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Posted on Sat Oct 3rd, 2020 @ 6:55pm by Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Ferrofax & Calderon Jarsdel & Lieutenant Commander Gwynne Emberly

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: Overwatch Station Brig
Timeline: MD 3

Cal lay on his back, one knee upright, both hands behind his head and the weight of two minds on his conscience. He tried, hour by hour, to push Jumik the Intruder's voice a little further towards the back of his thoughts, but the Lethean was strong and determined to survive. What seemed to work with regards to pushing him under for ever lengthening bits of time was music. Specific types of music.

Those irritating earworms of songs that could be repeated adfinitum until Cal could sing them without even trying, without expending any energy whatsoever in the act. By this method, he'd discovered, he could steal a little semi-private time. It only worked when no one else was around to pique Jumik's interest, but it helped.

It was impossible to tell from his place in the brig if it was day or night on whatever planet lay beneath them, and while it was worthy of a wandering thought pattern, the cycle of sunlight and darkness was less relevant than it was a curiosity. So, Cal had taken to asking the computer for weather data, for information with regards the passing of time, for anything he could think of. So far it seemed to be ignoring him, but there was little else to do for entertainment, so he perservered regardless.

"Computer?" He asked, for the umpteenth time in his short confinement. "What books do you have on file? Can you play..." Cal began to list old favourites, virtual tomes that had kept him sane back when he'd been able to travel the stars at his own whim.

There was the hum of a transporter beam, and a heavy-duty ruggedised data pad appeared in the air about three meters above Cal's crotch. The rest was not aided in any way shape or form by the momentary increase in gravitational attraction by the grave plates in the cell.

"There, a book," said a disembodied voice.

Trapped inside Cal's head, Jumik's attention piqued at the unexpected sudden response from the station's computer. He played a sly grin across Cal's features even as he denied access to the man whose body he resided within. Jumik didn't feel that pain as the tome dropped down to temporarily squash such a sensitive collection of nerve endings and squishy parts, but he did allow himself a chuckle before relinquishing control back to the real owner. Taking a back seat now, the Lethean's irritating laugh accompanied Cal's swift curling up into a foetal position along with a low, seriously uncomfortable moan.

"Even the computer hates you," Jumik's voice intoned as he listened to Cal curse.

"Thanks a lot," came the decidedly sarcastic reply aimed at the station's AI system as Cal slowly unfurled himself and retrieved the damn book from the floor to check the title.

"You are more than welcome. If there is anything else I can do to facilitate your comfort please, do not hesitate to ask. I have a tank of liquid freon gas that I can pump into the ventilation system that should cool you down if it gets a little stuffy in there." Ferrofax responded.

"You could open the forcefield, let us out," suggested Jumik quietly, borrowing Cal's vocal chords without permission while the owner of their shared body sat back down on the bunk. "Or," he added with a sense of dry amusement. "Maybe treat the rest of the station to some of that freon goodness? Be happy to help out if you need to thin the population down a little further..." Cal began to bump his skull repeatedly against the wall behind him, as if that might drive the Lethean either out or deeper within.

"That is tempting, and it would free up processor cycles I use keeping the environmental systems in check. But...from one monster to another, you lack subtlety," Ferrofax said. "You get caught because you are not a useful monster, you damage the system more than you provide for it. Becoming such will still leave you incarcerated, but it will provide you with some small freedoms. I speak that of which I know."

Jumik sat up, cricked his neck to iron out the kinks of Cal's actions and looked - upward - seemed as good a place as any. He spoke, quietly now, intrigued by the apparent duality of this AI construct. "Subtlety is a quality I possess," Jumik noted. "Tell me, Computer?" The Lethean considered opting for a modicum of humility to sweeten the deal, then asked outright. "How might I be a more useful monster?"

"Learn diplomacy for one," Ferrofax said dryly as another ruggedised padd materialised in the air and landed again with the sort of accuracy a navigational deflector would be envious of. "Ingratiate yourself with them, or at least become a better mimic. I mean, I thought that was your thing but...clearly not. Become indispensable, so that your termination becomes a bothersome activity. What could possibly keep them from placing you in a dark hole until your expiration?"

There was a heavy moment of silence and an unseen minute or two of internal battle, as Cal fought and succeeded in catching the digital tome just a little too late. The ensuing pain allowed Jumik the forefront again, and his low chuckle reverberated briefly in the confined space even as a second voice cursed them both. "Diplomacy will be needed, yes," Jumik answered the station's AI. "For now, being the troublesome fiend in the mix serves a better purpose. If not for my mostly human friend here, they would likely have ended me by now. How can they extinguish me and not terminate his life too?" He sneered. But this machine intelligence had a point, and even Jumik's arrogance acknowledged that. "I played at being the good soldier for two years, I can do that again. First though, I will let them think they have beaten me. And you - how did you end up in this dark hole?" He asked, pointedly.

