Chapter Four Aurellan Markalis watched the sunrise over the mountains on the horizon. She analyzed the red giant star and the bright colors that surrounded it intellectually, comparing lighting effect to that of Earth’s yellow sun. She wished she could watch and appreciate the sheer beauty of a sunrise or sunset as most others could. She was distracted from these thoughts when she heard water splashing in the nearby artificial lake. Snežana emerged from the water. Aurellan gave a light smile. She did not bother to look away, expecting that Snežana would be wearing some type of bathing suit. That was why she let out a surprised gasp when turning her gaze away from Snežana’s fully nude body. “You mind handing me that towel?” Snežana asked. Continuing to divert her gaze, Aurellan grabbed a towel draped over a reclined lounge chair on her right and held it out to the Russian-accented woman. Snežana patted her chest with the towel before fully covering herself with it. “You’re a doctor,” she remarked. “You see naked people all the time.” “Naked dead people mostly,” Aurellan replied, slowly looking back at Snežana, hoping not to see certain feminine body parts. “Those cadavers from med school still give me creeps.” Snežana had been aware of Aurellan’s presence for some time before Aurellan was aware of Snežana’s. Snežana had deduced that Aurellan was ruminating over the events of the day before. Seamus’s impending demise and Rhys’s cavalier attitude bothered her as well. Of course, Snežana was never one to question any of Rhys’s decisions. “You seem troubled,” she offered, clasping Aurellan’s left wrist. “Tell me what bothers you.” Markalis began to feel tense at what seemed like a gesture of affection on the other woman’s part. But she was willing to listen to her, so Aurellan did not want to pass up this chance to unburden herself. She sat down on the lounge chair, and Snežana sat down next to her. “That Rhys doesn’t seem to care a close friend is dying,” she said hoarsely. “What does he plan to do with this virus he’s having me work on that he said will end the war?” “He hasn’t said anything to any of us either,” Snežana replied, placing the palm of her right hand on Aurellan’s left cheek. “I understand the need to make difficult decisions in war, decisions our leaders are not willing to make. The Dominion is unlike any other enemy the Federation has fought. Seamus was willing to give his life so that others of us are not accidentally infected.” Aurellan still was not feeling any better. She slowly slid Snežana’s hand off her cheek and looked away. She could understand Klingons and Romulans easily volunteering for death. Cardassians were notorious for using sentient life as a means to an end. She had never encountered humans this indifferent. As much as they claimed these decision were difficult, their lack of emotional responses said otherwise. “You seem uncomfortable around me,” Snežana continued. “But how do you know you are not attracted to the same gender if you’ve never been in a successful romantic relationship?” Markalis, again annoyed that these people knew so much about her just by her body language and facial expressions, was not sure whether Snežana was asking a rhetorical question. She considered the question for a second, visually analyzing Snežana’s wet black hair and drops of water dripping down her bare shoulders. “You just know,” she answered plainly. “I never believed that.” “Stop,” Aurellan insisted, raising her right hand thinking Snežana was leaning over to kiss her. She quickly stood up and walked away leaving Snežana to wonder what drove her off so suddently. Inside the house, Darcen felt a hand stroke his cheek. He opened his eyes, knowing full well that Ileana was in bed next to him, and clasped her hand to kiss it. Ileana smiled and leaned over to kiss him on the lips while stroking his bare chest. Realizing why she asked him to make love to her last night, he placed two fingers on her lips after a second kiss. “You were a little hard on Aurellan last night,” he said calmly. Ileana rolled over, lying on her back and sighing. “I see the way you look at her. Usually, I wouldn’t mind, but she’s tough to figure. How do we know her loyalties are not truly with Starfleet or the Section 31 agents who turned on us?” “You are correct, my love. That is why I will not reveal the specifics of our plan until she finishes work on the virus? And at the first sign of treachery, I will eliminate her myself.” Ileana moaned pleasingly as Rhys stroked her right ear. She shot him a devilish smile before getting out of bed. Rhys gave the same devilish smile watching as Ileana walked naked towards the shower.