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QEC Spells

Posted on Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 @ 12:32pm by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Commander Arianna Frost

Mission: Mission 0: Everybody Has A Story
Location: Administrator's Office | Overwatch Station
Timeline: After S1E4

~As is written in Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs:

"Oh you young men of Shu of the morning, who have power over those who flash among the sun-folk, whose arms move about and whose heads sway to and fro, may I move about every day."

The message traversed time and space, relay to relay until at last a destination. A seemingly random, innocuous sentence, slipped into the personal docket of one Captain Akiva ben-Avram.

Sitting at his desk, Akiva paused from his busywork to see what new message he had received. Rather than another tedious auto-generated system report, it was... something utterly different. At first all he could do was stare it, wondering if it had been a mistake. But, no, messages did not come to him by mistake. The existence of his office, much less the actual digital address for transmissions, was known only on a need-to-know basis. Somebody had intentionally sent him a... an Egyptian prayer?

The possibility of it being a sick joke at the expense of his Hebron heritage came and went through Akiva's mind. Out of all the ways to antagonize him, this seemed the least likely. It was indirect, confusing, and without clear meaning. No, it was a puzzle.

But who would send him a puzzle?

Akiva couldn't help but wonder.

"Computer, search query: 'young men of Shu'. Source: Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs."

After warbling acknowledgement, Akiva let the VI comb through the database. It did not take long, as the search parameters were rather narrow. "Source found. Egyptian Book of the Dead references 'young men of Shu' in Spell #50."

Pulling up the text in its native script, Akiva did his best to see if there was any hidden meaning. Bupkis. Not even a hint. A smirk ticked up the corners of his mouth. What... what in the world could this mean?

Akiva went back to the message and attempted to send a reply.

"Who is this?"

Another message in hieroglyphics returned, from an unknown source.

"My hair is Nu; my face is Ra; my eyes are Hathor; my ears are Wepwawet; my nose is She who presides over her lotus leaf; my lips are Anubis; my molars are Selkis; my incisors are Isis the goddess; my arms are the Ram, the Lord of mendes; my breast is Neith, Lady of Sais; my back is Seth; my phallus is Osiris; my muscles are the Lords of Kheraha; my chest is he who is greatly majestic; my belly and my spine are Sekhmet; my buttocks are the Eye of Horus; my thighs and my calves are Nut; my feet are Ptah; my toes are living falcons; there is no member of mine devoid of a god, and Thoth is the protection of all my flesh."

Following a hunch, Akiva said, "Computer, run text through the Egyptian Book of the Dead."

In merely two seconds, the computer came back with a result. "Search query is labeled Spell 42 from specified parameters."

Spell 40, Spell 42. Was it a code of sorts? Akiva needed to know more.

"What do you want?" The question was sent back along the restricted channel to persons unknown.

Mere moments later, a message returned in same writing.

"To be spoken over a falcon standing with the White Crown on his head; Atum, Shu and Tefnut, Geb and Nut, Osiris and Isis, Seth and Nepthys being drawn in ochre on a new bowl placed in the sacred barque, together with an image of this spirit whom you wish to be made worthy, it being anointed with oil. Offer to them incense on the fire and roasted ducks, and worship Ra. It means that he for whom this is done will voyage and be with Ra every day in every place he desires to travel, and it means that the enemies of Ra will be driven off in very deed. A matter a million times true."

Akiva entered the text as a search query just as he'd done twice before. The results came back and gave him a numerical sequence. But... what could it be? Too short to be a frequency. Far too short to be a terminal access control address for a specific console somewhere. Perhaps it was... a passcode of sorts? But to what?

At a hunch, Akiva flipped the surface of his desk to reveal a command console. It could manually access every system on the station. After entering his biometric data to gain access, he entered the numbers of the referenced spells from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Likely nothing would happen. He told himself this as he entered the numbers. When he entered the last digit, he held his breath and waited for the results.

"Authorization accepted. Accessing auxiliary quantum entanglement communications array."

There was a second QEC on the station? Akiva knew of the one which linked Overwatch with the Phantom, as he had requisitioned its installation himself. Who had installed another? And where was its pair? It seemed a potential security breach that alarmed Akiva greatly.

Playtime was over. The riddle was over, having revealed a potentially dangerous mystery. Akiva activated the auxiliary QEC through his command panel.

"This is Captain Akiva ben-Avram of the Judge Advocate General and the Office of Special Investigations," he said in as firm of a tone as he could muster, trusting the system to route his voice through wherever the device was installed. There was no telling who would answer on the other end. He would need to present a bold front. "I demand you identify yourself and reveal how you acquired remote access to a restricted facility."

For a few moments, there was silence, before the other end of the line picked up. "G'day mate." A female voice spoke back. "I wasn't sure if you'd get my message." The image then changed on the vidscreen to reveal an old friend. "Commander Arianna Chelsea Frost of Internal Affairs. How you going?" The latter was punctuated by a small smile.

