by a few times, and the night is still young.

She walks up to an Orion slave, beckons her closer. Georgiou is now only about 6 metres away from Michael, but there is still nothing, not even a glint in her eye. The Orion is hesitant, but Georgiou shows no malice.
"What were you doing before you ended up here?" asks her.
"Just the usual, I was a dancer in a bar on Corvallen, I was grabbed and hauled here."
"Good, then dance! Show me what you can do!" orders Georgiou. She stands arm crossed seemingly critical about the performance of the Orion girl. As the girl begins her twirl, Philippa glances to Michael, hoping that the movement of the green girl caught her eye.

Michael sits dazed in her cell. They've told her she'll be here until midnight, then she'll be back to her cell she became so familiar with. The gash on her stomach is infected, and they are not giving her enough water making her vision blurry on top of everything. She knows she won't last long. Which might not matter since whoever wants to buy her, will most likely disembowel her and put her on a ship as a hood ornament. She's not naïve. There is a reason why she’d only seen aliens. There are a few Klingons who already acclaimed her as theirs, so tomorrow is going to be day she dies, she’d already accepted that. She'd been abducted more than 8 days ago, and Starfleet has no chance in finding her near the Klingon border. Usually she's not the one giving up. She tried to fortify herself with her late Philippa’s words on hope, but frankly she is tired. The guards are constantly brash with her, hitting her when they have a chance. Not to mention last year's ordeals. Michael just wants this to be over with.

Her gaze wanders all evening while letting her head rest on the wall but she’s not really able to focus on anything. Suddenly a move catches her eyes. The Orion girl is dancing. Poor girl. But wait, she notices a familiar shape, dressed in all black. It couldn't be!? She tries to gather all her energy to focus on the person standing in front of the Orion girl. It is HER! What is she doing here? Is she trying to get herself killed? And she is looking at me! Her mind wakes up suddenly throwing away all suicidal thoughts. She needs to think of something to acknowledge her, but not alert her captors. She decides to move, to sit on the other side of her cell, keeping her gaze on Georgiou.

Georgiou can see Michael's movement and feel her gaze on herself. As an acknowledgement she smiles and tells the slave to stop. Michael is alert, and angles herself trying to listen in to their conversation.
"Will you buy me? You don't seem to be a bad person compared to the other monsters." the girl asks timidly, but Georgiou knows better than to fall for her innocent act.
"We both know that looks can be deceiving dear, but it depends. I have my eye on the Romulan shuttle. If I close a good deal and still have money, I'll bargain for you."
The Orion girl understands Georgiou’s tone of persuasion. “I’ll see what I can do.”
A shuttle! She is here to help me escape. Michael apologises for her inner Philippa about giving up hope. But how in the hell did Georgiou got in? She can see that an Arboreal-Xindi approaches Georgiou from behind, her heart begins to beat faster.
"Lady Raven! My name is Naart, I'm a representative of my boss Treak, who was utterly impressed by your action in the bar earlier. May I invite you to a small lounge just around the corner? My boss has a business proposition for you."
"Well if it isn't my lucky day. I'll hope I'll be as fortunate tomorrow during the auction as today. Sure, lead the way."

Burnham tries to think. Based on her speech she'll spring into action during or immediately after the auction. How could she be of use to her in managing her escape? She's weak, she could walk at a slow pace but running is out of question. Two days ago, she was rushed to the sick bay when she collapsed and the Doctor gave her some adrenalin and electrolytes. That could work. If only she could delay the effects or convince them to give it to her during the last stages of the ceremony. But wait a second, the Xindi was ”impressed by her actions in the bar”? It was her who got the crowd roaring up? What did she do?

After concluding her discussion with the Xindi Georgiou realises it is already midnight. She can't be seen wandering around the cellblocks at this hour, so she heads back to her quarters. In the morning she must find Pren.

Chapter Text

Breakfast is served in everyone's quarters at 8 o'clock. Georgiou shovels down the food and begins to look for Tadras in the bar. As expected she finds him there chatting with some Tellarites. As they see her marching towards them, they scatter away. Good, she hates them anyway. Oh, how she misses her Tellarite devoid Empire.
"Tadras, we need to talk. Not here." she hisses to him.
Tadras stands up, and bows "Your wish is my command." which earns him a good smack in the back of his head, the Tellarites are snickering in the background at the scene.
"Do that again and I flay you alive." Georgiou warns. Tadras bows his head and leads Georgiou away from the noise of the bar.

"What else do you need?" asks Tadras.
"You to not wear that awful smug face! And a little rearrangement of the items on the auction list. Nothing too obvious, change up the shuttles, put the Romulan first. I need time to get the command codes and the fly codes from the administration. Could you do that?"
"Yep. Anything else?"
"Come with me." She leads them to the exhibit and nods towards the slaves.

"See the Orion girl?”
“Go to her, show interest, and when no one is looking, tell her that you work for me. And during the auction you’ll buy her."
"What? Why?"
"We need her."
"You know I’m against slavery, right? And I don’t believe you have to pay to get laid whomever you’d want with."
"We, as in my merry little gang of misfits. And Orion women are not real slaves anyway."
"Oh. OK, got it. What's the limit?"
"Your ass."
"That is a high price you know."
"Do you want in or out?"
"In. While you were maintaining your profile, I wandered around. As you turn to the row of cells, there is a little corner, where a small camera would fit without any notice. It is also a good corner to plant explosives."
"What are you, a telepath?" She’d already put some explosives on the corridor leading from the auction theatre to the shuttle bay but the cells were so far out of limits because there was always someone there.
"As a Trill I'm really smart and have certain experiences. You'd need some vantage points and more than one distraction if something goes wrong.
“Thanks.” even Georgiou is surprised by her words.
"Just remember, who helped you."
"If I don't end up dead, I’ll make you employee of the month." and she marches off.
“I accept anything from darseks to gold-pressed latinum, your choice.” quips the Trill after Raven.

Georgiou returns to the bar, and decides to mingle with the Ferengi, they are the most talkative over Romulan Ale. It is annoying but their information is usually solid. When they don’t talk about business, everybody tries to guess the mystery item, but nobody has a clue. Around 11 there is a commotion and everyone hurries to the slaves. Burnham has collapsed. Georgiou tries to stay back, but G’ordul pushes her forward so she could see. Guards rush in and they hurry away with Michael. The fear of losing her in the last minute is creeping up in Georgiou. DaiMon Torg hurries there and tries to reassure everyone of Burnham's well-being.

G’ordul decides to step forward raising his voice.
"Torg, I'm not here to buy a piece of dead meat, I can do that on any market at a much cheaper price."
Everyone hushes, respecting and fearing the elder Klingon.
"I assure you, she is in good hands. She'll be up in no time, you'll see her at the auction." and Torg tries to go to the sick bay to see Burnham.
"No!" G’ordul's voice reverberates in the giant hall stopping Torg in his way.
"I want to know her exact condition!" others began humming in assent.
"All right I'll have a doctor to write a full report for you."
"Not so fast Ferengi. I want this Human to have a look on her." he points toward Raven.

Surprised, she holds up her hands and shakes her head.
"I'm honoured but I'm no doctor nor a nurse, I'm sure whatever doctors Torg have they are better physicians than me."
"But they are paid by Torg. You're a freelancer. You'll look at the doctor’s work, talk with the Human, and report back to us about her real condition. There must be a reason why she lost consciousness you are also to check on the conditions she is being hold, and as a gracious host Torg will let you in." G’ordul simply states. Torg growls, he doesn't need her in his backyard.

"What's in it for me?" asks Raven in interest.
"50000 darseks or the double whatever that worm would want to pay you for your silence."
"It is a pleasure doing business with you." exclaims Raven and heads towards Torg.
"Where is she?"
"This way." mumbles Torg leading Raven through the side corridor on the way to the sick bay.
"Did you know, that these Klingons already earned me more money, than your debt to me? I think I'll change allies next time." mocks Raven Torg in a singalong voice. She gets to annoy Torg and is getting paid ... she wonders when her luck will run out.

Chapter Text

Michael is brought to the sick bay, just as she thought. Two days ago, the guards left her there and she is hoping for the same to happen. The doctor is good person, he is here without his consent, maybe she could talk to him about getting a secondary shot. Michael tries to listen when the guards will go away, but there is no movement. It is like they are waiting for somebody. And soon she hears voices getting closer to her current position. It is Torg and Georgiou! Her heart begins to race in elation but she must restrain herself to avoid being discovered in feigning her collapse.

“So, tell me, what did your men were thinking when they shoved a knife in her abdomen?” inquires Georgiou from Torg.
“They did nothing that hasn’t been told to them.” replies Torg casually.

Shortly they arrive in the sick bay. Even though it is supposed to be the sick bay, to Georgiou it rather looks like a rundown backroom of a striptease bar. The lighting is terrible - which is good is this case - and the smell is even worse, like dead meat is rotting somewhere.
Burnham lies on one of the beds, seemingly unconscious but an almost unnoticeable tapping movement of her finger indicates that she's aware of her surroundings. Georgiou quietly releases a sigh. It was Michael's plan. Good.

"What's her problem?" asks Georgiou the Denobulan doctor. He has a remote-control collar around his neck which becomes visible as he looks at DaiMon Torg for confirmation.
"You can tell her everything, it is best the Klingons don't barge in here. Guards, with me!" and he leaves in distress.
“Hey, Torg!” shouts Raven after him.
“What do you want?”
“G’ordul also asked me to check her cell, and you know I don’t do partial work.”
“Nobody is there, the doors are open. You can even sit down and close one of those cell doors on yourself if you’d wish.” and with that Torg is out on the door.

The doctor waits patiently watching the scene in front of him unfold. After the door closes behind Torg he looks at Raven expectantly. At her encouraging nod he starts his report.
"She is dehydrated. Always has been. The guards don't give her enough water, no matter what I tell them."
"And how are her wounds?"
"Not good. I can only change her bandages once per day, but it is not enough. I’m not allowed to do anything else to heal it. She'd need time to recover, should anyone want to keep her alive that is."
“She also has 2 broken ribs on both side of her chest. She was lucky when she fell that none of them shifted, they could’ve punctured her lung.”

"I need to check on her, I was asked to confirm everything you're telling me."
"Be my guest. I'll prepare the regular injection for her." and he walks around the back of the room.
Georgiou quickly slips the small tracer from her bracelet putting it in Michael's mouth. "It's a tracer, put it away in your mouth." whispers Philippa.

Michael tries to subtly touch Georgiou in need for a connection. Philippa intercepts Michael’s hand, and Michael takes a deep breath trying to keep her tears at bay, but a few reckless teardrops escape the corner of her eyes. Her heart soars at the connection and a calming sense of serenity takes over her. Finally, she has something solid to hold on to. Georgiou puts something in it packed in a piece of clothing. "Keep this rolled up just in case. Don't hold it in your hand, it's explosives, there is a trigger chip inside." comes an order.

Georgiou still hasn’t released Michael’s hand. She needs this reaffirmation of hope as much as Michael. But as she notices Michael’s tears, it makes her head swarm so decides to do something else – she needs to keep her focus for both of their sake.

Releasing Michael’s hand Georgiou lifts the piece of clothing covering Burnham's wound to inspect it. It smells. The doctor didn’t lie. There are even more bruises and cuts covering different part of her body.
"What is in this magic injection of yours?" shouts Georgiou to the Doctor.
"Adrenaline, electrolytes. Torg limits the amount of pain meds and antibiotics that can be administered. I’ve put in as much as I could, but it’s barely keeping her alive. I'll try to put some saline IV into her while they're keeping her here. She should be here and not out there."
"Could you make another one, for later. Just in case?" and she’s indicating that she has a credit chip in her hands willing to trade.

The doctor eyes the woman standing in front of him, wondering about her intentions. Then he decides to comply and returns a minute later with another one.
"Here. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put pain meds inside because that would raise some alarms. Use it wisely." conspires the doctor and takes the chip from her as he hands over the syringe.

Georgiou puts away the syringe and walks towards the cells. The cells are just a corner away and this is a perfect time to place her gadgets around. The guards are absent, they are mostly guarding the slaves on display. As she turns to the cells she places the camera at the angle Tadras said, and along the corridor of the cells she places some disguised explosive charges. The explosives are easy to put on the wall, she just need to walk a bit closer, touch it and it will stick to there.

