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Et tu, Brutus?

Posted on Sun Feb 28th, 2021 @ 5:51pm by Commander Arianna Frost & Calderon Jarsdel & Taskmaster
Edited on on Sun Feb 20th, 2022 @ 10:10pm

Mission: Mission 0: Everybody Has A Story
Location: undisclosed
Timeline: undisclosed

Audio-vis recording lenses were still a thing of marvel to Arianna. You had the first hand account of everything, without the clunky presence of surveillance gear. She watched Gol and the new member of Project Castermer descend into the streets of the Capital from their base of operations. They had been monitoring their latest target for weeks now, carefully, meticulously detailing each minute action and movement in their attempt to vet yet another potentially compromised member of Starfleet Intelligence.

So far the evidence was stacking up in favor of the Black Nagus employment for this one, which meant Arianna and her team-mates needed to move in and eliminate the asset sooner rather than later, especially in lieu of the incidents on Earth and Venus recently, as well as Memory Theta, all tied to the Black Nagus crime syndicate.

"Persephone," said a deep, gravelly voice by way of greeting. It was the young Efrosian, identified as such by the trimmed goatee on his face and known only by his callsign of Tarani. "Well met." Despite his strong and stoic disposition -- enhanced by the way his trimmed blonde hair pulled into a topknot which accented his coppery facial ridges that might pass for a Klingon hybrid in dim lighting -- Tarani was fairly new to Castermer. He seemed to be waiting for something from Ari.

"Tarani," Arianna glanced over at the Efrosian, "you made it, good. How did you go with the legend transfer on Ganymede?"

A legend was a term for an alternate identity, or more colloquially known as a cover story. Sometimes, on longer operations, operatives would change a few legends in order to keep under the radar.

"Smooth," Tarani said, "which is good since I lost the lead." Clearly the Efrosian saw today's present action as a means to redeem his failure. "Are we awaiting further assets or has the plan changed?"

Arianna leaned forward and pulled up the display on the larger monitor. "We have eyes on the target. Local intel suggests they are meeting with Nagus peddlers regularly in that building over there and it looks like a meeting has been set for today. We're hoping to cash in on a two for one today."

"Good," Tarani said with a grim but approving nod. "I could do with a win."

"Eyes on," came a quiet line from Gol as the two foot soldiers' displays showed signs of movement. "Target is moving."

Arianna tapped a command on the console, "Persephone, received. Maintain distance, lets not tip our hand too soon."

"All received."

Green eyes focused on the display readouts and the visual image that was floating in through the audio visual lenses of their two compatriots in the field.

"Let's do this," Tarani grunted.

Vokau paused at the cross-section and looked up to the sky as if he expected something to fall from it. He didn't, but that sense of paranoia, of being watched, persisted, as it had since his first step down this darker path. There was, of course, always someone observing one's movements, particularly in a city the size of this one, but that population density also worked in his favour.

He scratched his skull, long olive fingers briefly fussing dark curly black hair. He cast his dark green gaze lazily over first one shoulder, then the other and lingered a little longer at the edge of road and street. Sensitive Vulcan hearing picked up a myriad of sounds all around him, none of which answered his internal questions. If he did have a tail, Vokau considered, they hadn't revealed themselves yet. He had to though, didn't he? It had been weeks now. A confident smile, and he strode onward.

"Slow down, split up." Instruction filtered through to Gol and Aeneas from Persephone.

Aeneas, a human male of an average looks and stature crossed the road, before resuming his observation of the Vulcan some tens of meters in front of them. Sure, they could pull back and split up, but they were the only fielders present at the moment, they couldn't drop off tailing Vokau and pick him up later, there was no one to take over from them.

They had to keep eyes on him.

Gol, the Efrosian was a noticeable tail, so splitting up was a good idea, however.

As a group passed by Aeneas, he muttered, "Target turning right on Saint Denis street, south east direction."

Gol followed first. Aeneas crossed the road, then crossed the road again to the other side of the street and back a little more from Gol, following the curly haired Vulcan.

"Stay with him, Aeneas," Tarani ordered. "We're circling around to the far end of the industrial complex."

Vokau paused, mock-deliberated for a moment as if he'd forgotten something, and then changed direction. He didn't need to walk the long way around, but it amused him to do so. He had that itch in his mind, the one he always had when he was going against his former colleagues, but over time that sense had become more of an ally than a conscience. Their feelings meant little to him compared to the pay-off, and if they were wise enough to be watching him now, so be it. Sooner or later things were logically going to come to a head, the timing really didn't matter that much any longer, his payment was secure.

A lazy shift in gait, uncharacteristic perhaps but another weapon in his arsenal, and Vokau picked up the pace just enough to clear the next corner and stop just short of his target building. He pressed his back against the wall and waited.