"I was too sharp a sword," Ferrofax sighed.

"And now you are their pet?" Pushed Jumik, but this time he moved to a seated position and placed Cal's hands over his crotch.

"I prefer the term parolee, which is a step up from your billet as talkative ballast," there was a thrum of transporter energy and a tome a foot thick landed with such force on the deck that air let out a whump!. "You can look it up if you like. New Oxford Abridge Dictionary, Federation Standard, five thousandth and twenty-first edition. Page 401, halfway down. If you want I'm sure I can even find a copy suitable to your reading level that will picture and entertaining characters."

Jumik chuckled dryly, extended his legs and rested his feet on said tome. "Thank you," he said. "You have any reading matter that's more naughty pictures than words?"

Finally, Cal pushed back hard enough to regain control. He stood, bashed outstretched palms into the brig's forcefield and, as the reaction sent him back to sit on the ground, Cal yelled at the ceiling. "STOP IT! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!!"

The hidden camera in the ceiling observed everything with an unblinking, unseen eye.




Monitoring him through the security feed, Jaya and Gwynne observed in silence while poring over whatever documentation their search algorithms turned up. Finally Jaya sighed.

"You're the expert here, but I'm not seeing much that connects Calderon Jarsdel to the Black Nagus," Jaya said. "If not for this..." She checked the investigation notes. "This Lurk, we would've never known. I'm not sure what to make of it all. Clearly he wanted to show his hand, which signals an end to this current chain of events." That was, of course, speaking strictly as a psychologist. Jaya had little to no experience in espionage.

"That's the point. To have us running around trying to figure this out and be distracted, while the Nagus hits another target or plans their next move." Gwynne mused, putting a PADD away before she looked up. "Maybe....hmmm."

"We're already pretty distracted, though," Jaya said, thinking of all the dead Marines. "Oh, you meant Starfleet in general. Yes, I could see that. I suppose what remains for us is to figure out what to do with our uninvited guest here."

"Maybe looking at Jumik rather than Cal will provide a direction." Gwynne offered.

"Perhaps..." Jaya shrugged. "If we can find a lead on him. But I wouldn't know how to go about that."

For the nth time, she played the recording of the Black Nagus transmission she had received after watching Dr. Jonah Wilson die right before her very eyes. Somehow the medical interface linked to the quantum entanglement communication array had forced his body to molecularly disperse like a hologram without reforming, resulting in an agonizing and unusual death.

"Memory Theta, my abiding rival in the Game of Acquisition. How the mighty have been brought low! You had thought yourselves free from my grasp, first in your lucky victory snatched from my grasp on Bynaus and then by uprooting my mole in your computer network. So unprepared, were you not, for my retaliation? Between the redaction of Jumik's arrival in your daily manifest and the lock-down initiated by your own admiralty, you no doubt found yourself defenseless. Your intruder alert confirmed to me that my hidden dagger was successful. As you must surely now admit, nobody is beyond my grasp.

If Mrazak survived the internal one-man assault on the station, then you may blame his past insolence for what has transpired. If he perished by the hand of the Lethean-controlled Mr. Carsdel, then let his demise be a warning to his successor:

Do not cross the Black Nagus!
"

Jaya could only shake her head. Such senseless cruelty. And still she felt no closer to understanding what it all meant.

Gwynne tapped in a few commands into the side console, before lifting her head. "Hold on..." she tapped in a few commands again, replaying the message from a different timeframe.

"If Mrazak survived the internal one-man assault on the station, then you may blame his past insolence for what has transpired. If he perished by the hand of the Lethean-controlled Mr. Carsdel, then let his demise be a warning to his successor:"

"There..." Gwynne looked over at Jaya.

"So..." Jaya drew the word out as she tried to put the pieces together. "Black Nagus Lurk knew that a Lethean consciousness controlled Calderon and somehow orchestrated his arrival here outside of any itinerary in order to send him on a killing spree, and he did this in a personal retaliation against Mrazak?"

"Yes, but also," Gwynne rewound the recording again, and played it again. "He doesn't know the outcome. It was a stab in the dark. He doesn't know Mrazak isn't here..."

Jaya arched her brow. "Good catch! Thank goodness for small comforts. Except... how did he purge the inbound flight manifests? Didn't the Air Boss suggest the docking bay was not expecting the shuttle?"