The smell coming from the cells is even more nauseating than the one in the sick bay. It is a miracle everyone is still alive. All cells are set up with the same design, a cot with minimal pallet and a thin blanket and an open bucket filled with excrements. It looks like they were never emptied. There is no running water connected to the cells. In the cells however there is a big jug filled with water. Georgiou arrives to the last cell. Based on what the doctor said this must be Michael’s. There is no water jug in this cell, just a small cup, there is not even a pallet or a blanket on the cot. On top of everything she was put through, she was unnecessary tortured like this all this time she was kept here. Georgiou is filled with rage. She must take a small detour and walk slowly before returning to G’ordul in order to clear the anger from her voice.

Fifteen minutes later she walks back to G’ordul.
"She is sick from her wound that they've inflicted on her when she was captured. They've been holding her in worse conditions than an animal. She collapsed because they don't give her enough to drink and not treating her wounds well. So, if you wish to have an honourable fight to kill her, then don't hurry to pick her up, she'll need time and proper medical care to be able to stand on her own, not to mention holding a Mek'leth. If you only came for her head, then she won't be resisting you, she doesn't have the energy nor the will to fight and awaits for her death."
"Thank you, little bird. I've come here to bring her back to Qo'noS for a public execution, and that's what she'll get."

Georgiou heads back to her room as fast as she can. The sight of Michael's wounds, the state of the cells and G’ordul's words have an unexpected effect on her. She heaves over her toilet not being able to keep down her breakfast. When she finishes, she sits down on the floor exhausted. She only broke down like this once, when she'd lost her daughter. She cannot lose this one as well. Georgiou berates herself for being so weak for one person, but she doesn't have the strength to distance herself from Michael. Her words to Burnham come back to haunt her: " wished to save me, because you couldn't save her. This regret that you have for what you did, it weakens you." It definitely weakens her.

She must gather herself and be ready for the show. It is the only way to save Michael, even if it would cost her life. She stands weakly and sits on her bed, she rests her head in her hands, her heart is pounding like it wants to be released. Michael's desperate attempt to touch her, grips her heart so tightly she can barely breathe. Philippa stands and begins to pace around in her room to calm her nerves down, she can't be seen like this.

Then she remembers something. One of her crewmember likes to read old books from Earth. Once he held a book in his hands and began reading out a line: "A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path"*. It hit her hard when he read it first, and now even more so. Maybe be this is what she needs. To harness her anger as a mother who’d bring down walls with her own hands if she had to, in order to save her child. She takes a deep breath to recollect herself, then she hides all her arms and heads toward the offices with a dangerous glint in her eye. It is almost showtime and she dares anyone who wishes to stop her from saving her daughter. But first, she has to steal the data chip Torg always keeps with him. And to do that she has to pay him a nice visit.

Chapter Text

As Georgiou steps into the bar she notices that giant screens are being placed in the bar showing the auction theatre. Out of curiosity she walks into the display area where the same is happening, a screen is being placed just behind the administration desk, so anyone picking up their item could still be aware of the biddings and transactions. There are 10 guards now in the display area and from the screens she estimates about 10 in the auction area. Nobody said it is going to be easy.

She walks over to the office of Torg. There are still only two guards, but not the same ones she encountered there yesterday which is an advantage. The auction will start in 15 minutes, Torg will oversee it, therefore she doesn’t have much time so she signals on Torg’s door.

“You again? What do you want?” asks Torg, while secretly pushing a button under his desk.
Georgiou looks around quickly assessing the office. She needs her hands on Torg’s data chip he always has with him. Right now, it is connected to the computer on his desk. There is something else. Torg is toying with a golden Starfleet delta in his hands.
“I’ve just came here to applaud you for your little feat here.” starts Georgiou, sitting down in the chair opposite of Torg.
“Cut the crap, what is it that you’re after?”

“Well, I was wondering how you managed to get Burnham plucked under the nose of Starfleet. You must have had some informant to know exactly when she’ll be outside of the reach of Discovery? And I suspect getting that Warbird was not your doing either.”
“Your reasoning is correct, I’ve had some help on both terms. One of them is already paid and I’ll share the profit with the other one, 50-50.”
“You’re usually not up for sharing … at least not at this even rate.”
“True, but in this case, it will also help me gaining other advantages as well, so it is worth it.”
Georgiou looks at him with suspicion.
“I believe you were expecting a more concrete answer. You know it well that I like to share secrets as much as you do.” grins Torg.
“Agreed.” mulls Georgiou.

“Will Burnham’s delta be the mystery present?” Georgiou motions towards Torg’s hand.
“Oh, this little thing? It is not Burnham’s.” and he holds up the backside for Georgiou to see.
“Captain Philippa Georgiou? Her badge? It looks pretty banged up.” notes Georgiou with a fake surprise. If there is a chance to grab it, she will; Michael would appreciate it.
“Yes, the last captain of the Klingon sarcophagus ship used it as a tooth pick. Even sedated, Burnham held onto it strongly. This is a just a small trinket, and even though I could sell it at a high price…” Torg contemplates “…I thought it would be fitting to give away the Commander with her Captain.”
“I admit it is a nice touch. Will you just hand it over to G’ordul or will you put it in a nice casing?”
“G’ordul doesn’t care for niceties, I’ll just put it in my pocket and give it to him.” and he puts the badge in the left inner pocket of his jacket.

“But alas, it was good to chat with you, I’m afraid we’ll have to continue this conversation at a later time. I’ll have to go.” announces Torg.
“Oh, yes, of course. After you, I don’t want you make you late.”
They stand up and leave the office. Georgiou notices that Torg left his data chip in his computer untouched.
She slows down a bit behind Torg in the corridor.
“Aren’t you coming, Lady Raven?” inquires Torg in a resentful tone.
“In a few minutes, I still have to grab my valuables from the storage.”
“Are you in a hurry to leave?”
“Yes, I have a job lined up on the earliest convenience.”
“As you wish.” replies Torg and leaves for the auction.

Georgiou turns back to the storages. She shows the security card to the guards and they let her inside. After a minute she calls out for the guards to help her with the door of her safe. One of them walks in, gun hanging behind his back. A foolish move. As he inspects the door Georgiou shots him down, with her gun on stun setting – Tilly’s words rubbing off on her. She hauls him in to the other corner and calls the second guard standing by the door.
“For your information your friend and I will be having a little fun, I thought I’d ask you if you’d want to join?” leers Georgiou. The guard looks around and steps inside the storage, receiving the same treatment as the first one had.

She quickly pats them down for anything that could be used later and puts away a small grenade. From her safe Georgiou grabs the nifty little data chip duplicator she brought herself with. She checks the corridors with the previously placed cameras, but she sees no one in the vicinity. As fast as she can, she ducks for Torg’s door, uses the combination and the card she was given by Pren.

The door opens without a hinge. The data chip is still connected to the computer, removing it would probably activate some alarms, so she connects the duplicator to clone it. She can see on her PADD that all data is encrypted but the Discovery will have their resources to decrypt it. After 2 minutes, the copying is finished and she heads to the auction. As she walks through the corridor leading to the auction she notices that they’re closing down the display area and she takes a quick note about the position of the guards inside.

When she steps in the auction theatre she counts 12 guards altogether standing in various strategic points of the area. Seats are arranged on two sides, five chairs in each half row. Treak and Naart, the two Xindi-Arboreal are sitting in the back right corner of the room, Tadras in the second row to the right, G’ordul and his henchman at the front, almost in the centre of the left side of rows. The Xindi, Treak nods at her and she signals back. Once she is seated - two rows behind Pren - a guard gives her a PADD with the list of the items. She quickly checks it and sees that Tadras indeed managed to change the order.

“Welcome everyone at my once in a lifetime auction!” greets DaiMon Torg the audience.
“We’ll start shortly, but there are few rules to follow. First, every one of you received a PADD with the order and list of the items, and you can see your balance at the top, from which the price will be deducted after your bid is locked. Every bid must be spoken out loud. After your win, you can go to the display area through the corridor on my left, where the administration will fill out the paper works and you can pick up your item, or you can leave a notice for it to be transported after the auction. The PADD you were given also serves as an identifier, and the contracts will be transferred onto them. Of course, you’re allowed to stay during the whole auction process and take your belongings after the event. Anyone who’d made a purchase and has their item can leave the premises through the docking bay, where a smaller ship will depart in every 15 minutes transporting the passengers back to their respective ships. Or if you happen to buy a shuttle you can leave immediately through the shuttle bay. I would like to remind everyone, that all long-range communications are still disabled. And now after the unpleasantries, let’s the auction begin!” finishes Torg.

Georgiou browses through the small items in a flash and finds what she’s looking for. An ancient twin bracelet worn by some queen ages ago. It doesn’t matter, what matters is that they were displayed separately, and are closest to the door of the display area where four guards are standing. Half of the items are sold in a swift succession, only the different jewelleries, shuttles and slaves – or as the contract will state, the indentured servants – remained along with Michael. The last of the jewelleries are the bracelets and Georgiou shots her arm up to land the first bid. The Xindi-Arboreal are quick to follow. Even though there is a competition, Treak wins the bid and he leaves the area with Naart in tow.

Afterwards, unexpectedly the slaves – sans Michael – are lead into the theatre to begin their auction.

Chapter Text

Tadras looks back at Raven alarmed. This is not what was supposed to happen. She reads through the list, which shows a new order. They’ve changed up the shuttles with the slaves and the Romulan shuttle will be sold right before Michael. She looks back at Pren and nods in an indication to follow through their previous plan.

Tadras manages to buy the Orion girl, Gaila, who is on offer for first and he heads to the administration to leave with her as fast as he can. While they prepare the contract, he sweeps the area sizing up the guards. When one the Ferengis sitting at the administration hands him the PADD indicating his ownership, he leans on the desk and he leaves a patch of micro-explosives under the table top. He grabs the arm of the girl and hurries for his transport at the docking bay.

Gaila follows Pren in confusion.
“Why are we in a rush? Shouldn’t we be waiting for her?”
“No. We’ve to get back to the ship where my belongings are. Come on, we have no time to chat.” and Pren practically pulls the girl with him.
To Gaila’s greatest surprise they board the Warbird.
“You came with this ship?” asks in suspicion and begins to formulate a plan to order Pren to turn around.

“Yes, I’ve rented a suite. They’re to bring me back to Corvallen.”
The men aboard the Warbird doesn’t heed them, they’ve gotten used to Pren while he was reprogramming the ship. “Get in!” ushers Pren Gaila inside and closes the door.
“I need to access the core system of the ship and the surveillance system of Daimos.” mumbles Tadras as he pulls out a computer from the suitcase under his bed.
Recognition dawns on Gaila. “What do you need me to do?”

Tadras stands unsure of himself.
“I don’t know, we could use some alibi if the security of this crew pays us a visit.”
Gaila smiles and begins to undress. After she’s is naked she pulls on Tadras’s coat. He turns to her and yelps.
“What … what are you doing?”
“Creating a diversion, shed your upper clothes, get in the middle of the bed. If they come in you can quickly put down the machine under the covers and we’ll have that alibi.”
The cogwheels in Tadras’s brain starts to turn and he does as Gaila says, then he proceeds to hack the systems. He needs to time everything perfectly, because he’ll only have a short window of opportunity to take control of the Warbird.

“Engineering to the Captain!” hails Stamets over the comms.
“Report, Lieutenant!”
“There is problem sir.” starts Stamets cautiously.
“What is it?”
“I was doing a routine full spectrum radiation check in the engineering when I’ve noticed something weird in the readings. The device we brought on board from Drellion emits a low energy radiation that changes the energy levels of molecules in a 15 m radius.”
“How did none of you noticed this before? Is it dangerous?” asks Thoris.
“This energy level is way below our normal sensor sensitivity. And no, it is not directly dangerous. It seems that the elevated energy level dissipates after a few weeks, and the increment is so low, that the basic structure and reactivity of molecules are not disturbed.”

“I don’t see why it is a problem then Lieutenant.”
“Because this elevated energy level can be detected. Think of it as an invisible indicator. Whoever knows what to look for, they’ll know who was in the range of this device.”
“What is the detectable range for it?”
“About 10 m, sir.”
“I’m sure everyone of us is out of any sensor range.” replies dryly Thoris.
“All but one sir. Lady Raven was here, she was surely affected by it. Given that she confirmed it was DaiMon Torg’s handy work, I’d say she could have more on her plate than just saving Michael.”
Damn it! “Thank you, Lieutenant!”