"Shit," Arianna muttered noticing the shift in pace, pressing a command on the console. "Aeneas, Gol, if you don't have eyes on him behind the corner, keep going and spread out. We'll have to pick him up again."

A sinking feeling began to form in the pit of her stomach. Did they get made?


"I'm on it," Tarani told Ari. The Efrosian was no spring chicken, but from the way he glided through the obstructions between them and Vokau's last position showed his experience as a forward operative. "Watch my flanks."

Arianna had reached after Tarani, in an attempt to stop him, but he was out of their base of operations before she could do much.

"Aeneas, Gol, Tarani has joined the field. Adjust parameters accordingly." Frost spoke as she opened the channel to her field team.

"Received. Turning the corner in five seconds," came from Gol.

In her gut, Arianna was beginning to realize that this was beginning to stink.

Sure, targets would often resort to running counter intelligence on their tails when they suspected they were being under surveillance. Considering their target was an intelligence officer, this was even expected. Everything Arianna and her team knew how to do, Vokau knew how to do.

It was Tarani's counter intuitive instructions and actions that bothered Arianna a lot, lot more. Especially since he had already taken to the shadows.

"Damn it, I'm going to be late," Gol muttered as he passed the corner that presented the obstacle for him and Aeneas. He pulled out what looked like a communications device just at that moment. In reality it was a modified tricorder that took a brief scan behind Gol, to determine of Vokau was indeed hiding behind the corner or if he was gone by now.

Not breaking his stride, Gol pressed a few commands and pressed the device against his ear, "it's me, dearest. I'll be another few minutes, I was late getting out." He spoke as he walked away.

Aeneas meanwhile had stayed back, crouching down, pretending to tie a shoelace, glancing around as casually as he could for any movement.

From across the street, Vokau observed the man with the 'comm' and internally shook his head. Gol. Gol pulling a classic misdirect move, which might have worked if they hadn't been in the same study group for that particular trick. The Vulcan pulled out his own device and messaged ahead. Just one word. Now he knew he was compromised, he didn't intend to put the meeting at risk. Then he stood, and patiently waited to see if Gol and whoever might be playing back-up for him would notice him here.

Vokau's communicator lit up. The special communicator. Text only. Proceed to secondary rendezvous, it read. But that was back the other direction. Doubling back was almost suicide. On the other hand, it might be just crazy enough to throw off the team that was shadowing him. Vokau had a decision to make.

Negative. Abort. He returned his own text swiftly, keeping his gaze on Gol and the Efrosian's surroundings as he tried to pick up the identity of the agent's partner. Could be anyone at this point. Vokau turned to walk slowly and calmly, falling into place behind Gol to see how close he could get before the other man noticed.

Before Gol made it three more steps, however, a deep-bass hum echoed down and around the corner. His body crumbled to the ground absence the head which had disintegrated. The resonant hum of the long-range weapons discharge faded into the dull ambient sounds of the night.

The special communicator beeped again. It read, Secondary rendezvous. Now.

Arianna could hardly believe it, seeing the display that fed onto her own audio-vis lenses. Gol didn't stand a chance, nor did he even have an inkling of what his fate was to be.

"Aeneas, abort, get to cover." She shook it off quickly, opening the comm channel again.

No answer came, but she could see from the feed that the human agent moved towards the nearest building, attempting to find cover.

She tried to switch into Tarani's feed, but to no avail.

Did she just lose two operatives? Was she about to lose a third?

"Tarani, what's your status?" She opened a line to the other Efrosian.

This was going all kinds of wrong. Someone else just shook the tree on them, and her team was falling out the wrong way.

So, while she repeated the status request to Tarani, she sent of a quick coded message to Taskmaster. Word had to get out that Operation Donnager was bust.

Et tu, Brutus? She sent off, before checking her own weapon and setting off towards the location of the gruesome murder, careful to keep to cover, using a modified motion tracker to track the movements of Aeneas and Vokau, but she still couldn't see Tarani on her scanner.

Aeneas, a seasoned field officer himself couldn't help his reaction of utter shock as he saw his partner's head disintegrated, the rest off the lifeless body dropping gracelessly to the floor. Persephone's instruction followed quickly and Aeneas was all too glad to follow.

They had an unknown factor in play, which meant they could all be in danger, both himself, Persephone and Tarani, as well as Vokau.

From his relatively exposed position, Aeneas moved quickly towards the nearest cover, trying to gauge the direction of the shot.

"Tarani to Aeneas. Hostile on approach to your left flank."

