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Posted on Tue Mar 24th, 2020 @ 3:02am by Qurban & Commander Arianna Frost
Edited on on Fri Apr 3rd, 2020 @ 1:50pm

Mission: Mission 0: Everybody Has A Story
Location: Arboretum, Overwatch

The last interview, the one with Jaya had left Arianna with more questions than answers. Both those pertaining to the investigation and those pertaining to Frost's future with Theta. How would one reconcile the two seemingly opposing directions? Well three in this case. The two within the investigation and the third being her own.

So, with a chilled, thick, coffee flavored cup in hand, Arianna needed to get out of the office for a while, to find somewhere to be able to sort out this internal puzzle. With so much of her job being internalized, as was the nature of Intelligence and especially Internal Affairs, pun intended, Frost needed ways to cope without acidentally spilling the beans. Very few people were read-in on her security clearance level, even fewer in her department / area.

She found herself in the Arboretum again, sucking on the shake through a straw. The cold helped her focus, the flavor helped her brain turn. It was clear that ben-Avram and Mrazak were at odds, it was clear that most of the team were at odds with Mrazak but either didn't care to tell him, or feared to, whether through direct confrontation or reports up the CoC. Yet there was division still within the team as well.

How the hell did the Team get anything done?

Oh, there was also the small fact that they were all likely at odds with her now too. Because of the investigation, because of the role she took over.

While she appeared to be standing next to the window, looking out at the stars, Arianna was lost deep within her own thoughts, standing in the walking path.

"Stimulating," said a soft, quiet voice from behind her. "Isn't it?"

Arianna jumped slightly, the cold sip slipping in the wrong exit, making Frost cough, trying to get rid of the chilly feeling. It took her a few moments before she finally turned towards the origins of the voice, her eyes slightly watering and red.

Sitting on a nearby bench, perched like a crow on a fence post eyeballing the world around him, was a nondescript human male of indeterminate age. At one glance he looked to be young enough, still in the prime of his life. A second look would note the salt and pepper of his hair and the makings of crow's feet around his eyes. His eyes, though, were deep and penetrating, alive with the vibrancy of youth and the wisdom of ages.

"I meant your beverage," he said with a mischievous glint. "But the view is nice, too."

A final cough, before she got herself under control. "Cheers, I think." She grimaced at the croaky sound of her own voice.

"Sorry about that." Arianna finally focused. Now this was interesting. This person was not part of the Field Team, she knew that. Nor Overwatch team...researcher, perhaps? Hmmm... "Hi, I'm Ari." She introduced herself.

Qurban stood to his feet and extended a hand in greeting. "They call me Qurban... among other things." His mouth ticked up in a smile. "Ari... is that short for anything?"

She nodded, taking another sip, "Arianna Frost." Qurban,, not a researcher then. She'd studied the manifest. What was his role here?

"And a Commander, I see." His roving eyes passed over her pips of rank on her collar before returning to meet her own again. "Enchanté."

"Good to meet you too, Qurban." Ari nodded, "mind if I join you? Need to get out of my head for a while."

There was a strange ease about him, a quiet confidence. Curiosity piqued, definitely.

"Be my guest," Qurban said, extending a hand to the other end of the bench. He sat down and crossed one leg over the other as an ancient king in repose. "Out of my head is where I spend much of my time. The rest I spend here." As he spoke, he looked around at the beautiful arboretum and the panorama view of the swirling plasma storms above and beyond.

Ari slid onto the bench next to him with ease, sitting sideways, and leaning against the back rest like so. Her eyes followed the wave of his hand before she settled on him again. "I see. So, you're not staff, you're not field, and you're certainly not Fleet. Who are you?"

The question caught Qurban off guard, but not disarmingly so. In fact, he looked rather elated. "Ah. Intelligence, if your uniform is to be believed, yet you do not know who I am?" His lips pressed together into a broad smile that showed no teeth. "Forgive me, but I do not get a chance to play this game very often. Indulge me, if you please. Just who do you think that I am?"

Ari took another sip, letting the chill and the sweet focus her brain cells. "To answer your first thought. I've had things to I am not up on all things in this place that is not supposed to exist." Then she took another sip, "so, not staff, not field, not fleet. You wouldn't be a guest, not from how you said you spend your time. You don't strike me as the maintenance and/or janitorial staff, so I am forced to conclude, that you are...." green eyes studied green for a long moment, "you're an artifact. But the puzzling thing is...why aren't you locked up?"