Captain Thoris looks at Saru questioningly who understands the unspoken uncertainty of the Captain.
“Sir?” Saru asks, and Thoris nods for him to continue.
“Lady Raven is very resourceful. Should anything go wrong, she would’ve find a way to notify us. The best possible way would be to turn off her tracker but we can still detect the signal of both trackers. I would advise on staying alert and only leave when either there is an explosion as she told us or one of the trackers goes offline.”
Thoris thinks through Saru’s words, Tilly also nods in assent though she is not as collected as Saru.

“All right everyone, if there is a little flicker on any of the sensors, you’re to report and be prepared to act quickly. Red alert!” issues Thoris the command, then sits down on his chair and instructs the 3 other Starfleet vessels accompanying the Discovery to be on guard to leave in the second Discovery will.

To an outsider Georgiou brings out her best resting bitch face, but on the inside her heart is racing. It will be a close call, but she can manage with this order of the items as well. She hopes that the Xindi-Arboreal fulfilled their end of their bargain.

The first two shuttles are sold easily but the owners chose to stay until the end of the auction. Now comes the Romulan shuttle. Georgiou waits for the first bid then swings into action. She needs to land this bid no matter the cost. Fortunately, the Orion girl worked her magic and her greatest contestants on the shuttle, the Tellarites, are not willing to pay more than a million darseks, so she gains the shuttle at a reasonable price. She almost runs to the administration, sneaking a quick glance at the explosives she hid en route to the shuttle bay, when she hears Torg’s announcement.

“And now for the finale, I’ll just ask for one more minute of your time.”
In the shuttle bay Georgiou can see what’s causing the delay. Michael is escorted by two guards along the corridor, each of them holding onto her, dragging her, she can barely walk on her own. Their gaze meets for a second before Georgiou looks away in pain, even more determined to beat the Ferengis sitting at their desk if they are not fast enough.

While the administration does their work, Georgiou follows the bid on Michael on the screen above the desk. There are a few other Klingons who would want to buy Michael for themselves but they clearly weren’t aware of Mork'Sho G’ordul’s wealth.

“What’s taking you so long, I need to be on Korvat as fast as possible.” ushers Georgiou the Ferengi.
“I’m sorry, but this is the first shuttle we have to transfer over the codes today so the system is a little bit slow, there is nothing I can do to make it faster.” apologises the Ferengi.
She doesn’t like this. A shiver runs down her spine, something doesn’t feel right. She looks around, the guards at the door are fixated on her just as much as the guards on both sides of the desk. Another two are in the centre of the area, two are standing guard at the door leading to the sick bay. There is an unfamiliar box near the last two display stands, it wasn’t there before.

A loud cheer announces that the auction is finished.
“Mork’Sho G’ordul would you follow me to the administration?” asks Torg.
“No. My help will escort Burnham. You will give some medications to her, so she could at least walk on her own. I’ll wait for it, you have twenty minutes. There are a few business discussions to conclude with other parties here in the meantime.”
“What about your present?”
“I care only about Burnham. Whatever it is, give it to my help.” murmurs G’ordul.
Torg nods in assent and he is leading the group of two guards, the henchman and Burnham to the display area.

Georgiou is impatient, she needs the codes ASAP. Just as she would grab one of the Ferengis, he shows her PADD.
“Here it is Lady Raven. You can now use the shuttle.”
She picks it from his hand angrily without even saying a word. As she turns towards the shuttle bay corridor she can see DaiMon Torg strut in.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” sneers Torg and half of the guards are training their guns on her.

Fuck! Now it is time for plan B and C, and perhaps Tadras could work his magic in about a few minutes. She decides to play cool, not even lifting her arms.
“What is it Torg? Trying to eliminate the competition?”
They begin to circle each other.
“Yes, you’ve begun to build quite the clientele, decreasing my profits. There is a Human saying, killing two birds with one stone.”

Georgiou looks at him in bewilderment.
“You see I was interested in you when we first met, so I took your DNA sample as I do with others but I couldn’t find anything about your past. So, I’ve reached out to a friend, who’d set up one of the ensigns on Discovery in a most brilliant way. A comm specialist also trained in tactics is a good material for a spy. Ensign Sewers proved to be a valuable asset and he was the cornerstone of this lovely operation. Without him this perfect plan wouldn’t exist.” brags Torg.

“Then why kill him?” asks Burnham.
Torg turns to Burnham “I did not kill him, he ran face first into a disruptor rifle fire.”
“You’ve said your men did nothing that hasn’t been told to them.”
Torg smiles “Dear, there would be a lot for you to learn in dealing with informants. But knowing that your days are counted, I’m giving you this lesson free. Do not leave any traces behind. You can have other informants but you can’t allow the luxury of being followed.” while he schools Michael, Georgiou unobtrusively reaches for her armband to detonate the charge placed in the corridor leading from the auction to the shuttle bay. But nothing happens. This is absurd!

Torg turns back to Georgiou.
“And I hope you’re not waiting for some miracle fireworks to happen. You see I’ve anticipated something like that, so I’ve hidden a little something of mine.” Torg nods towards one of the guards who raises the box Georgiou noticed before. It contains the same device the Discovery found on that desert planet!
“I think both of you are aware what this device does.”
Talkative, annoying bastard. Maybe she could use it to give Tadras more time. If he is still in the game that is.
“No, actually I don’t know.” Georgiou feigns curiosity.
“Tsk, tsk you liar! I know you saw what I’ve told my men to leave behind on Drellion. You see I left a little surprise inside. It emits an energy that works as an indicator, so I’ve scanned you when you visited me. I thought that you’d come for her,” Torg indicates toward Burnham ”but I wanted to be sure, that you’re indeed working with Starfleet as a confirmation of your identity.”

Anger is beginning to boil over in Georgiou. So that’s why she couldn’t detonate any explosives. It’s a good thing she still has the grenade, if she can take out the scrambler then she could light up this meeting in a second. She just needs to put her right hand in her pocket to pull it out and with a flick of her wrist she could hit it. She needs to step a bit closer to Michael and away from the desk, then it would be a matter of minutes.

“What made you think that I’d would come for her?” there is no point in denying her intentions, but Torg’s calculated way raises an alarm in her.
“Ah yes. My friend wanted to get to Burnham, he provided the means to capture her and I was there for the profits. But then while I was waiting for Sewers’ signal, he sent me an interesting report on your DNA results. I was not joking when I told to you that I’ll give away the Commander with her Captain!”

Georgiou squints her eyes and with a lightning fast movement she grabs the grenade and throws it at the scrambler. Before it could detonate she runs from her spot in front of the table to tackle Michael to the ground near to the entrance of the corridor leading to the shuttle bay.

The grenade explodes triggering the explosives left behind by Treak and Naart on the last display stands killing the four guards near it and collapsing part of the roof of the station blocking the door completely, emergency force fields firing up to close the rift. Georgiou pushes two buttons on her armband and she detonates the explosives left at the exit of the auction theatre and the one Tadras put on the desk. The Ferengis and the guards at the desk are incapacitated, Torg lies on the ground, trying to shake off the shock of the explosion, the guards at the far end are also scrambling to their feet.

Georgiou jumps up, her right hand already on her disruptor pistol. She shoots the guard on the right while kicking in the stomach the one on the left. As he’s thrown back by the force of the kick, Georgiou uses that fraction of second to shoot him as well. She tries to aim her pistol on the henchman but he is quicker this time at hits her in the face with a backhand strike. Despite it Georgiou shoots in his way, so he retreats to the shuttle bay for a better striking point. Then she grabs the syringe in her pocket and administers its contents to Burnham, who can feel her energy returning.

Burnham picks up a rifle and clutches onto Philippa’s arm, making their way towards the shuttles. Guards rush in to the corridor from the shuttle bay and Michael fires at them, killing two.
“Fools, don’t let them get away!” shouts Torg, even though he can barely hear his own voice. One of the guards at the far end of the room throws a grenade at Burnham and Georgiou while they’re leaving through the corridor.

Georgiou hears the distinct sound of a grenade clinking on the floor a mere 7 m behind them. In a matter of a second, she shoves Michael behind a pillar near them, shields Michael’s body with her own and puts her hand on Michael’s ear. As the grenade explodes she hopes that the pillar will lessen the shockwave effect of the grenade, while her newest protective gear under her garments is tested to the limits.

The explosion collapses half of the corridor, making it impossible for Torg to follow them.
“Idiot!” shouts Torg and releases a warning shot at his own man. “I said stop, not kill!”
He instructs the last guard to lift a heavy debris on a concealed hatch door.
“Through here!” orders Torg, but the guard turns away to tend to the people still alive in the area.
“Fine, I’ll do it by myself.” Torg disappears in a small emergency shaft which leads to the shuttle bay.

Chapter Text

Tadras watches helplessly the events taking place at the station. There is no sound through the feed but what he can see fills him with dread.
“Can’t we do anything to help them?” asks Gaila.
“No, the second the roof collapsed the emergency system took over and I can only watch and do nothing to help them!” and Tadras jumps out of the bed in frustration.
“Wait, there is movement!” notifies Gaila the distressed Trill. He runs back, almost tripping in his slacks. He can see Burnham and Raven wobble out from the corridor.
“Yes! Thanks!” grins Tadras and plants a kiss on the Orion’s cheek.
“We will take out the main generator as soon as they are ready to go.”

Michael is the first one to come to her senses, she is a bit dizzy but otherwise fine, Philippa protected her. They are lying on the floor of the corridor. It is dangerous, they should get moving. She pats Georgiou on her back to check on her.

Georgiou stands weakly, blood dripping from her ear. She feels herself disoriented and there is a constant ringing in her ear. She can see Michael’s mouth moving but does not understand a word she says just a muffled tone.

Burnham steadies Georgiou and picks up the rifle she dropped to lead them to the shuttles where she knows there are still at least two men waiting for them. As they step in the shuttle bay, they are greeted by a Cardassian guard and the Klingon henchman. Georgiou straightens herself, shares a look with Burnham and she lounges at the Klingon armed with a Bat’leth, while Burnham fires towards the Cardassian.

The Cardassian laughs dodging the shots and knocks out the rifle from Michael’s hands and he pushes her to the ground, leaving her unarmed. She knows that the guards are instructed not to kill her, maybe she can use that to her advantage. Her hand connects with a pipe laying on the floor and she gets a hold of it. Adrenaline still coursing through her veins, she stands up to fight the Cardassian with renewed vigour.

Georgiou tries to shoot the Klingon at the first possible instance but she is still too dizzy and the charging Klingon grabs onto her, lifts her and throws her at one of the shuttles. She drops the gun from her hand as the force of being hit cracks her ribs with an unmistakable sound, but she stands up as if nothing has happened. From the corner of her eyes she can see the Klingon walking towards her Bat’leth raised. Georgiou leans her hands on the shuttle for leverage and before the Klingon could crack down his weapon on her she kicks him back with both of her legs.

He sprawls on the ground leaving his Bat’leth on the ground but jumps quickly to his feet while admonishing her.
“Little bird, why don’t you give up already. There is no way you’ll walk out with G’ordul’s prize.”
Georgiou cannot hear exactly what the Klingon says, so she just pulls out her knives and begins her attack. She cuts him a few times, but his armour is not easy to get through. The henchman manages to block some of Georgiou’s attack, striking back at her, landing a few strong hits purposefully on her injured ribs and her face. She glances over to Michael who blocks the constant attacks of the Cardassian. It is clear to her, that he’s only toying with her to wear Michael down.

Burnham uses the pipe to attack the Cardassian, but he always blocks her and manages to retaliate which earn her a few new bruises. During one of her blocks she feels the stiches on her abdomen loosening up. The pipe is heavy and it takes a lot of energy to swing it each time. In a desperate attempt to end the perpetual attacks she steps back then lounges with all her might at the guard. The guard just smiles he seizes the pipe from Burnham and hits her with his elbow in a warning manner in her chest. Michael shouts out in pain dropping the pipe as an already broken rib tears her right lung.

Georgiou snaps her head at the sound of Michael as she is delivering blows in quick succession to the Klingon. She can see the guard standing over a hunched Michael and she throws the knife in her right hand at him. The knife lodges itself deep in the back of his left thigh. The Klingon takes his chance at Raven’s momentary distraction and reaches down for his Bat’leth to end this meaningless fight. Georgiou could see the glint of light on the Bat’leth but her ear injury keeps her unbalanced and the blade cuts into her right thigh.