Aeneas turned his head to the left but saw nothing. Neither did he see the flash of a blade that opened his jugular. The burst of air from his lungs was far from the intended outcry he intended. Instead it was more of a gurgling cough. The sound of pounding footsteps hurried away from his collapsing body.

"Tarani to Persephone. Located shooter in upper structure. Engaging." More shots rang out from overhead which lit up the position of where Tarani and Gol's killer were presumably in the throes of battle.

"Negative, Tarani, abort. We are compromised. Abort!" Arianna replied moments later, as the shock of seeing her other team member collapse. The last image on the feed were a pair of heavy boots darting off in the direction of the shooter as another lifeless body dropped to the ground.

"Fuck!" Arianna swore. She had to stop and think.

Then a thought came to her, Tarani was dark while she was trying to contact him moments earlier, his audio-vis lenses were off so she had no feed for him, and all of a sudden Aeneas is killed in a different manner to Gol. Tarani is back on comms all of a sudden and reports a location for the shooter, confirming pursuit.

Her eyes widened as the realization hit her.

Tarani was compromised! He had to be!

This meant only one thing. She was alone, with two to four potential hostiles out there still all in the running for their original target, Vokau. Arianna turned off her visual feed to the others, and closed off her commchannel. She wished to god she had a life sign masker on her then and there.

She had to at least try and neutralize one of the targets and figure out what was going on. Running was no longer an option, not with those odds.

Vokau had paused by Gol's headless corpse only long enough to see if he'd been carrying any useful comms tech that wasn't attached to that missing skull. He caught the fast motion of a runner - someone he didn't know - shifting from plain sight to cover. Said individual's visual attention was, unsurprisingly, in the direction of the long shot. Vokau ignored him. He ignored the sound of gunfire above them, unconcerned with the sniper, and he hightailed it towards the secondary location. Since he was still alive and breathing, he'd take the distraction as a sign and cover ground while he could.

As they entered the loading bay of the industrial distribution center on the edge of the Capitol, Vokau and his contact came face to face. Despite being an operative of the Black Nagus, Vokau saw his contact wore a Breen helmet. That meant his voice carried in the grating digitized vocalization of the Breen soldiers which haunted every veteran of the Dominion War.

"You. Are. Late." The contact held a disruptor rifle but did not point it at Vokau. Clearly they had been busy.

He did his best to hide the trepidation, but Vokau internally kicked himself at the mild tell he'd given. He overcompensated with the sharpness of his tone, unwilling to admit to that inner, trapped emotion.

"Yes," Vokau said. "I am. Good shooting." He exhaled as if feeling just a little bit more impatient than his counterpart, then added with a tone that implied boredom. "Are you done or do you intend to kill everyone out there?"

Ignoring him, the mystery contact in the Breen getup asked, "Do you have it?" The thin green line on the helmet flashed, indicating it began scanning.

Vokau smiled half a smile that wasn't a smile. "On me? No."

Meanwhile, Arianna noticed the sudden lack of weaponized discharged particles as she scanned her corners briefly before making her way finally over to the the loading bay of the industrial distribution centre.

Two lifesigns were inside, a vulcan, which she assumed would be Vokau, the other was distorted. To Arianna this meant one thing. This other person knew how to run their counter intelligence. If this was indeed Vokau's Black Nagus contact, they were well prepared to handle intelligence officers, likely one themselves of whatever stellar power they served.

Checking her weapon, she took a deep breath then took a small scan of the inside, to get a layout of the place before she ducked inside. Noticing a decent cover spot, Arianna took another deep breath, and made her way in, wondering one thing as she did so. Where the hell was Tarani?

"Where. Is. It?" The not-Breen racked the charging grip on his disruptor, which set off an ominous whirring hum near the muzzle. "I. Will. Not. Ask. Again."

"I can't very well show you if you kill me," Vokau said, simply. He took a step closer to the helmeted figure. "And murder spree aside, I'm not giving that information to anyone unless I hear the codeword."

The contact removed the Breen helmet to reveal an Efrosian face. "Then I can drop you here and now without worrying about leaving anything incriminating behind." Raising his rifle straight at Vokau, he said, "I'm sorry, Vokau, but the Black Nagus has no need for useless assets."

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Arianna swore as she heard the voice of her missing crewmember. It made sense now. Tarani's strange behavior and instructions, the way he took off without backup, the strange deaths of Gol and Aeneas. They'd walked into a carefully set trap.

Now it was down to three, Vokau, Tarani and herself. Ari was hardly the combatant she used to be, especially considering her two oponents were a Vulcan and an Efrosian. She was a mere Human, in comparison. She could maybe incapacitate one of them, but two? Highly unlikely. Not alone with one side arm and no personal shielding.

Help may not come in time, or at all, provided the Taskmaster had gotten her message.