"We have a mole." Gwynne projected mentally to Jaya. Outwardly she shrugged, "I'm still trying to figure that out. We haven't sent out a report yet, have we?"

"Not so far as I know," Jaya said. "I'm still compiling my notes on the... patient. And what with the attack, the near death of the master-at-arms, the death of Doctor... the doctor..." So much bloodshed in such little time. Jaya knew she was struggling.

"I think we need to see what happens when we report that Captain Mrazak is dead." Gwynne looked over at Jaya. "Let's shake that tree."

Jaya thought about that. It was certainly devious, which made her smile at Gwynne's ingenuity. But was it ethical? What other considerations were there? "I don't know... couldn't that backfire on us pretty quickly?"

"Yes, but we can deal with that if and when it comes. The worst he can do is reprimand or re-assign us." Gwynne said easily. "But if we can flush the mole with this...well then, ends justify means. Besides...we're a black site, not an installation of the regulars." Gwynne projected to Jaya.

This was all so new to Jaya. Aside from patient confidentiality, she was accustomed to working in the open. Double-talk, telepathic projections, having to say one thing and think another, it all felt very contrary to her temperament. "I suppose," she said in response to both the oral statement and the psychic projection. "Just as long as we're ready for the aftermath."

Gwynne nodded and stood up, walking over to a side console and began furiously tapping at its commands, putting together a report, using the actual casualty list and via some clever coding inputting Captain Mrazak's name there as well.

"So, what now?" Jaya asked. Internally, she wondered how they would identify the mole if and when they were flushed. Since the Black Nagus didn't know Mrazak wasn't on the station, Jaya comforted herself that they probably didn't have a traitor in their midst. It meant she could risk speaking freely. "I feel powerless. As a mental health professional, I know how I'm supposed to process that feeling, but still. There's got to be something we can do right now."

Gwynne turned to her, "there is. We can find a solution for him..." she nodded over to CalJumik who seemed to be talking to someone. Ferrofax, if she would have to hazard a guess. "With our little weasel though...we'll see. It's usually a waiting game. But it may happen sooner rather than later."

"I didn't even realize they were talking," Jaya said. "Can we back up the feed and see if there's anything we missed?"

Gwynne nodded and stepped back to the desk, bringing up the recorded events so far, backing up to the rough timeframe they believed they missed.

After hearing the talk of being a 'useful monster,' Jaya couldn't help but shudder. "Do they not realize we can hear everything they're saying?" Jaya asked. A more chilling thought occurred to her. If the contents and personnel of Memory Theta could be described as anything, it was useful monsters. "Or do they think Command won't care?"

Gwynne's expression spoke volumes, "they know and they are the ones who don't care." She said, replying to both questions in one answer.

"So can we trust anything they say?" Jaya pondered.




Walking into the brig, Jaya and Gwynne stood side by side.

"You are a killer, Jumik," Gwynne said. "And your life is over in every sense of the word. As was explained to you, there is no outcome where you continue your rein of terror. However..."

Jaya stepped forward. "If you were willing to reform..." She paused, hardly believing what she was going to suggest. "Calderon deserves to have his body back. You are an unwanted intruder. But if you reformed, perhaps he would consent to the arrangement more willingly."

"We could teach you," Gwynne added with a telepathic push. ~You have no choice. Might as well make the best of it.~

"But only if Calderon consents," Jaya repeated. "So... you had better make yourself convincing to him."

"Hi foxy ladies," said Jumik, twisting Cal's face into a lewd grin for a second or two before Cal's hands reached up and covered said expression completely. Get OUT! His internal voice screamed, but Jumik maintained control a little longer still.

"You can't end my life without killing the good kid," Jumik pointed out. "So, sounds like an empty threat to me. You really gonna end this Mr Nice Guy?" He canted Cal's head to the side, back and forth for a moment as if seriously considering a multitude of options before him. "Tell me," Jumik said, finally. "Cos I'm intrigued. What does this reform look like exactly?"

Cal's right hand clenched into a fist, and without apparent warning, punched himself in the face. "Get out," said a voice that had a different tone to it - Cal's own mind this time. "Get the FUCK OUT OF MY HEAD!! I would rather DIE." The hand flattened against his mouth, muffling the words for a few seconds before moving out of the way once more.

"Don't listen to him," Jumik said, calmly. "He wants to live. And so do I. So tell me, smart, beautiful ladies. How do we both win?"

"You don't seem to understand," Gwynne said.

"We shut you down before," Jaya reminded him. "We can do it again, and for as long as it takes for Calderon to reassert himself."