Michael can barely breathe and she watches Georgiou getting injured. If she goes down none of them will make it out alive. The Cardassian is still trying to pull out the knife from himself and Michael reaches into her pocket for the small explosives Philippa gave her. She fakes to grab onto the armour of the guard in a last attempt of defiance, latching the explosives on him. The Cardassian just flings her away in irritation.

Torg walks his way through the narrowing shaft to the shuttle bay while holding onto his phaser. Mounting the ladder, he tries to open the hatch leading to the backside of the bay, but the opening mechanism doesn’t budge. He puts away his weapon and struggles to open it. Even from behind the door he can hear the distinct noise of fighting, concluding that Burnham and Georgiou are still there. After a few minutes of trying, the lock releases and Torg crawls out.

The pain in her thigh helps Georgiou to focus on the task at hand. She knows she has to end the fight as soon as possible, before the blood loss from her wound with render her helpless. She notices her pistol near the left foot of the Klingon. To the greatest surprise of the henchman Georgiou lounges at him again, this time slicing at the joints of his wrist, making him to switch the large weapon to his left hand. His right arm shots out to grab Georgiou by her waist trapping her against his side. The Bat’leth is meant to be handled with two hands, leaving the Klingon at a great disadvantage but he could cause deadly injury none the less, especially with her trapped.

Before he can swing at her, with her wounded leg, Georgiou kicks his right knee - the one she injured yesterday - dropping the Klingon to his knees and loosening his hold on her. With a swift move she is behind him, driving her knife through his throat and she leans down to pick up her pistol to shoot the Cardassian. When she looks up, Michael is waiving at her and indicating at her arm and at the Cardassian guard. The guard manages to pull out the knife she’d flung at him and marches towards Georgiou who tilts her head and shoots the guard in the head.

Michael loses the fight with her body after the last guard collapses, Georgiou hobbles over to her. Her gaze shifts towards the increasing red patch on Michael’s abdomen while she puts her hand on her chest to check her breathing. It is laboured even though she is unconscious. She must haul Michael to the shuttle and bring her to the Discovery. She holsters her gun, then undoes her belt constricting it around her upper thigh to slow down the bleeding. Next, she turns to grab Michael under her arms to pull her, but a burning sensation on her right shoulder makes her drop Burnham.

“Not so fast, Captain!” shouts Torg holding his phaser.

“I think it is time to act now.” declares Tadras to the Orion girl.
He starts his program and he takes over the controls of the Warbird while Gaila straddles him, sitting on his legs.
“Easy there, we’ll leave the docking bay and aim for the main generator.” mumbles the Trill.
“I thought the shuttle bay’s force field is powered by it.” notes Gaila.
“Yes, well, almost, emergency shielding will be active for a few minutes, that should be enough for Raven to get into the shuttle.”
The Warbird releases a few torpedoes to the generators and the officers aboard are doing their best to regain the control over the ship.

“Security! Head to Pren’s room, shot the bastard down if he is playing with any computers.” orders the First officer of the Warbird.

“And for the main event I’ll shut down the controls of the ship for a few hours.” they can hear shuffling outside of their door. “Be prepared.”

Georgiou turns around growling at Torg. She regained some of her hearing but it is still not satisfactory. The body of the Cardassian guard lies two feet away from Torg, still armed with the explosives. She needs to touch her bracelet on her right wrist to set it off, it is set to her biosignature.

“It is over Georgiou, hands up. Leave the girl and I’ll let you go on your way.” Torg offers.
She lifts her arms as instructed by Torg, the pain in her shoulder almost makes her collapse in agony. Then an explosion shakes the ground, creating cracks in the roof. Torg glances up and Georgiou is fast to act to reach her bracelet making the body of the Cardassian explode and injures Torg along the way. She pulls out her gun and for a good measure she shots Torg in the head, then she collapses on her knees all energy drained from her.

Georgiou closes her eyes. Memories of a previous life swarm before her. A smile of an 8-year-old with unruly curly hair as she plays with her toy gun, a laugh of a 9-year-old Michael who uncovers her birthday gift, the warmth of her 10-year-old daughter as she snuggles to her side as she is reading her favourite book, the eyes of a teenage girl staring at the world in wonder, a face of a warrior full with pride standing by her side after a gruesome battle. Then she opens her eyes and looks back at Burnham. Spending time with this Michael Burnham sometimes made her question if she’d really lost her daughter, if this is really a Michael from another universe and not hers. It feels like losing a limb, then replacing it with an artificial. But still it is a working limb, and this Michael is as much as her daughter as Michael regards her as a mother.

Burnham weights more than her, her right leg is bleeding and the phaser burn on her right shoulder is not making it easier. Georgiou fortifies herself, she is not going to lose this child as well. She clenches her jaws together and begins to drag Michael to the Romulan shuttle.

On her way she stops by Torg’s body to get Captain Georgiou’s badge from his jacket. To her surprise she finds another data chip, exactly like the one she’d made a copy of. The other could’ve been a trap.

“Sir, there was an explosion on the long-range scanners from the direction of Daimos.” notifies Lieutenant Owosekun the Captain.
“Lieutenant Detmer, warp at full speed.”
“Aye, sir!” acknowledges Detmer and engages the drive to the previously calculated flight path.

At the first explosions the remaining auction attendants began to rummage around for their belongings. Some making their way to the dock, some picking up fights with the guards.
“Where is Torg? What is happening?” asks one of the attendants.
“There was an explosion, the damage is under control, please leave to the docks.” explains one of the Ferengi.
“I want either my purchase or my money back.” exclaims somebody else and others begin to line up behind him with the same intention.
“Yes, if there were a damage, everybody will get a full refund of your expenses, but please, head to the docks.” tries the Ferengi again.

People are gathering at the docks waiting for the transport, when the Warbird leaves and bombards the station. Panic ensues among the crowd.
“Are you trying to kill us?” one shouts to the guards and begins to fire at them.
A few Nausicaans and Klingons join the fight while the remainder of the guests are boarding the ship that just arrived to the docking bay to pick them up.

“People, please be reasonable! Now we’re running on emergency generators, the items are not worth dying for.”

Georgiou hauls Michael to the co-pilot seat. She closes the hatch of shuttle expecting the force field generator to give up anytime then she rummages through the medkit. She finds bandages and a pain medication for Michael. As she starts the system of the shuttle she puts the bandage over Michael’s stomach wound, gives her the meds and pats her face to wake her up. Burnham opens her eyes groggily staring in the eyes of Georgiou in wonder. They hold their gaze at each other for a few seconds before Georgiou speaks up.
“Good, nice of you join us. Here hold onto this!” and Georgiou pushes Michael’s hand to the bandage. “Try to press on it as much as you can.”

The force field shuts down after a moment and Georgiou drives the shuttle out, while putting the data chip in the computer. Torg’s story about that Sewers guy is fishy, an Ensign would not have the access to high level confidential information such as hers. The real informant could still be on the Discovery and she’s flying in there blindly. As Georgiou flies the shuttle she can see the Warbird marooned over the station.

“Pren, you motherfucker, I’ll get you.” shouts the head of security at the door of Tadras.
Tadras quickly disposed his computer under the pillows a few seconds before and Gaila sits on his lap, creating the perfect view for the Ferengi who barges in with four guards in tow.
“What the hell is your problem?” asks Pren while still holding onto Gaila.
“Ugh, we thought you’re responsible for disabling the Warbird.”
“Well as you can see I’m otherwise occupied. I didn’t buy an Orion slave to have someone watch over me playing with some tech. Now, leave at once!”
“Yeah, sure, enjoy your time!” and the security guards leave Tadras’ room.

Georgiou makes use of the cloaking ability of the shuttle while putting it to warp 3 but two Klingon cruisers are on their way to capture them. They are not the kind to give up and the ships open fire at them blindly, making them to drop out of warp and partially damage their cloaking device. Georgiou is trying to update the fly pattern as randomly as she can to dodge the attack of the cruisers.

"Discovery, this is Raven, please respond." she only gets static.
"Romulan shuttle to Discovery! Damn it someone answer it now!"
In a sudden her scanner shows four Federation ships getting out of warp.
"This is Discovery, we're at your location, what is your status?"
"Two small cruisers are firing at us, Burnham is bleeding to death but otherwise fine. Where the hell were you?"
"The cruisers are leaving, they don't seem too eager to pick a fight with 4 of us. We'll be in transporter range in about a minute."
"Transport Michael to the sickbay as soon as you have a lock on her, I can pilot the shuttle back to you."
"Acknowledged. Discovery out."
"Come on Michael, only a few seconds and you'll be in good hands." and with that Burnham’s body is dematerialized.

Chapter Text

"Sickbay, report." Captain Thoris addresses.
"Sir, Commander Burnham has life-threatening injuries, we need to operate on her now."
"Commander Saru, head to the shuttle bay with security. Disarm Lady Raven as soon as she arrives, detain her and put her under surveillance 24/7."
"But, sir?"
"Wasn't I clear?"
"You were." says Saru slowly. "Security, I need two guards in the shuttle bay now."

"Lady Raven." Saru nods toward Georgiou as she practically jumps out of her shuttle dishevelled, dirt is sticking to her clothes, her left hand is covered in Klingon blood, her own blood still drips from her right arm, her lip is split, bruises and small gashes are visible on her face and she is limping from a wound on her right thigh as heads towards Saru standing in front of the exit.

When she nears them, the guards raise their gun on her, stopping her movement.
"What's the meaning of this?" asks Georgiou heatedly.
"Cautionary measures. Please hand me your gun and every weapon and explosives you still have on you." says Saru.
"Fine, here it is." she unequips her gun and gives it to Saru.
"All of your weapons."
Georgiou grits her teeth and hands her knife to Saru.
"This is all. Now let me go to her."

"Guards stand back!" they step back a bit on the order of Saru, but still standing with guns aimed.
He leans closer to Georgiou whispering "I would like you to calm a little bit down and listen closely to what I say. Do you think you can do it?"
She squints.
"The more you resist, the longer we'll be staying down here."
Georgiou huffs, crosses her arms and indicates Saru to continue.

He straightens up and begins on a louder voice.
"The Captain ordered me to detain you" at this Georgiou can barely open her mouth before Saru raises a finger warningly "and to keep an eye on you."
"Please extend your left arm." he says.
Georgiou wishes that there were no guns trained on her, oh she would kick all of their butts. Saru pointedly looks on her arm, then sneaks a glance to the guards behind him. Oh, so he has a different plan, well then, she can play this game for a while. She relents and shows her arm.
"This is a tracker, you cannot leave the pre-programmed premises." Saru attaches some kind of a bracelet on her.

"Now, I can see that you're injured as well. I'll take you to the sickbay before any further action." says Saru theatrically and he turns to the guards handing them Raven’s weapons. "Thank you! Please secure Lady Raven's weapons in a locker. You can get back to your station, I can take her from here." The guards nod and leave.
"Shall we?" indicates Saru to the exit.
They walk in silence on the corridor. Some passers-by sneak a glance at them. How couldn't they? Saru in an impeccable uniform towering over a battle worn mercenary who leaves a trail of blood behind her, both wearing a dismissive expression, determined in their route. It is an interesting sight.

As they step in the turbolift, Georgiou stops the elevator.
"What's this supposed to mean?" and she shows her wrist with the device to the Kelpien.
"As per the Captain's order you are detained. He didn't specify the location so I took the liberty and assigned the Discovery as the premises, but you cannot enter the armoury or access any vital information et cetera, I'm sure you'll figure it out. The tracker also keeps you under constant surveillance, so I'm not breaking any of his orders."
Georgiou stares on Saru disbelievingly. He really wanted her to say thank you, but the baffled look on her face might be enough for a while.

"And I suspect you'd have fought your way through the sickbay, injuring who knows how many people if I'd locked you up in a room."
She raises an eyebrow and tilts her head slightly. Yes, he is right. Maybe she could be a bit civil with this creature. She reaches in her coat and hands him the data chip she got from Torg.
“Here analyse it. I’ve checked it before, everything is encrypted. Torg said that he was informed by an Ensign Sewers. He even got my identity based on DNA information the Ensign sent him.”
Saru gasps and tries to defend the Ensign - they made a thorough investigation on all of the away team - but the Emperor stops him.
“I know, the Ensign is dead and I don’t believe it either that he is responsible. But based on what information reached Torg, you have a mole on board. I suggest you to find him or her before I do.”
Saru nods and orders the turbolift to resume.

