Note: Charvanek's and Achernar's art by Karracaz.

Timeline: A few days after the Enterprise-C was destroyed, the events of the "Vulcan's Heart", my story "Term of Honor", and immediately after "Assignment". It's standalone though.


Who is this scoundrel ... this quintessential thief? This universal vagabond sublime... ~ A. Sailor

The interrogation room was dark, a slate gray box, with guards in the four corners, and the prisoner dressed in black in the dead center. His silver hair glowed under the light directly above him as it created shadows in his hawk-like features.

"So," Charvanek drew the word out, "two counts of murder and attempted data espionage."

She tapped a padd into her other palm. Calm, in control, and ready to kill him for what he'd done.

Despite how he must know who she was, he stayed as calm as her. In fact, he stretched in his uncomfortable chair. "You wouldn't know this, Commander, since I never needed to come to your attention before, but I don't like murder. Bad for business. After all, how can you do business with dead people? Well, there are ways but it's a whole other sort of thing. Not like this."

Charvanek squelched the thought that the man didn't realize the danger he was in. He knew and he cared, but somehow, he pictured himself walking out of here.

"It's Achernar, isn't it?" she asked, as casual as him.

"Yes, ma'am. Now, the two murders when I don't like murder." He shrugged with his hands stretched out as far as the restraints would allow. "They were necessary."

Surprised, she asked, "You admit you did them?"

"Oh, yes. Out of necessity. For the Empire – and a touch for me as well." He swiveled his head around. "Is it possible to lose your friends? I'm secured to this spot, and I'd rather keep this business private. Let's face it. We both know you can kill me from that spot and return to your desk before my final death rattle."

Charvanek would have refused him, but he did break into the files she'd locked up. She wanted to know why.

Honestly, first the old Centurion Hasmonak, then Commander Ajeya, and now Achernar. Maybe she should delete the files, but it'd bring down questions she didn't want asked.

That woman, the one in the files, continued being a complication and a surprise. And the perfect example of what the Empire could create and then stupidly throw away.

She is such a… headache.

Charvanek ordered the guards outside and then shut down all cameras. She triple-checked that they were alone.

Achernar crossed his outstretched legs and smiled at her. "The people I murdered nosed around places bad for the Empire. I'm not an Imperial agent, but," he shrugged, "I do live here."

I don't have time for this. Except she could tell something was going on here, something more than somebody opening files they shouldn't.

"Where did they nose around?" she demanded.

"To answer that, I need to show you something on the computer." When she agreed with a nod, he ordered it to play a video under his security lock.

Charvanek had a great expressionless face when she needed it and she needed it now.

I can't get away from her. But she felt a lot of sympathy after what she heard about Hellguard.

Achernar carefully kept his eyes on the computer. "You recognize the woman on the screen. Lady Evaste. The former Dralath tried using her and then she disappeared. Some say Dralath killed her and others say she went home to her backward colony."

"Here's what you wouldn't know, Commander. There is no Evaste, it's a cover identity. You most likely heard about the half-Romulan officer in Starfleet. Vulcan and Romulan, and from the colony where nightmares were bred. Even though our government at the time said she and the others didn't exist. That's her." He grew hushed. "I like the braids."

Charvanek snapped, "How did you recognize her?"

"Saavik – that's her name, Saavik. I bumped into her by accident years ago. She… left an impression on me."

I'll be damned. Charvanek knew exactly what he meant. She had… such an impression left on her by Spock during the cloaking device mission.

Achernar dumped the quiet attitude for another bright smile, but Charvanek didn't miss that it was forced. "I don't know what brought her here, but it's a very concise list for why she would cross the Zone. Very short, like a list of one name. Saavik came across the Zone, then the odds say her betrothed – now husband – was here. Spock."

Charvanek decided it was time to kill Achernar before he spread this information, but he held up a finger, asking her to wait. He does know he'll die here.

"I haven't seen Spock," he said. "It's a theory and to tell the truth, I'm not interested in finding out if I'm right. But here's where the murders return to the story. They figured out Evaste was Saavik and they were looking for Spock. They planned on releasing the information to ruin Praetor Narviat as a puppet for the Federation and who called for this coverup from his people."

Charvanek no longer had her Honor Blade, but she kept a dagger and a phaser. Achernar was right: she'd kill him from here.

But he kept talking. "The murders were easy, but someone else could discover who Evaste was. So, I set off the alarms you had around Saavik's file."

Her eyebrows went up. "You knew the alarms were there?"

"Of course. It was how I could warn you about what was happening. It made sure you'd come here and find out what I discovered. One other thing. If you will tell the computer to run Evaste Four."

Charvanek almost didn't, but she weighed the odds again and went ahead. The holovid with Evaste came up and each frame pinpointed her features and then:

Changed them.

She looked enough like Saavik so people who had seen her wouldn't think something was wrong, but no one would think she was the Starfleet officer anymore.