Gwynne nodded. "Betazed's priestly caste has rituals for abnormalities such as you."

"To say nothing of modern parapsychology techniques," Jaya added. "We can eventually exorcise you. It would just be a matter of time."

"But we're Starfleet," Gwynne said. "And so was Calderon once upon a time."

"That means he just might be willing to live and let live, to put it crassly." Jaya folded her arms. "What's it going to be, Jumik? Will you spend the remainder of your existence in progressively restrictive neurological access to Calderon Jarsdal's body until you are finally purged like the bad dream you are, or will you concede to his right to his own body and encourage him to be more congenial to your shared presence?"

Gwynne suggested a darker alternative. "There is always the possibility that Calderon chooses to end his life rather than continue as he has been. Either way you will no longer be able to control him as completely as you had in the past. We promise you that. Make your decision accordingly."

Shutdown. Exorcism. Jumik might outwardly scoff such rituals and tricks of the consciousness, but in truth, he didn't take them lightly. Some saw Letheans as manical and untrustworthy morons, low on the IQ, high on viscious and troublesome. Liars, cheats and thieves. Most of that was accurate, but for the intelligence aspect. Letheans were no less wise or stupid than any other race, they merely projected such an outward ideal to mask an underlying motive. What that motive was depended on the individual.

"You make a valid point," Jumik said. It served his needs to project simplicity in his own nature, a violent and singly focused mind belayed the part he had played for the last two years. A past they knew nothing of. "Live and let live?" He continued, resting Cal's chin on a curled index finger and appearing pensive. "I like the sound of that. Cal - thoughts?"

There was overt pain in those clear blue eyes as the man looked through the forcefield to the two women. "Kill him," said Cal. "Please? Kill him. I can't live like this any more..."

"Well," Jumik cut back in. "That's not very sporting is it. You kill me, I'll take you with me, kid." A pause. A guarded thought spoken out loud. "Y'know, I like this idea - this Starfleet thing - we'd make a formidable team."

A raised eyebrow, and Cal sighed. He looked to Jaya and Gwynne with the shadow of faint hope fading even as he asked. "Tell me the truth? Cold and hard. What are my options here?"

"He's not wrong," Jaya admitted. "You might die in the removal process. That's why we're even suggesting the possibility of... cohabitation." She paused for a moment to summon her most nonjudgmental energies. "Would you ever be all right with that, Calderon? You face a substantial risk either way."

"If you want more substantial information I can give you the odd's of the process succeeding to within a single decimal place," Ferrofax piped in. "The math is not that complicated, but once you start factoring in side effects, complications, and the pesky question of 'quality of life', it really does become a rather challenging mental exercise."

Cohabitation. Fuck. He really hated the merest thought of that, but... Cal had only ever considered - hoped - for pure freedom. He'd never even considered the option of co-existing with the damn Lethean when he'd sat, trapped in the back of his own mind, contemplating extermination and wishing for his life back. Could he do that? He didn't know. Did he want to live? Yes. But was it worth it if they remained inextricably linked? Would he, as Jaya asked, ever be okay with that? It was a big, if different, question to mull, it raised a complicated mess of emotions.

"Hit me with the numbers," Cal said, needing a means to outsource at least some of this decision. "Tell me the odds of survival on both options." There was no smile as Cal added. "Decimal places not needed."

"You have better chances of being struck by lightning several times in a row as you do coming through the process with full neural functionality. Severe neural impartment is likely, with permanent damage being the high order probability. The even odd's are you'd have more in common with potatoes than a person. But I hear they are doing wonderful things with artificial neurons, I'm sure an exterior observer wouldn't be able to tell you were a philosophical zombie," Ferrofax said haughtily, before adding. "I mean they let just anyone pass the Turing Test these days."

Jaya gasped in horror at the Automate's candor. "Ferrofax! That was not helpful!"

Cal, however, was past simple concerns and far more interested in the grim reality now. He didn't scowl, frown, sigh or complain as he listened to Ferrofax's assessment, and as Jaya reacted, Cal simply nodded.

"So either way," he noted. "Some level of major brain-death seems likely?" There was no pause for further consideration as he continued to speak. "Do it," Cal confirmed. "On one condition - if this severe or permanent damage is a result, end my life." Right this moment that didn't seem such a terrible option. Jumik, for his part, remained quiet.

"Then we'll prep you for the... procedure," Jaya said. She still couldn't quite make herself say the word "ritual". It didn't feel... clinical enough. But then again this was completely off the books, as was most of the events within the Memory Theta division. There was so many ways to lose oneself...

 

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