As they step in the infirmary, Captain Thoris is already standing there, arms folded, looking concerned at a PADD a nurse just gave him.
"Captain, how is she?" asks Saru.
Thoris is not surprised seeing his Commander there but he abruptly becomes angry when he notices Raven as well.
"Commander, what is the meaning of this? What is she doing here?"
Raven lounges at Thoris “You bastard! How dare you …” but Saru intercepts her, holding out an arm in her way. He glares at her, then turns to the Captain.

"I've put a tracker on her, she can't go anywhere vital without alerting everybody. And she needs medical attention. Ah, Doctor!" and Saru waves a doctor toward Georgiou. Thoris can't believe what he hears. Saru side-lined his command, turning it around so she could be here. Unbelievable!
"Her weapons are confiscated, and she is no threat to us. She has a right to medical aid." continues Saru.
“No threat? She just wanted to attack me!”
“She won’t do that again.” assures Thoris but he talks to Raven to make a point, who huffs at the First Officer crossing her arms but still throwing imaginary daggers at the Captain.

"Ahem, I concur with the Commander’s assessment." starts Doctor Andrews with a scanner in his hand "She suffered blunt force traumas to her chest, resulting in a broken rib, and two others are fractured, she also shows symptoms of blast trauma to her ears. There are several cuts and small pellets embedded on her skin, a deep gash on her right thigh, and on top of everything, a phaser burn on her right shoulder. All of these require immediate action."

"Michael was bleeding out in the shuttle, why are you not in the operating room with her?" asks Georgiou Andrews.
"Because if someone else is in need of medical attention, like you, for example, a doctor must be on hand. Besides there are already 3 doctors in there. She's in good hands. Now please follow me, so I can begin working on your injuries."
"No. Not until she's stabilized."

"You're bleeding and you’re in great pain no matter how you try to hide it. You realise that in, let's say an hour, you'll be too weak to resist." He has to be tough with her, he knows exactly who she is, and this maybe the only way she understands the severity of her situation.
She grimaces knowing that the doctor is right. Georgiou hops on the end of bed and proceeds to take off her coat. She moans in pain as she pulls the charred clothing from her shoulder wound making it bleed a bit more.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Andrews fussing over her.
“I’ll sit here and allow you take care of this” she motions with her head to her shoulder, “that will increase my time closer to two hours but if you come close to me with a hypospray I’ll break your neck. And I refuse any other treatment until she’s out of the woods.” her words are clear, she won’t accept any more arguments.

"Fine, they should be able to stabilize Burnham in less. But I'm not allowing you to leave, you need to be under observation because you also have a concussion. And letting you die is not an option. I'd rather be on trial for disregarding a patient’s will to refuse treatment than to tell Commander Burnham that I allowed you to die because you’re too stubborn."
Georgiou raises an elegant eyebrow at the bluntness of the doctor. "Don't worry I'm not going anywhere as long as she is here. But in the meantime, can I get a PADD with a channel for subspace communication? I need to reach my crew on the Phoenix, they’re waiting for my orders."

Thoris and Saru can only stand and listen to the conversation. She pulled Michael out of that station basically from enemy territory, fought her way through the guards and she still doesn't back down, still prepared to fight. A normal human would already be writhing in pain or not even be conscious but here she is refusing medical aid.

Captain Thoris sighs, so she is a mother to Burnham then. Even though Andorians are militaristic, family comes first. Andorian mothers serving in the military are famous for a behaviour like this, especially the ones who’d raised a child on their own. He has a notion, that she would not budge had he tried to move her. Hell, she'd probably pick a fight even with these injuries. He decides to let her be. The tracker will notify them if she's up to something. But how she became a mother figure to Burnham? There must be something in the Commander’s records that he’d overlooked. He needs comb it through again.

After about two hours Michael is brought out of the operating room, a breathing tube hanging from her mouth and machines keeping her stable. Georgiou looks at Doctor Pollard unable to form the question she dreads to know the answer to.
“She is stable. Considering her injuries and the infection of her wound I found it best to put her into a medically induced coma for a day or two. Based on her vitals I’d say she is on the mend and will make a full recovery, but her body needs the rest to heal.”

Georgiou releases a deep breath she didn’t notice she held in, walks over to Michael trying hard to conceal the grimaces of pain and swipes a stray lock of hair from Michael’s forehead. Pollard observes her and noting her state she sends a silent berating look to Doctor Andrews. He puts up his hands, showing the patient PADD of Georgiou’s to Pollard.
“And I believe that can also be said to you.”
Georgiou turns back to them and she nods towards Andrews, finally allowing him to treat all her wounds.

It takes about two hours to stich her up and she still refuses the pain medication. She wants her senses to be sharp just in case. The doctors leave her be finally and she pulls a chair next to Burnham’s bed, sitting in vigilance. The sickbay quiets down, they are the only patients and it is the middle of the night so everyone is huddled over somewhere else. Occasionally a nurse comes and checks on Michael vitals and Georgiou watches over every moment like a hawk.

Around 3 am, Georgiou takes note on a person lurking outside the sickbay, she’d seen him five times in the last hour. It must be the mole. She needs to take him out but without evidence it could look as if she’d attacked and not fought in defence. The next time the nurse comes, she pulls her aside and quietly instructs her to direct the cameras on the entrance and on Burnham’s bed. Then she leaves the sickbay purposefully in the other direction she last saw the suspicious man.

The officer looks around, Georgiou left but she’ll be back in a few minutes, the nurse is behind her station standing with her back to him. He pulls out a d’k tahg and steps up to Burnham’s bed. Just as he’d raised the knife to stab Burnham Georgiou kicks the back of left knee making him buckle backwards and hits him in his upper left back with her hands fisted together so he couldn’t hurt Michael by the force of her hits. The attacker turns back to Georgiou quickly and slashes at her stomach. She jumps back but he nicks her skin. Instead of attacking Georgiou the man angles himself back to Burnham to sink the d’k tahg into her, but Georgiou kicks his right arm holding the knife to the side of the bed forcing the man to drop the weapon.

At the commotion the nurse calls for help but she stays behind her counter’s safety.

Steadying himself he shoves Georgiou back to the wall with his sheer momentum. He forces his left arm to Georgiou’s throat to choke her while he reaches for his pistol. Despite her age Georgiou is still very flexible and she thrusts her knee between them and kicks the attacker in the groin pushing him to the floor at the same time. The attacker pulls out his gun to shoot Georgiou but fuelled with rage she kicks at him again unafraid, intent on killing the man. Her boot connects with the gun, flinging it away. Then she proceeds to kick him in the face making him flop on the floor. Georgiou kneels over him, kneeling on his throat to slowly break his windpipe watching in delight as he struggles.

“Enough!” shouts Saru, who is escorted by two other officers, but Georgiou makes no move.
“Lady Raven, stand clear of the Lieutenant!” Saru tries to reason with Georgiou while the two officers are pointing a gun at her. She stands and steps away but her fists are still clenched together, the resolve to kill the man is still ablaze in her eyes.

“Lieutenant Davies, you are under arrest for the attempted murder of Commander Burnham and for the assault and battery on Lady Raven!” states Saru.
Davies holds his throat in pain, his voice hoarse from the bruise Georgiou gave him.
“Commander! She tried to access the main computers from that panel and I’ve stopped her!” deflects Davies.
“Yes, and she needed a d’k tahg to do that.” says Saru in a condescending tone.
“Disarm him, search his clothes for any other weapons.” orders Saru the other security officers.
“Take him to the brig, there must be two guards at the brig at all times. I’ll talk to him in the morning.” the officers nod and take Davies away.

“Are you all right?” inquires Saru from Georgiou with concern in his voice.
“I’m fine.”
“You’re bleeding.”
“It seems to be my habit these days.” retorts Georgiou inspecting the wound on her stomach and the stiches barely holding together the gash on her thigh.
“You should get aid for your wounds.”
Georgiou waves at him, adrenaline still pumping in her veins. She pulls her chair closer to Michael’s bed and sits on it in silence.
“At least clean yourself up and replicate a new set of clothes. The smell of dried blood and whatever remnants you have on you is so strong I wonder how Michael is not awaken by it.” Saru makes a snarky remark on her appearance trying to get her to move, but she just closes her eyes trying to calm her nerves before she snaps and kills someone.

“I’ll have two guards stationed here just in case. I’ll personally check their record first. And before you ask, you can’t interrogate or visit Davies.” adds Saru and leaves Georgiou on her own.

With Saru leaving the sickbay Georgiou finds herself alone. She barely slept last night mostly just turning and tossing around. She can feel that the physical and emotional stress of the day is taking its toll on her. Burying her head on her knees, she massages her neck and tries to calm herself down but an errant tear escapes her eye. Georgiou wipes it away angrily. In a matter of 24 hours she’d almost lost Michael twice. Taking a deep breath, she has to agree with Saru, she smells badly, some shower and clean clothes would make her feel better. But she can’t make herself move, she is still unsure of Michael’s safety. As if reading her mind Saru reappears.

“I’ve prepared a room for you with the Captain’s permission. You know where to find it. I’ll stay here to guard Burnham while you clean yourself up. You can even lie down there to sleep. You look like you need it.”
Georgiou nods but asserts:
“I’ll be back in 20 minutes tops.”
“You really don’t have to, you can take your time.” Saru says softly.
“I can’t. I have to be here.” whispers Georgiou.

After taking an excruciating sponge bath and bandage reapplication she replicates herself a new set of clothes, puts on her disguising makeup and heads back to the sickbay. All under 15 minutes.
Saru shakes his head at her.
“I meant it when I said you need to sleep.”
“I’ll take a nap here.” says Georgiou while retaking her chair beside Michael’s bed.
Saru rolls his eyes, it would be futile to argue with her further. He also pulls a chair near and sits down with a PADD in his hands to choose the guards for sickbay.

Chapter Text

Michael is waking up. There is a comfort in the quiet humming of equipment. She can smell the antiseptic in the air, finally away from the putrid smell of her cell on Daimos. She must be in a proper sickbay but they are not at warp, or at impulse. Someone is rustling in the background, probably some doctor or nurse. She checks the functionality of her nerve endings, her feet are touching the cold sheets, that's good, and she can definitely feel the outer layer of the sheet under her fingertips. Everything hurts, but that's understandable.

Burnham remembers trying to keep pressing on her stomach wound so she wouldn't bleed out on a shuttle chair. Georgiou sat beside her flying the shuttle, trying to dodge the shots aimed at them, and all the while shouting at her to stay awake, and sometimes reaching towards her helping with the wound. "Don't you dare die here Michael! We're almost there, keep your eyes open! Please ..." Then everything went black. That last word, that stayed with her, the way she said it. She'll probably remember it until the rest of her life. Maybe she could try to open her eyes now that she is 80% sure she's not dead yet.

Michael squints against the harsh lighting of the sickbay. As she looks to her left she can see a certain ex-Emperor lounging in a chair, dosing off. She is certain that amongst the fight she was hit and some of her ribs were broken, she also distinctly remembers sharp cry from her when she fought a Klingon armed with a Bat’leth. This resting position must not be comfortable for her.

When she tries to make a sound, Georgiou suddenly sits up and yells for the doctor and rushes to her side at the same time. It brings a smile to her face. So, she does care.
"Ah, you're awake. Here sip this." and a straw is directed toward her mouth by Doctor Pollard.
"Your throat is fine, just dried out and irritated by the tube that was put in."
"How long?" Michael manages to ask after a few gulps.
"Oh, you know, just the usual time to heal internal bleeding caused by a knife driven through your intestines, 5 broken ribs, a punctured lung, a dislocated shoulder, not to mention several lacerations on your arms and legs. And of course, there was some infection, severe dehydration and malnutrition. Next time please be more careful."

Michael still didn't get an answer, so she glares profusely while sipping from her cup of water.
"Almost 60 hours. I've put you under coma for 48 hours, then it was your job. You'll be off duty for at least another week." at this Burnham groans.
"But," interjects the doctor, "on the bright side, you can be released to your quarters this evening, if everything checks out, provided you'll have some supervision and you'll stay in bed. Someone will be checking on your wound every 8 hours."
Bedridden and in need of babysitting. Wonderful. She hopes Tilly is up to the challenge.
"I'll notify the Captain. He needs some answers immediately." continues Pollard and nods toward Georgiou.