"It's going through every holovid and holopic out there," Achernar explained. "When it's done, Evaste will be Evaste and only Evaste - who was killed in an accident on the way home. Sad. If Spock had been here, it'd work on him the same way, but…" He shrugged.

He knows damn well Spock was here. And that she knew Saavik was Evaste.

Charvanek was stunned. Changing the features was brilliant. "Did you create this program?"

"Yes and no. I hired people to create separate programs, pieces of this one. I connected everything to make Evaste Four. That way, none of those programmers know this exists. They don't even know the separate pieces do. But there it is."

She gave him a hard stare. "You must consider my husband and me in your debt."

"I only want my release, Commander. I did this because I was glad to, not to put you or the Praetor in my debt."

Her eyes narrowed, but with some humor. "I've never heard you're so patriotic."

He let out a deep breath. "I have my own… consideration from my meeting with Ambassador Spock and his... wife. Considerations like that can equal the loyalty of patriotism."

Charvanek mentally flipped through what data she knew about Achernar, wondering when he came into contact with Spock and Saavik.

When she was quiet, thinking, he asked, "Is this enough to release me?"

She dryly joked that if she wanted to keep this information secret, she should kill him too.

Without blinking, he said, "Perhaps I could add to the payment of keeping myself alive."

"I don't take bribes."

"No bribes. Consider it a wedding gift. Through the years, you have... traded... a number of House heirlooms in your campaign to return to your position."

She froze.

"Not your ancestral weapons, of course, or the Imperial flag. Honor is not for sale."

Her voice grew cold. "So, you were the one behind the transactions and now you gloat about it."

He snapped up to sitting straight. "No, Commander. You have no reason to believe me, but no. Trading in antiquities is something I do with the noble Houses. I found these particular items and thought it best if they were removed from the wrong hands. I found the last one shortly after Dralath's death. I simply wonder if you would like these things back? And if anyone asks why I was here, the answer is, I delivered the crates you ordered. Given my reputation, you needed to personally interrogate me. After all, I show up with crates and two dead people."

She wouldn't decide until she saw the heirlooms and made sure they were authentic.

Charvanek ordered the crates be brought in and then told the guards to go back in the corridor. She flipped open a lid and pulled out the first thing: an elegant tapestry depicting Azeraik triumphing in death over his enemies.

She went rapidly through everything. Every single object was here and kept in excellent condition. She held the Azeraik tapestry in her hands as she thought.

Achernar was for sale.

But he had gone out of his way to do everything he had done.

Not for the Empire: for Saavik. Otherwise, he might have just left things the way they were and let chaos fall where it may.

None of this meant Charvanek couldn't go after him later if he did betray her. Except, when sized up at the end, she didn't think Achernar would. He did have to live in the Empire, he did have… an attachment for Saavik, and he knew Charvanek was not someone to cross.

"I'm releasing you," she announced. "Payment for your – services."

He stood. "Like I said, merely delivering your crates, Commander."

He returned to the computer screen as the last images of Saavik disappeared for her alter ego, Evaste.

"Poor doomed Evaste," Charvanek noted. He only made a noncommittal noise, so she dragged his attention back. "You said this Saavik is married now."

Something Charvanek knew better than he did.

Achernar gave another vague noise. "She's pregnant too."

Charvanek narrowed her eyes. "You keep yourself well informed."

"On certain topics. I send all information for the official file, by the way. Although," one corner of his mouth lifted as he looked at Saavik, "I can't find the question."

"Which is?"

His dark eyes were utterly devilish. "Maybe you can see it... you read that record and you might wonder, which one of us helped create her? How much did she take after them? Because if the daughter can do all that, what is the mother or father like?"

"Like I said, I have no idea, Commander, in case you're wondering. No one does except for her Romulan parent and they're very carefully saying nothing. Or they're dead. But I admit to my curiosity." He gestured to the screen. "However, I should have said two questions."

Charvanek decided to ask. "The second one being?"

"Perhaps something you've wondered yourself. If everything had been done right, the way they planned, Saavik would be in our fleet, your fleet, not in the Federation's. After all, she was bred and born to be Romulan. Imagine that."

He let it hang there in between them and he was right; Charvanek wondered. How far would Saavik have gone? She might be the first one in Charvanek's line for moving up in the Fleet.

Achernar broke into those thoughts.

"Returning to your original point on my data gathering, I have people along the border tracking information. …That… sounds like a stalker, but it's not."

"Then what is it?"

He leaned in close with a wicked grin. "It reminds my good friend Spock that I'm still here."

Charvanek burst into laughter and hit the release for his restraints. "All right, go and quickly. Before I realize what an idiot I'm being."

"I'm at your service. Yours and the Praetor." He bowed to her, "Noble Born," and swept out in a swirl of black cloak.

She leaned next to the computer screen with a forearm and watched the transformed visages of Saavik… and Spock.

Charvanek tapped Saavik's new image with a fingernail on the screen. "You." She ended up chuckling to herself and shaking her head. "I should kill you."

And she laughed, imagining Saavik's response.