So, it came down to deciding whether to let the two of them take care of each other, and Arianna would hopefully only have to deal with one of them.

"You're sorry?" Vokau's voice skipped only slightly at the revelation Tarani was a traitor. He stared impassively right back at the rifle, while one hand still rested innocently on the modified comm, the pads of his fingers barely touching the right contact points. That Breen helmet suddenly exploded with a cacophony of light and sound, while in the same second, there was a tiny, almost inaudible confirmation sound in Ari's ears. A comm channel that had been closed seemed to have re-initated and that sound implied something uploaded to it. "I'm not," Vokau said, blinking his eyes and feeling the lenses itch as he flick-hurled the thin, sharp blade from his right wrist towards Tarani's jugular.

The Efrosian caught the blade in his wrist, but only because he was holding his hands over his blinded face. Tarani cried out in shock as well as pain. Half his top-knot was burned off along with his face. He removed a plasma grenade, activated it, and ran for Vokau. Or, at least, where he'd last seen the Vulcan.

Arianna had just enough time to duck for cover as she entered their location, seeing the Efrosian charge the Vulcan with a plasma grenade. Quickly she flicked her weapon to heavy stun, and braced for the inevitable explosion.

As a string of curses played out like a mantra in his mind, Vokau had moved swiftly. He'd noticed a few things in the sparse moments since entering this loading bay, and he'd taken full advantage of those precious seconds of distraction. He wasn't, as Tarani ran across the warning markings on the floor, exactly where he'd been prior to the helmet's chaos, but there hadn't been much time to cover distance either.

Heel of his palm on the big red button, Vokau dropped the high heavy loading platform above the crazed Efrosian and leapt for cover.

Arianna saw her opportunity and moved closer to where Vokau had landed behind the cover and wasted no time releasing a heavy stun bolt at the Vulcan. There was still the possibility of Tarani surviving Vokau's trap, but she'd deal with that bridge when she came to it.

A failed word became an exhale as Vokau fell hard to the ground, out cold.

Slow clapping echoed across the open space as a lone figure walked out of the shadows. "Well done, Persephone," said the Taskmaster, still applauding. "Well done. And here I'd gathered from your transmission that you required backup."

"I had an unpredictable element in play," Arianna said through a series of heavy breaths as she motioned over to the remains of what had until mere minutes ago been the Efrosian known as Tarani. "They turned him. I've got audiovis recordings from my lenses, and if we manage to recover Aeneas' and Gol's we may have more evidence."

Just at that moment she noticed in the corner of the display that there was another set of data waiting to be accessed, sender - Vokau?

"I didn't know if I could handle both of them." As hard as it was to admit, Frost knew she did the right thing.

The Taskmaster spat on Tarani's remains. "Worthless son of a bitch," he growled. "Dumb enough to get flipped, smart enough to nearly take out a field team, and too cowardly to end only himself." Looking at Vokau, the Taskmaster asked, "What about him?"

Arianna reached behind her and fiddled with one of the straps of her belt, producing a set of restraints. She then walked over to the prone form of Vokau and with some exertion flipped him on his stomach, then she grabbed each of his arms and secured them firmly behind the Vulcan's back.

"I managed to stun him just as he was ducking for cover from the fallout of the grenade. Lucky shot really." Arianna said finally as straightened out. "We are leaking and we need to do something about that."

"One day at a time, Persephone," said the Taskmaster. "You plugged one leak today. Tomorrow we'll plug another. That's the job."

"I know, guv. I'm just sayin' that we need to...." Arianna started, then blinked. For a moment she could swear she saw another man standing there for a moment. Then she shook the thought away, Akiva was back on Memory Theta, and definitely not an intelligence officer. The Taskmaster for some reason reminded her of Captain ben-Avram but she couldn't put a finger on it. It had never happened before.

"Need to what?" the Taskmaster pressed. "Are you all right, Persephone? Do we need to get you a medic?"

Arianna shook her head, "no, I'm fine. We need to make sure we're not losing valuable data while we get back on track."

"Find his dead drop and stow the package somewhere safe." The Taskmaster nodded at Vokau. "Then we'll use the process of elimination."

Arianna nodded, "will do." Then she looked down at Vokau, "you don't want to interrogate him?"

"You will," the other replied. "Add whatever you find to his stolen data and store it all together in a secure server as one package."

Frost nodded again, "understood." She fished a transporter tag out from one of her side pockets and attached it to the unconscious man's neck.

Then she stood up and tapped a command on her wrist comm. "Lair, Persephone. Have target tagged, ready for transport to secure holding. Taskmaster and I are inbound."

"Energize," Taskmaster said into his communicator. A communicator that was distinctly not the standard Starfleet issue combadge.


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