"How come you stayed?" asks Michael genuinely surprised.
"Because your Captain does not believe a word I say and thinks that I caused most of your injuries." huffs Georgiou. "Look, I even got a nice bracelet, so I wouldn't get lost." showing her wrist, with a tracker wrapped around it.
"And who knows how long will I be a GUEST? At least my crew got some time on their hands to make some maintenance on that cruiser of mine." Four sentences, all avoiding the fact that she slept beside her bed. Interesting.

"Are we still at Daimos?"
"Yes, whoever helped Torg, did a thorough job I must admit, most of the crew is still searching for evidence."
Captain Thoris steps in at this moment.

"Aaand here he is, Captain Smartass" sneers the Ex-Emperor.
"Hey! Behave! Please." remarks Michael. The Captain's antennas are showing interest. This is not a tone he heard before in relation to Raven.
"Commander, it is good to see you finally awake."
Thoris turns to Raven "Would you please leave, while I have a conversation with the Commander?"
Georgiou looks at Michael, who nods encouragingly.
"Fine. I'll bring you some plomek soup."

"Commander, you might not be aware ..."
"Why does she have a tracker? Is she a prisoner?" cuts in Burnham.
"She is only under suspicion."
"Why? She helped me escape, she did not kidnap me."
"You were at death's door when she came back with you."
"She saved me. All of these injuries were caused by the mercs who captured me and by the guards at the station and some at the scuffle while we were trying to escape."

"This Lady Raven, is a renowned mercenary, there was no indication that she's telling the truth."
"Well she is. Please release her as soon as she comes back."
"All right, if you insist. I have to note that truly she was only under surveillance, she was not a prisoner. I offered her a quarter to stay in until you’ll get better, but she outright refused to leave your side." Burnham raises an eyebrow at this but decides to stay quiet.
"Personally, I'm more comfortable that she wears a tracker, guest or no guest." admits the Captain.

"By the way, who is she to you?" asks the Captain in a vain hope, that Burnham will answer.
"A guardian angel?" tries Michael.
"More like guardian demon." grumbles Thoris.
"Honestly, I don't understand. I had to threaten Ensign Tilly - the most dutiful crewmember - with demotion, had she insisted more that this Raven would help you. Saru didn't even complained either. He was not even surprised when she’s showed up offering help. He even deliberately misinterpreted my orders regarding her detainment after your return."

"I'm sorry Captain, but I cannot offer more explanation yet. It is a long and highly classified story, and there are some aspects that I only begin to realise."
"Will she be trouble?" asks the Captain softly.
"Most likely, yes. But right now, she's trying not to be." smiles Burnham.

“Captain? I’ve noticed that her movement is restricted. What is the full the extent of her injuries? I know she would just shrug it off had I asked.”
“You don’t know?”
“No. She was banged up by the explosion because she shielded me, later I’ve heard her ribs crack and heard that she got injured with a Bat’leth and that Klingon she fought was not taking on her easy. I’ve lost consciousness while we’re still at the station, I only saw her after I woke up briefly in the shuttle.”
“The Bat’leth cut into her thigh and Torg shot her on the back of her right shoulder with a phaser. I still can’t believe she walked out on her own from there with you.”
“She is a tough fighter, you really don’t want to be on her opposite side in combat.” notes Burnham, while marvelling at the strength Philippa had.
“Yeah. There was also an assailant who wanted to kill you here. Ha was armed with a knife and a gun but if it hadn’t for Commander Saru she’d have killed him with her own hands. It got her a bit roughed up again, mostly aggravated her wounds that are still not healed completely.”

“A what?” asks Burnham.
“He is in custody. We combed through everything and it seems he didn’t have any other accomplices other than Torg and his companion.”
"Do we know who orchestrated my capture? "
"We might know. Tilly and Stamets are still deciphering a data chip Raven took from the station before half of it blew up or got destroyed by the other guests."

"And how long will we stay here?"
"Maybe another 48 hours."
"We're still searching for evidence, clearing out the stragglers and making some needed maintenance to the ship. Do you remember anything that might be of use?"
"No. They've kept everything under tight wraps. No usable information reached me."

"Ahem, may I come in or do you still wish to talk behind my back?" asks Georgiou, soup in hand.
"Lady Raven, if you would please extend your arm." says the Captain, and uncuffs the locator. "You're free to go."
"Finally, it is good to have that thing off me." complains Georgiou to the Captain and walks over to the left side of Michael's bed.

The Captain hoped – though not really expected – that this Raven, or whatever her real name is would be off this ship without the tracker ASAP. But no. It seems her concern was genuine. As he leaves the sickbay, he looks back to them, they are oblivious to his presence. Raven is sitting down on the bed opposite to Burnham offering help with the soup. Handing her a spoon, she murmurs something about being stubborn, but her eyes are gentle, never leaving Burnham's face. It is almost as a mother would look after her child.

Now it must be more than a suspicion, this is the third time he came to that conclusion. Could she be her real mother? He knows about Burnham's adoptive parents and they are nothing like vengeful or brutal, or even a slightly mischievous. Then something clicks in the Captain's mind. He shall ask Sarek. Maybe he'll give him some answers. He promised to update Sarek on Michael’s status anyway. And with this he leaves.

"You don't need to strain yourself, I can help you with the soup." says softly Georgiou.
"I can hold it, no problem." smiles back Michael. She can feel how elated Philippa is. She still doesn't understand though, why is she still here?
"You're as stubborn as before." comes a grumble, and Michael glances over to her the soft smile still adorning her face. How does that Earth say goes? Oh yes, something like prickly on the outside, mushy on the inside. Note to self, she must not say this out loud. Ever. Or she'll be killed. Or worse.

"How long will you stay?"
"I have not decided yet. I'm sure your Captain would be over the clouds if I've left 5 minutes earlier. Why?"
"I thought that... maybe ... that you could stay a bit. I'm sure you could use the time to unwind and I believe that you still have a few injuries that need to heal. Captain said that we're staying for about 48 hours in orbit." tries Burnham.

Georgiou sits in silence, contemplating. She knows it is wrong, yet it feels right. She'd never left Michael's side, not longer for few minutes anyway and there was always someone she’d left her with. After about 12 hours Doctor Pollard put a tray in front of her, sat in another chair closely and not left until she finished her food. She made it a standing order for someone to bring her food at least every 12 hours. She was worried, in the shuttle, it even was a full-blown panic - though she'd never admit it out load to anyone. Can she let herself a bit more indulgence? Well, someone has to be selfish if Starfleet is so altruistic, isn't it?

"Fine, I'll stay." she says with a theatrical eyeroll.
"Thank you!" the smile that Michael wears is infectious and Philippa cannot help but smile back.
"Philippa" Michael whispers her name and she reaches toward Georgiou's hand. Philippa winces at the sudden touch, but quickly recollects herself, and allows her hand to be held. Michael then continues louder "thank you for saving my life!"

Philippa shrugs not wanting to show Michael how deeply the light touch of hands affects her "It was nothing, I've got what I came here for and more." replies cryptically.
"What do you mean?" but she Michael only receives a mythic smile as an answer.
“No, seriously, what do you mean?” tries Michael again.
“You’re too curious. But I’m in an indulgent mood, so …” and she pulls out Captain Georgiou’s delta from her coat “… I believe that this belongs to you.”
“How … Where …” stutters the usually eloquent Michael.
“Torg had it, but he doesn’t need it anymore.”
“Thank you! Honestly. It means a lot to me.”
“I know.”
“Are you going to lecture me again on why it is futile to hold onto it?”
“No. I can see your point.” comes a solemn response. “Now, what conditions do you need to fulfil to be released from this place?” asks Georgiou mischievously.
Michael releases a soft laugh. “Why do you need somewhere to be?”
“Yes, anywhere but not here. I hate sickbays.”

“Sarek, I don’t understand. Would it be my daughter …”
“You’d do the same. I’m two months away from your current position. Michael will be healed in a week. She’s getting in the best possible care and she is getting better by the hour. I’ll be in contact with Michael just as Amanda will be. And for everything else she’d might need I’m sure Raven and Ensign Tilly will provide it for her.”
“So, you approve of Lady Raven?”
“Raven is not what she seems to be, but I know she has the best interest of Michael at her heart.”

Thoris sighs. “You know, she reminds me of my mother-in-law. Up until I met Raven I thought that she is the most obstinate, unbearable and hostile person. I was clearly wrong, Raven is at least three times worst.” explains Thoris and Sarek choose to stay silent.
“Is she her birth mother?”
“No. Both of her birth parents had died.“
Thoris feels that the brisk answers of Sarek signal the end of their conversation.
“Well, I’ll leave you be. Should there be anything to tell you about Michael’s condition I’ll notify you.”
“Thank you, Thoris.”

Thoris is giving up. The only possible way to uncover the secret of Raven if she comes to him and tells him and right now the chance of Tilly getting promoted to a captain in five years seems more possible than that. Maybe he’ll just have to accept and live with it.

“Where are we going?” asks Gaila Tadras.
“The Phoenix will pick us up in an hour. It is Raven’s ship.”
“And then?”
“I don’t know. She’s the boss.”
“You know, I was wondering. It was awfully lucky for you to be there to reprogram the Warbird and meet with Lady Raven at the auction.”
“Luck, had nothing to with it. Unless you count the divine intervention of some well-connected people.”
“Have you been put there to spy on her?”
“Nope. A man came up to me, asked if I still want to join Raven’s team. Ten minutes after I got a call from Torg with the job on the Warbird.”
“Who are these people that you talking about?”
“Don’t know, don’t care sweetheart.”
“But why would they help her? And why did Commander Burnham mean that much to her?”
“You’re asking way too many questions. That usually means a shorter lifespan. All I know is that they wanted to be in her good graces. Nothing else.”

Chapter Text

"Captain, we've cracked the code." announces an enthusiastic Tilly over the comms.
"On my way." clips the Captain.

"Lieutenant Stamets, report."
"Sir, it seems that our initial suspicion was indeed correct. There are contracts, equipment transports, all signed by Mudd. We even found his order on not using lethal force on Burnham."
"Great! How long till we finish the maintenance?"
"We can be ready to go in 12 hours."
"Good job, people."

As the Captain nears Burnham’s quarters he slows down. She would definitely want to know about this, but he must be adamant on not letting her go to the surface to Mudd.
An arrest order has already been issued, he even got a response from the local authorities that Mudd is in custody. Ramatis is still more than 7 days away but they are going to head in its direction. He signals the door.

"Come in." comes the cheerful invitation from Burnham. He doesn't remember hearing her this happy. The Commander mostly acts as a Vulcan, emotions barely showing, but these few days relaxed her stance.
As the Captain steps in, he finds himself with an unexpected sight. Burnham is sitting on her bed, leaning against the head rest, while Lady Raven of all the people sits on an armchair that had been pulled near to the bed seemingly reading a book and Burnham is trying to subdue a fit of laughter as to not tear any stitches.

"I thought you'd left." remarks the Captain toward Georgiou, his voice infused with loath.
"Obviously I hadn't." quips Georgiou. She marks the book, puts it in her lap and looks expectantly to the Captain.
The Captain calms himself down. After the disappointing talk with Sarek, he almost gave up finding out the truth behind her mystery.

"Stamets and Tilly deciphered the data chip you brought back. We have evidence on the identity of the organiser of the abduction, he also made the arrangements for the auction."
"Who is it?"
"It's Mudd, just as we assumed."
"That bastard. I'm going to make him regret this." says Georgiou.
Burnham turns her head toward Georgiou. "No, you won't. This is my business." then she looks back on her Captain. "Where is he now?"
"In jail on Ramatis II. We're heading on our way there."
"Are we going to pick him up?"
"No, I just want him to understand what mistake he has made." Philippa's ears pick up on this. "The local justice system will decide of his fate."

Burnham wants to say something, but Georgiou precedes her "I would like to stay Captain, if it is not a problem. At least until this matter is resolved. I've made previous arrangements with my crew to pick me up in about 7 days. They can make it to Ramatis without any delay."
"I see no point in denying your request. Burnham, rest easy." and the Captain leaves.