Arianna... It was like a gust of wind for Akiva, both warm and cold. "Hello, Commander," Akiva said formally, though a small smile began to form for him as well. "Last I heard, you were suddenly transferred." He made a small gulp, his smile fading. "I say 'heard' because you never told me. Imagine my surprise when a lieutenant commander reports for duty one day assuming your role here. Naturally I presumed it was a mistake, only to discover it was not. Your office and quarters, both vacated, and without so much as a word." What was he getting at? Arianna owed him nothing. There was no reason for him to be resentful. "I'm sorry. It is good to hear from you. I trust you are doing well... wherever you wound up."

In the background a soft tune played.

"I'm sorry I scarpered the way I did," Arianna said with a sigh.

Behind her a voice in tune with the melody:

"And who are you, the proud lord said
That I must bow so low?"

She leaned forward on her elbows, "you know what sudden transfers mean in our line of work."

"Only a cat of a different coat
That's all the truth I know."

"I am well, as well as I can be considering." Arianna added. "And you, Akiva?"

Akiva frowned. "Not great. I've... I've ended things with Laena. After I went to visit her on Earth, she..." Rather than say he found her with someone else, he skipped to the end. "... she seemed happier apart. It's for the best though. I've redoubled my efforts on reforming this agency, as well as..." His thoughts turned to Biynah. "Other projects."

"In a coat of gold or a coat of red
A lion still has claws.

"I'm sorry to hear that." Arianna gave a sympathetic look. "I am glad you're staying with Theta. Good souls are needed in places like ours."

"And mine are long and sharp, my lord
As long and sharp as yours."

"How *is* Theta? After everything?" Ari asked, picking up a glass that was to the side of the screen and taking a sip.

"And so he spoke, and so he spoke
That lord of Castamere."

"We're surviving..." Akiva said. "The Black Nagus attack hit us pretty hard. We've mostly recovered except for our pride. If not for the disarray on Earth and the Admiral's own meddling by putting the station on lockdown, I expect I'd have been transferred or worse by now. Instead they're punishing me by making me rebuild."

"But now the rains weep o'er his hall
With no one there to hear."

"Not punishment, Akiva." Ari said softly, looking at him through the screen. "You are needed at Theta."

"Yes, now the rains weep o'er his hall
And not a soul to hear."

The song faded into the background.

"I don't know how long this assignment is going to take, or where it will lead." Frost started, then paused for a moment to collect her thoughts. "This is how we can talk, at least for a time."

There was more she wanted to say, it was too soon though. Way too soon. The board was not yet set and the pieces were not yet ready to move.

"I'd like that," Akiva said. "My list of friends has grown considerably short of late." He let out a wry chuckle that was more cough than anything. "So are they treating you well at your new assignment at least?"

Arianna chuckled at the action, "as you say, it's 'not my first rodeo'. I at least know the ropes this time, so it's a bit easier to navigate, albeit the scale is considerably bigger. Getting to work with some familiar faces again, at least." Then she observed him for a few moments, "get any further in your 'other project'?"

"That depends." Akiva gave a smirk, which made his eyes twinkle ever so slightly. "Are you going to tattle on me?" His project, resurrecting Biynah, was veritably in violation of the Federation-wide ban on creating synthetic life-forms.

"Tattle, huh?" Arianna shook her head in amusement, "I'd have figured you for a man of a better vocabulary. Grass, dob in, you know, something creative." Then she shrugged, "you'd already be off the project if I had any intention of singing. See how I did that? That's creative use of language."

Akiva actually cackled at the teasing. Laughing felt good. "Nobody's accused me of being a wordsmith, that's for sure. Always been more of a hands-on kind of guy." He smiled at her agreement to allow him to continue breaking the law for his daughter's sake. "Still, I appreciate your discretion and confidence all the same. If I ever make any headway, I'll be sure to let you know." As a matter of fact, she might be the only one he could tell. Perhaps Storr or Jaya, but then he'd require them to go against their duty as well. The fact that Arianna had pledged herself to secrecy without being asked was like a warm blanket on a cold day. "Even if you can't tell me what you're doing."

"But I really already did. It's all there." Arianna sighed mentally, but kept the smile on. "Not high enough up the chain, I'm afraid." "Although I really wish I could. A fresh, outside perspective could do "Castermer"good." "I think I...just need a friend too. Jaya is busy with Storr, I know, and most of my other friends are Intel as well, we just learn not to ask. And I don't quite think I can handle more talks with our memory displaced friend. Not right now, anyway."

She was still somewhat reeling from the talk with Qurban, a long time ago now.

"I've avoided him for just that reason," Akiva said. "The first time I talked to him led to us going to Venus. Not exactly an incentive for me to talk to him again." He folded his lip in thought. "So what did he tell you, anyway?"