"That would be inhumane, wouldn't it? But yes. As to why I'm not locked away? Who says I am not?" Qurban waved both hands in a broad, sweeping gesture. "If I were to try to leave, where would I go?" A knowing smile overtook him then which bared teeth. "Oh, I suppose I might've revealed more than I intended just then, at least to one of your intellectual stature and acumen."

Arianna crossed one leg over the other, studying him. "Oh yes," she had a small, knowing smile now. "But that just brings more questions."

She really should stop. Asking questions had become like drinking water to Frost, and sometimes it took great effort to stop and just be. Or worse, answer questions herself.

"Go on, then. I do love a good question." Qurban could not have looked more delighted. "I know you want to. Shall I help? 'Why would Memory Theta have a sentient being as an artifact?' That is a good question, indeed! Perhaps it is safe to say that your Federation did not know what else to do with me."

Arianna pondered that for a moment. "Or we're protecting you. By hiding you in plain sight." She countered. But he wasn't just any kind of creature, was he?

The suggestion made Qurban wince ever so slightly. "My dear, I suspect you may be close to the mark. Unfortunately, this damnable memory of mine is more than unreliable. One might almost think..." A tremor ran through his body. "I am called Qurban because I had no name before. Well, not one of my own. That is the final hint you will get from me."

Arianna's face showed no reaction. "Perhaps a change of subject? I didn't join you to make you uncomfortable. My job is to make connections and find the truth. At times, I'm a bit too good at it."

"No, it is quite all right," Qurban said in his most assuring voice. "Sometimes... I just get... confused." He turned to look at her as if for the first time. "You can see me, can't you? So, this is the timeline where Castermer did not... oh dear..."

"Think very carefully before you continue." Arianna's expression changed the moment the name Castermer was uttered. Then another thought cropped up. Timelines? Could he see different timelines and outcomes?

"Yes, I can see you, Q...urban," then a thought hit, shit, really?

Qurban squinted at her then, really staring at her eyes. "So Castermer can see. I don't understand."

"Surgeries are keeping the degradation at bay. For now. But eventually..." Arianna swallowed thickly. It was a thought she battled with every time her vision went blurred, every time she noticed she couldn't read a sign or fine print. Doctors had said, it was inevitable. And she wasn't viable for implants.

"Oh. So it isn't time yet." Qurban fell quiet. "Forgive me. As you may have deduced by now, I come from the Land of No Manners."

Her heart beat in her chest so heavily she thought her chest would burst. "Don't tell me this. I know what the inevitable future is, but I have to live with the prospect until then." She said cuttingly, under breath. "I know what awaits, but I'd like the illusion of there still being time."

"You know," Qurban said cautiously, "in many of the timelines when Castermer never happened, it was because you worked for the Black Nagus Ferengi rather than hunting for their assets. You surely struck a blow to Lurk's organization in this timeline. That old toad is likely centuries old now. Perhaps he could offer you what is not to be found in Federation medicine."

Arianna closed her eyes and bit the inside of her cheeks to calm herself down and steady her nerves, "do not go down that line, Qurban. Just mere mention of events in that operation is a jailable offense." She said finally, hissing under breath. "I can end up in prison for this, as can anyone who heard what you just said. I cannot and will not discuss this with you or anyone else who is not cleared to know the events of that operation."

Was her sight more valuable though than doing the right thing?

"I'm already in prison," Qurban said with a shrug. "Perhaps we all are, if we come to see it."

Arianna sighed, pulling herself together, "you really are bored, aren't you?"

Still, her mind flowed back to his words. Was he right? She couldn't not wonder.

"Wouldn't you be?" Qurban asked. "All I have are my memories...and often not even then."

She took another sip as she shrugged in agreement. "What happened to you? Or is that part of the 'not even then'?"

Qurban blinked at her several times, then smiled as if pleasantly startled. "Hello, my dear. I didn't see you there. Please, stay and sit awhile."

"Not even then...", echoed in her mind at the change in the creature next to her. "Hi, I'm Ari. I hope you don't mind me joining you." She extended her hand to him, silently relieved.