In a matter of few seconds, someone trots behind him. Please don't be her.
"Captain." Georgiou hails Thoris. Damn.
"I would like to be there. Hell, I'm commending myself to do the dirty job of reminding Mudd of his error."
"Why would I allow that?"
"Because I'm not Starfleet? No one would bat an eye on me swinging a few hits."
"What if I say no?"
"I have connections to make your day go sour."
"I can't let you beat him up."
"It doesn't matter if you'll be there or not. I don't need your permission or your help to do so."
"And these connections of yours would allow that?"
"They can even order you to help me talk some sense in to the man, with you staying on board of the ship of course."

The Captain squints at her trying to figure out if she is telling the truth. The way he'd been put down on every request of information about her, makes him reconsider his initial resistance.
"Fine. But no life-threatening injuries. It also includes no killing."
"I'm not planning on killing him. Though it has a nice ring to it. There is however one thing."

"I'm asking you to transport me down from my quarters to the brig's transporter room, I can't be seen by the crew or by the authorities."
"You walk among the crew everyday!" Thoris indicates to their surroundings.
"Yes, but I'm not going to be dressed like this. And I promise to tell you the short version of my story afterwards." Now that is something worth bargaining for.
"I was told it is classified."
"I've talked to Admiral Cornwell and she approved of my intention of telling you."
"I'll notify you an hour before." affirms the Captain sourly.
"Thank you." and she runs back to Burnham's quarters. What did just happen?

After Captain Thoris reaches his room a written message awaits him, it is from Burnham.
"Please Captain, don't let her go to the surface. Or if she already roped you into it, make sure there are no sensors. Of any kind. Tilly would surely help you to make sure about this. Only if all sensors had been disabled would be fairly secure for her. I still think it is a bad idea and it can get her in deep trouble, but I know she's determined. I will try to talk her out of this. B. "
It is fortunate that he'll only have to endure this for only 7 days more.

"Don't go."
"It is not under debate."
"He'll try to find out everything about you and turn it against you."
"You’ve heard Torg, he's most likely already aware that Captain Georgiou is alive."
"No. I know what I'm doing."

Chapter Text

"Lady Raven, are you ready for transport?" hails the Captain.
"I just need 2 more minutes."
"What the hell is she doing?" ask the Captain Tilly.
"Probably making sure she looks picture perfect." grins Tilly, but quickly looks away at the look she got from the Captain in response. She spent the last 4 hours checking the Ramatis prison for any scanning or recording devices and disabled them. She hopes she was thorough. It would not only hurt the ex-Emperor but Michael as well. The former she's terrified of, the latter she couldn't see suffering.

"Why does she need to dress up?"
"I’d say dress down, but you'll see. Ugh, sir."
"So, you know what she's up to?"
"I have a guess."
"Captain, I'm ready." signals Georgiou. "Please act nonchalantly when I'm there. I don't want Mudd to get suspicious."
"What is she talking about?" hissing to Tilly.
"Just listen to her, you'll be surprised." the look she gets from the Captain phases Tilly. "Please act not accordingly." she stutters.

Georgiou materializes on the transporter platform of the Ramatis prison. She is dressed as a civilian advisor of the Starfleet, a black Starfleet badge adorns the left side of her chest, her long hair is in a low ponytail. She cleaned almost all makeup from her face, making her features visible. The Captain can only stand in silence, almost gaping.
"You're Captain Philippa Georgiou." Thoris manages to say.
"Yes and no. So, where is he?"
The Captain is rooted to his spot in shock.
When Raven (or Georgiou? he is not sure) clears her throat, he schools his features "Follow me."

The prison on Ramatis is more like a vacation resort compared to the one on Daimos, the one Michael endured. The walls are clean, there are basic facilities in each cell. Georgiou is not really convinced that this is what she’d call as a prison. Oh, she definitely would have better taste on choosing the perfect conditions Mudd would have to spent his time in. Maybe with a healthy dose of agonizer to top it, too bad the agonizer is too barbaric for the taste of the Federation. It definitely could decrease the number of person who wish to be incarcerated.

As they halt in front of Mudd’s cell Georgiou turns to Thoris.
"Captain, you can leave. This won't be a Starfleet issue discussion."
"I'll stay. Ensign please hold my badge and leave to the transporter room."
"Aye, sir." Tilly leaves but only until she's still in an earshot of them. Just in case.

Thoris lowers the force field of Mudd allowing Georgiou to step in. As she nods, he activates it again.
"You can't be in here." warns Mudd.
"I'm in, so it doesn't matter now." replies Georgiou.
"Captain, how can you allow this?" Mudd shouts out to the Andorian.
"I'm not here as a Captain." comes a dry response from Thoris.

Mudd sizes up his visitor, Davies’ information wad indeed correct. It is best to play the dumb prisoner. "Wait, I know you! You are Captain Philippa Georgiou!"
"I'm not a Captain anymore, I've resigned my commission." and she hits Mudd in a face in a quick move.
Mudd did not see that one coming. The force of the hit cost him a tooth, spitting blood, head bent. "Why are you here?" inquires, while trying to create as much as space between him and Georgiou as he can.

"You know why. You'd hurt Burnham. She's like a daughter to me, always has been. I'm here to make it abundantly clear: you are not to hurt her anymore, in anyway." and she jumps him landing a backhand strike, again on his face.
"You've broke my nose! You're Starfleet, how could you do this?"
"Don’t worry, I'm not finished with you yet. And by the way I'm done with Starfleet. I work for a group, that does what Starfleet wouldn't." she kicks Mudd in the stomach, knocking him back to the wall.
"I don't understand." covers Mudd, bent at the waist, leaning against the wall of his cell.

"How to explain? No Starfleet Captain would resort to torture to gain information, but there are some, who are willing to get that information no matter what the cost." smiles Georgiou and she strikes again, this time punching him in the gut with two hands for a good measure. Mudd cannot even evade her let alone defend himself. Georgiou glances to Captain Thoris whose face is scrunched up.

"How are you even alive? And why would an honourable ex-Captain of the 'Fleet would join such a brigade?" maybe he should stop asking questions, every time he got hurt before receiving an answer.
"I'm not alive. Not publicly. I was a valuable trinket to the Klingons, so they kept me alive. They could have been stopped had not for certain principles that I've vowed to upkeep. This “brigade” as you call them, only cares for the security of the Federation without certain ethical principles."

"Where can I join?" asks Mudd mockingly looking up at Georgiou.
She leans down to him, grabbing him by hair, yanking his head back. "You can't. You can only be invited. And you Mr. Mudd will be killed in any attempt to contact them." her grin is menacing now. She shoves him to his bed, the end of it knocks him in the head. Mudd now bleeds through a few gashes. He groans and tries to stand up while holding on to the bed for support.

Georgiou regards him like a cat playing with a wounded mouse. Waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
"Why aren't you hitting me?"
"I was giving you a few seconds to breathe." then shoves her right sole to the side of Mudd's right knee, popping it out, Mudd is screaming out in pain and drops to his knees.

"You bitch! Maybe you should've fought against the Klingons like this, then I wouldn't have a crosshair on your precious "daughter's" head."
She steps on Mudd's knee, making him shout out again in pain. "Mr. Mudd, you have to realize I will not tolerate any offensive comment, plan or action towards her."

"And I'll be here as long as I need to be, to help you understand: leave Michael Burnham alone!" And with that she kicks him in the ribs, bones cracking. Thoris winces. He has to keep a tight rein on himself not to intervene. She promised she wouldn't kill him, at least not now.
Mudd slumps down coughing and lies on his left side. In the next instant he receives a kick in the stomach and Georgiou stands over him. She grabs his right arm twists it, supressing Mudd's face down on ground who can only wail.

"Listen to me very carefully." whispers Georgiou in his right ear.
"You are never to hurt her, or her friends, directly or indirectly. If you do, I'll hunt you down. And you'll wish that thought had never ever crossed your mind. I promise you this, I'll kill you as slowly as possible, reviving you as many times as your heart can take, to kill you again and again." punctuating every word in an unarguably hostile voice. "Do we have an understanding?"

Mudd spent almost 6 months in that Klingon prison, but he was never as afraid for his life as he is now. He knows when somebody means business.
"Yeah." he relents.
"Yeah, what?" Georgiou raises her voice.
"I promise not to even cross Michael Burnham’s path ever again and I will not even try to hurt her again directly or indirectly." he speaks through his teeth.

"Good boy." Georgiou pats his head, she lets his arm go but as an act for goodbye she slams his head on the concrete floor cracking his jaw. Looking pleased with the broken man on the floor she walks to the force field.
The Captain disables the force field letting Georgiou out, then closes it back. Mudd cannot even lift his head properly, he definitely couldn't escape from here. Georgiou catches Tilly glide away and smiles. She turns her gaze over to the Captain.
"Shall we go back?"
"Yeah." grumbles Thoris.

As they are in the transporter room, Tilly hands back the Captain his badge.
"Tilly, transport us back to my quarters." orders Georgiou.
Tilly almost acts in instinct, but then she looks at the Captain for affirmation. He just nods, his head is way too jumbled right now.

Chapter Text

As soon as Thoris and Georgiou are in her cabin, she offers him a drink.
"Yes, please." and Thoris sits down on the sofa while Georgiou is standing at the liquor shelf.
"Do you remember what Sarek said about me, I'm not what I seem to be?" begins Georgiou.
How the hell does she know what they were talking about?

"Are you not Lady Raven or are you not Philippa Georgiou?"
"I guess both." contemplates Georgiou.
"As you know, the U.S.S. Discovery went missing during the war, and after it resurfaced 9 months later, every related information was either redacted or got classified."
"Yes, I know. I'm the Captain of one big classified file, that I can't even open."
"With their experimental drive they crossed into a parallel universe. Mine." the Captain frowns but stays quiet.

"To not go into too much detail, my name is Philippa Georgiou Augustus Iaponius Centarius. I was the Emperor of the Terran Empire." Thoris stares at her. Ruler? Empire? Parallel universe? What kind of fairy-tale is she spinning? Though it would make sense why this Georgiou have beaten up a defenceless person with a damned grin on her face nearly 5 minutes ago. The Captain Georgiou he'd only heard of maybe would've swung a hit, but that's it.

"Unexpectedly and unbeknownst to them they brought back someone who already tried to kill me once. Hell, he led them to me."
"Gabriel Lorca.” the way she utters his name, hatred is evident in her tone. “When he was chased in my universe, he tried to hide in an ion storm when a blast hit him and ended up in your universe. I don't know what happened to your Lorca though."
"Why was he on the run?" asks the Captain.
Georgiou continues, ignoring the Captain's question. "He brought back your Michael with him, knowing that it will cause distraught in me and it definitely caught me by surprise." she sighs.
"How so? If I may ask?"

She takes a deep breath. The Captain watches her with keen eyes, this time he knows she's telling the truth.
"In my universe Michael Burnham lost her parents in a Klingon raid when she was 6 years old and I've adopted her, raised her as my own daughter." she stops again and turns away from the Captain, stilling for a while.
Then, he was indeed right, a mother. Maybe I should listen to my instincts more often, thinks Thoris.

"But she was killed when an attempt on my life was made months before the arrival of the Discovery. It was Lorca's coup, it was his fault."
"That's why he was running." concludes the Captain.
"Yes. This time, he devised a plan to bring Michael to me, and himself aboard my ship. It was a plan long time in the making. I could barely breathe when I saw her, and it lowered my defences." she gathers herself and looks back to the Captain.
"Long story short, Lorca's second coup was successful even though he never managed to enjoy it for long. Your Michael helped me stopping him." she smiles.
Thoris feels she'll continue without him nudging her forward, so he stays in silence waiting for the story to be finished

"Unfortunately, the U.S.S. Discovery also needed to destroy my flagship, since its power source would've destroyed all universes. It did not matter to me anymore, I was already considered dead in my universe. I wanted to stay behind to get Burnham a chance to get away and give time to the Discovery. But she saved me in the last second and brought me in to this universe." she shakes her head at the last sentence.
"I guess she couldn't lost another Georgiou." Georgiou walks over her couch, sitting on the opposite end of the Captain's.
"I've spent a few days on this ship disguised as Captain Georgiou with the blessing of the Admiralty to help ending the war with the Klingons. Afterwards I was allowed to go freely. I assumed a new identity and started anew." she sips from her brandy.