Arianna took a deep breath, her immediate instinct to refuse to answer. She stopped herself and took a sip of her drink again, using it to level herself off. "Um...he was curious how I could still see, and wondered if a certain operation I was part of," at this she caught his eyes again, "hadn't happened yet. Then he proceeded to tell me how in many variations of the same timeline I actually worked for Black Nagus instead of investigating them and how I made nefarious deals."

Her words came out heavy, thick, the mere thought of herself being able to be a traitor to the Federation utterly repulsive.

"Then I seem to have asked the wrong question and his memory reset, re-introductions were made, then he asked who was the Intel Liaison on Theta. He started listing names of people I know, Wollf and Rahal mentioning Linn and Zsan as well, and one name I didn't know. Omri Shaw." Ari continued, her expression echoing the memories of the conversation, rather than looking at Akiva. "Then he said to bring my husband along next time I was in the arboretum. Then he corrected himself when he saw I was confused, saying it wasn't time yet."

Another sip.

"Still not sure which of those disturbed me more or in what way...."

Akiva blinked at the inundation of information. "Normally I would say to take anything Qurban said with a grain of salt, but he did seem to foretell the disaster in Sector 001 right in the nick of time." The mention of an Omri Shaw gave Akiva pause. His youngest brother, Omri, died at a young age, and Akiva had always blamed himself -- as had his father. It was not an uncommon name on Hebron, but there were few Omri's abroad. Akiva found that he would react all the same whenever he met or heard of another one. "So is that what you're really doing?" he asked, changing the subject. His smile came back, though it held a touch of the pain he was masking inside. "Taking a honeymoon with your new husband?"

Ari gave a dry chuckle. "Of all I just told you, that is what you focus on?" She said, taking another sip.

Why was the truth such a hard answer? Out of the view of the screen, she touched a command, that same tune began filtering in the background again.

"I'm not marriage commodity, Akiva." She said finally, "doing what I do is hard enough for me at times, could you imagine someone putting up with the whole not being able to share myself fully side of things? I can't blame people for not wanting to tangle with that."

Or so she told herself, at least. It was a hard, yet rewarding life. Prospects, however, were a precious few in sharing such a life with someone.

"Oh, I can definitely relate," Akiva said. "I suppose the joke was in poor taste." That Arianna kept playing music in the background seemed... unusual. And then on top of the riddle, she had used to deliver the activation code to the QEC in the first place. Was she trying to tell him something else? "That's a catchy song there," he said. "I think I shall have to listen to it later."

"There's that smart brain of yours." Arianna thought with a smile. "I've found a taste for it again of late. It is an ancient Earth tune, 'Rains of Castamere'. Spelling varies from record to record, but it's a very melancholy song about...a sort of comeuppance." She said, taking a deep breath, "it wasn't in poor taste, what you asked."

Jaya's words came back to her.

"A wise, bald friend seemed to think I'm my own worst roadblock when it comes to all that." A fond smile appeared on her face when thinking of Jaya, the deltan.

The reference made Akiva shake his head and laugh. "She's called my number more than once," he admitted. "In fact, I've avoided talking to her just for that reason. I'm... I don't think I'm ready to have my number called just yet. Stewing and wallowing a bit more sounds preferable, ashamed as I am to admit it." He smiled back. "Like you said, Arianna, we can't be marriage commodities anyway, doing what we do."

"Ari." Frost offered, "I think we earned names without ranks and formality, at least."

Was it just her who felt something in the undercurrent of those words? Was it acceptance or an odd sort of defiance of self proclaimed fate?

"Ari, then." Akiva gave a nod. "I hope we have occasion to work together again. It was... a pleasure."

"Your turn for a riddle next time," Arianna nodded back, "and likewise. It was good to just talk."

Next time, things would be different that was for certain. Different for the better? She could only hope.

"Very nice," Akiva agreed. "I'll try to think of a proper brainteaser." Was he still sounding dopey? Akiva could never tell. "For next time, of course. How will I know when it's safe to contact you?"

"Send the right teaser, you'll get the right answer. If there's no reply for a day, I'm not able to talk." Frost said with a sigh, reluctantly admitting to herself it was time to get back to setting the board. Her piece was in place.

Akiva nodded. "All right, then." He had to admit that, with few exceptions, his own duty was far less hazardous. In reality, there was probably never a time when she would be unable to reach him. "Until next time, Ari. Don't be a stranger." He meant it in the casual sense, but something in his dark brown eyes called out for something deeper, a longing for human connection that he just could not seem to satisfy.

A final smile before she leaned forward, hand hovering over the controls, "until next time." Soft words were spoken before the screen went dark again.

And with that Akiva was left alone with his thoughts. Such confusing thoughts they might prove to be.


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