"By all means," Qurban said graciously. "They call me Qurban. I must say it's good to have company other than Mrazak." His face visibly scrunched at the mention of the Vulcan.

"Mmm, I hear that about him," Ari chuckled. "You've got yourself a beautiful place here," she mirrored his prior hand waving.

Qurban harrumphed. "I suppose it is. So few come here as often as I do." His harrumph softened to a hum. "What brings you to this little sanctuary?"

"I needed to get out of the office for a bit, take a break from work, that kind of thing," she replied, wondering if and when he was going to flip on her again.

As much as he had rattled her before, she was convinced this man could prove useful in the future.

"Ah. Intelligence office work, if I am reading your colors correctly. And a commander too..." Qurban furrowed his brow at his own words. "Have we met before, Ari?"

This made her pause for a moment. "Depends, do you want a truth or a lie?" She said finally, knowing she was stalling, really.

Qurban nodded and looked away. "I see. Was it something I said or you said?"

Arianna had to take pity on him. "A bit of both, I think." She said with a sigh. "How about a redo, hm?"

Even if he was who she thought he was, reactive amnesia must have been a terrible burden to bear.

"Certainly," he said. "If you're the commander around here, then you must be acquainted with Kazyah Linn. Or Leonora Wolf. Or Karna Zsan. Xanthe Rahal. Omri Shaw." He bit his cheek in deep thought. "Just who is the Intelligence Chief in this timeline?"

"I am." Arianna replied shortly, almost instantly regretting the decision. Though, she would have to look into the last name in his outburst. She knew who the others were all too well. Wolf was a current colleague, Rahal was the former commander of the USS Taniwha and a bit of a legend in the Intelligence and IA circles. Linn and Zsan...well she was here to try to find where they had absconded to, wasn't she?

Qurban just chuckled. "You sly girl. Is this a secret interview?"

Arianna shook her head, "no. An accident that ended up being a lot more." Which was incidentally, the truth.

If she'd thought Theta was weird before, she was sorely mistaken.

"There are no accidents, my dear. Only limitations of knowledge." He smiled a patronizing smile. "That was the one thing I was told to remember."

"Fair enough," Arianna conceded. She itched to ask, 'by whom', but held back, for fear of resetting him again. "It's certainly been an enlightening experience, though."

Qurban have a wry chuckle. "I'm glad to hear it. Hopefully I'll see you again around here. You're a better conversationalist than Mrazak. And maybe you could even bring your husband."

Arianna blinked, not sure if she should correct him or not. She opted for merely nodding. "I'll be sure to." She said, forcing herself to not set herself up for any more revelations for today. It was heart attack inducing enough.



Noting her reaction, Qurban laughed again, this time full of vigor. "Oh. Not that time yet, I see. My apologies."



"Mate, you need to work on your timing. But other than that, all good," Arianna exhaled, now wondering if he was having her on, or serious. Either way, she didn't really want to know. Not yet. Not now, in any case.

"They don't call me the Fortuneteller for nothing." Qurban grinned mischievously. "Time is... rather fluid. People think it's shaped by events, but it's not. Choices. And those choices are not reasoned decisions. No, they are the snap judgments that come from the untainted observation of reality. The more choices you perceive, the more flexible time can be." He gave the flesh on his arm a pinch. "At least, that's how it's supposed to work. How you lot live such linear lives in one spot is one thing I'll never understand, not after ten years as this crude matter."

"Thanks for that. Ten years, that gives me a good window to look at." Ari thought to herself as she nodded, "living is making choices, I think anyone with a few braincells knows that. As for how we manage to live..." she smiled wistfully, "we have no choice but to."

"There are infinite choices," Qurban corrected. "Do you not see them or are you hiding?"

"My brain can only see so much," she said, then added in a softer voice, "my eyes even less."

Qurban nodded. "Touche. We have much in common, then. May you find what you're looking for."

"And you, new friend." Arianna stood up, extending her hand to him, "it was good to meet you, Qurban."

While she had certainly managed to pull her head in from the investigation. She needed to do that now from this conversation. A lesson in extremes?

"And you, my dear. Be well." Qurban leaned back in his bench as if preparing for a nap.

With a small nod, Ari took her leave, a whole new mystery having presented itself to her. It was time to prowl the Archive.


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