"I know Michael keeps tabs on me, sometimes I even make sure she gets the information she seeks. We occasionally exchange a few words over a letter. As much as I hate to admit it but I always look forward to those letters. My Michael was my weakness which Lorca exploited, so I’ve tried to separate your Michael from mine to not fall into the same trap again. But she is so much like my Michael, that I cannot help but to consider her as my daughter as well. It does not help, that she has similar feelings for me as she regarded Captain Georgiou as a mother figure." as she seemingly finishes her story she looks expectantly at Thoris.

Thoris mulls over his words, the way she chose her words, her stance when she talked about Michael shows him that he shouldn’t disturb that hornet nest.
"Were you implying to Mudd that you are working with Section 31?”
"Yes. I’m surprised Captain, not many know about its existence.” answers a genuinely perplexed Georgiou, she was expecting a more personal question. “They invited me. I refused so far. They keep coming back. I've kept them on a back burner for cases like this. It is true what I said to Mudd, they'll shoot on sight. I suspect that Pren being there or the Xindi could have been their move."
“Why would they do that?”
“To invite me to their ranks. Again.”
“Will you accept it?”
“It is tempting but I’d like to choose whose ass I am kicking and how.”

"What I can’t get out of my head is that despite coming from another universe, you’re the spitting image of Captain Philippa Georgiou."
"Parallel universe, that is the key. But don't be mistaken. I'm quite unlike her."
"You wanted to sacrifice yourself to aid a stranger and to save the galaxy. You selflessly went after Burnham when she was in trouble. Not to mention your connection to each other. I'm not sure you are that much different." counters Thoris.
The smile she gives to Captain makes chills run down his spine despite his preference to cold climates.
"That stranger looks and talks exactly as my late daughter no matter the circumstances. Besides, in my universe I've blown up Qo'nos and deliberately had a fleet to shoot down every escaping Klingon vessel, I've subjugated the Betazoid, oh, and wiped out Mintaka III and these are just my top 3 favourite ones. My Empire was about thrice the size your Federation was before the war with the Klingons, non-human species were scavenging on whatever desolate moons and planets they could find, escaped outside borders or were just plainly wiped out, like the Tellarites." leers Georgiou. Captain Thoris gawks at her, raising an eyebrow. Yep, she's definitely not Captain Georgiou.

"I see now why you've decided to be a merc, and why Burnham tails you." replies dryly the Captain. He also begins to mentally check for any object he could use as a weapon should she attack him. The security will be much tighter when he leaves this room.
As if reading his mind "Don't worry Captain. I’m not saying that you’re off the hook, but Michael asked me to put aside my animosity towards you. I’ve had plenty of chances in the last few days to harm you, and I'm not here to cause mayhem. As long as you're keeping her safe and treating her well, you're safe."
"Good to know."

“Is your curiosity about me satisfied?”
“I suppose yes. Just one more thing? What will you be up to after you leave?”
“I’m afraid, that is something I’m not willing to share. Now, if you don't mind, I would like to change and go to see Michael. My crew will pick me up in the morning, I still have some arrangements to prepare for my next job, and I'd like to at least say goodbye to Michael properly. I hope you understand." He does. As twisted as her story is, this might be only good side of her.
"I wouldn't want to keep you." - from probably the only thing that retains your humanity and reins your tyrannical and homicidal tendencies - finishes the Captain in his mind. He leaves the room of Georgiou and heads to Burnham's.

Thoris stands outside of Burnham’s quarter. His mind still reels from Georgiou’s story. But there was something else in her tone that bothers him. He didn’t notice it at first, but while he walked here, he reviewed their conversation in his mind. The way she talked about Michael being her weakness and saying goodbye had a certain weight in it, like she’s trying to severe their connection forever. He cannot allow that. She would be running amok in this universe without Burnham to hold her back, and the Federation would have a lot on their hands again. Thoris knows that she wouldn’t lay a hand on her, but distancing herself, or creating an emotional rift between them could be enough to lose their bond.

Michael is wearing her exercise outfit, she’d done a few stretches when the Captain hailed.
"Commander. I just came here to tell you, not to worry about Lady Raven. And to tell you that you have my permission, no, I order you to maintain a more frequent correspondence with her." he says blatantly.
"I don't understand sir."
"I won't pretend that I fully understand what goes inside her mind. But one thing is certain. I've seen what darkness resides in her. I'm afraid that if she is left in that darkness to her own devices, she'll wreak havoc on this quadrant comparable to the Klingons. I don't want that." replies Thoris sternly.

Michael looks at him, brows furrowed, she is not sure what information the Captain acquired regarding Philippa.
"This mother-daughter bond the two of you seem to have light up her heart or what has remained of it, which could be the only thing keeping her in check." tells her Thoris.
"She told you?" and she puts her hands on her hips.
"Just a few key points, about a parallel universe, where she was a ruthless Emperor and that another version of you was her daughter. And based on her actions toward Mudd, I don’t think she is to be trusted to behave on the long run.”
“I thought that bringing her back, showing her the Federation in person could change her heart about certain Terran views and about the Federation.”

“Commander, the core of a person after a certain time can only be changed if that person suffers a view changing shock. For Raven or Georgiou being in this universe is just a change in scenery, and loosing her Empire is nothing compared to the loss of her child. This is why it is imperative that you remain in contact with her.” justifies Thoris.
“I was not planning to abandon her. On the contrary. Though I must say my reasons are entirely different.”
“You’re entitled to your reasons. I understand it, even if there is no logic behind it. I just wanted to give you another perspective if you’d other plans. Since it is already late I’m not going to keep you up any longer. Good night, Commander!"
"Thank you, Captain! And good night to you as well!”

Burnham huffs. She has a difficult time wrapping her head around what the Captain said. Well, if she wants to be truthful to herself there was nothing new in it. But the fact that he acknowledged it out loud, it was unexpected. She thought that she was reading too much into the actions of Philippa, that she deluded herself with her presence. When she is not in a homicidal mood she is much like the Georgiou she'd lost and even more. She was also aware how Philippa’s demeanour changed whenever she asked to hold her hostility back.

She picks up the badge of Captain Georgiou from her nightstand, sits on her bed and decides that a few minutes of meditation could provide her with some insight on her feelings. As she draws her thumb over the scratches on the badge, Michael revisits her memories of her late Captain. Captain Georgiou looked at her with the pride and the love of a mother. She was always by her side when she felt conflicted with her Vulcan upbringing but she also gave her space so she could grow on her own. She was a safe harbour to hide when relentless storms brew over her head, a rock to lean on, to hold on to. From the first moments it was important for Michael to impress Georgiou to make her feel that her attention, her time spent on teaching Michael were never a waste.

When she got reinstated, the same badge weighted down her pocket, she felt as if Georgiou was with her, it grounded her, to think that she’d made her proud. That night after she retired to her room, she’d found Saru and the family heirloom telescope Captain Georgiou left to her. Saru even assembled it together for her. He explained that back then he merely accepted it for safekeeping as it was clear to him she parted with it because she didn’t think herself worthy of owning it. And he felt that she was ready to accept Georgiou’s legacy both figuratively and literally.

During her time as Georgiou’s Number One Michael and Georgiou had spent some time together outside duty hours, but the time the Emperor spent with her in the last few days, was not something her former Captain or she for that matter could have afford.

Michael is glad that the Emperor chose to stay. This way she’d an opportunity to glimpse behind the mask this Georgiou wore, to make comparison between them. Because try as she might sometimes she still sees her Georgiou in her. But who is to blame, when she looks at her as Amanda does, as Captain Georgiou did, and even bearing the face of her late Captain. Even though the views of the Emperor are not so rarely in opposite of her own thanks to her Terran antiques, she still feels the same grounding force of Philippa. It reins her back whenever she thinks wild horses are running away with her, but this time it is the sheer and brutal realism that the Emperor brought back with her and not the kind guidance and nurturing Georgiou always kept up. Michael understands the need for both. She’d learned the latter, cherished it, and now, she has to learn from the former, and there will be still more things to learn from Philippa. But learning is not the only thing that drives her heart. What keeps them connected, is their shared loss, heartache and experience, the perception of a second chance and the security of their bond.

Michael arrives at the conclusion that she doesn’t want to lose this Georgiou as well. Now the trick is, if she were to say anything like this to Philippa, she might bolt. She knows she hates being vulnerable and acknowledging their relationship would certainly be a reason for her to disappear for good.

As the Captain walks down the corridor briskly, he bumps into Georgiou. No, this person is Lady Raven now. She nods to him, but do not stops. Dressed in all black, hair half in her face. She's not sporting the usually heavy makeup to mask her face because it is a few hours after the beginning of the beta shift, the crew is scarce on the corridors. Besides, after the week she spent here no one would look at her twice. As Burnham's door closes behind her he can only hope, he doesn't have to clean up a mess after her later.

"Hey, how was your visit?" welcomes Michael cheerily.
Georgiou walks over to Michael's bed in silence with a stern face, and she decides not to sit down. She is still unsure that it is wise to pursue whatever bond she has with Burnham.
"I’ve come to tell you that Mudd is no longer a threat and to say goodbye, I'm leaving in the morning." states Georgiou in a dry voice.
That surprises Michael, she spent so much time with Philippa in the past week, got used to her presence, she hasn’t given too much thought of saying farewells.
"Do I want to know what happened on the surface?"
"Probably not."
Michael is still dazed from the knowledge that they have to part ways and cannot formulate a proper response.
“Well, I take my leave then.” announces Georgiou and hurriedly heads to the door.
“Wait!” Michael scrambles out of her bed to catch Philippa on her way out.

Georgiou sighs, she feared this. She’d prepared herself to say goodbye to Michael forever, and leave her only vulnerability behind. It was foolish to come over here. Despite the warning alarms sounding in her head, she turns around to face Michael. She could use this last opportunity to look at her and to catalogue every little detail that she can find. Over last few days Michael regained almost all of her strength, her skin is full with colour and her eyes … they speak volumes. They are filled with gratitude, concern, hope, wonder, love and dread.

“Philippa I … there are not enough words to convey how grateful I am that you came for me, that you saved me. I also cannot express properly how much it means to me, that you’d stayed while I was recovering, that you looked after me as if we knew each other for half a lifetime.”
Georgiou closes her eyes, she does not want to see the look on Michael’s face. Would she be in a presence of another Terran, she could not allow herself this move, but here, with Michael this is her only defence. She must stay silent or she might not be able to leave.

Michael expected some reaction from Philippa, not this silent response. She understands the conflict of her heart just as her own. Braving the wrath of Georgiou, she decides to do the impossible. Taking advantage of her closed eye, she envelops Georgiou in a tight embrace. Georgiou is startled when Michael links her arms around her. Philippa almost automatically kicks herself away but her mind catches on quickly, so instead she keeps herself rigid and fights down the urge to wrestle herself out of Michael’s hug because she is not used to this display of affection. Michael is astonished, that she is not shoved away but Philippa’s impassiveness makes her to release the Emperor while her eyes fills with tears. She lowers her head in shame waiting for the berate of a lifetime to come.

At the silence Georgiou open her eyes. She can feel the tug of her heart as she can see Michael’s tears fall and her head bent in defeat. Philippa cannot find the strength to disappear from her life. Damn her treacherous heart! Why are you doing this to me? So instead of lecturing Michael on personal boundaries she touches her chin indicating to look up at her.
“Enough of this non-sense! There is no need for tears. You hear me, Michael?” chides Georgiou.
Michael nods, still dreading the next words of Philippa.
“I’ll expect a longer letter next time from you so I wouldn’t feel myself left out.” instructs Georgiou with a hint of light-heartedness in her voice.
The meaning is clear, they are to keep their connection. In a reaction, a bubble of laugh bursts out of Michael. This is not what she expected to hear.
“Will do.” agrees Michael and wipes the tears away with the back of her hand. “And you Philippa, please try to keep yourself out of trouble.”
Georgiou huffs and begins to leave Michael’s cabin.
“If I remember correctly I was not the one who needed to be saved.” replies Georgiou over her shoulder with a smirk.
Michael reciprocates it with a smile and lets Georgiou leave. “I’ll see you off tomorrow. Good night, Philippa!”

Come morning they will don their respective uniforms and will act like nothing more than associates. And when they say an emotionless goodbye at the transporter platform – not like the one shared in Michael’s room -, there is only one thing that matters. That no matter what the universe throws at them, no matter how hard they fight it, they cannot change themselves to not care about each other.




“We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix