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Hope Springs Eternal

Posted on Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 @ 12:26pm by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Calderon Jarsdel

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: Overwatch Station
Timeline: MD 7

The past seven days had, in many ways, proven to be very defining ones for Jaya personally. Learning she was with child, defending those unborn children against telepathic malevolence in a mind-melded state, rescuing a lost soul from the depths of his own captive mind, supporting her husband while he was in the field for the first time in a good while, and then giving him a lusty hero's welcome once he'd returned -- she had run the full gamut. In truth, she was drained. But some things wouldn't wait.

Not when someone's life was on the line.

When Akiva awoke that morning, it was to the sound of a clinking bottle that he'd emptied sometime before he passed out the night before. Alcohol was for cowards. That's what his father had always taught. But Akiva supposed cowardice was a matter of perspective. He'd risked all and lost. What more did he have to prove to anyone?

It was a rationalization that proved thin as he walked down the corridor to his office, fresh from a shower yet still feeling as though he reeked from sweat. His body ached, but at least his mind felt... not calm, but sedated. After the last seven days, it would have to do.

"Akiva..."

Hearing the sound of his name made Akiva halt in his tracks and blink himself back to reality. He'd nearly walked into Jaya without noticing.

"Are you all right?" she asked an eyebrow. Her suspicions were already building toward a negative assessment.

"As right as rain." Whatever that was supposed to mean, Akiva sniffed past her question and tried to force a pleasant expression. It was more than strained. "How can I help you, Jaya?"

Though Jaya had promised Laena she would try to get to the bottom of Akiva's shocking decision to part ways, this was not the time to delve into personal matters of the heart. From Jaya's perspective, she was uncertain whether Akiva was of a frame of mind to even focus on his duty. Sorry, Laena... she thought. That will just have to wait.

"Can you come with me?" Jaya asked.

Akiva wanted to argue or make up a reason, but nothing came to mind. "Fine..." There was nothing waiting for him in his office that he particularly wanted to see, and Jaya seemed as though she wouldn't take no for an answer.

The two of them strolled along in silence, for which Akive was grateful. Jaya did her best to gauge Akiva's body language and ascertain what she could from him, but all she could detect was beneath the superficial stupor he was wound tighter than a lyre string. Soon enough, they arrived at the brig.

"What are we doing here?" Akiva asked.

"There's someone you need to see." Jaya gave him an imperative look that demanded his attention before entering.

Akiva let out a tired sigh and followed. Nodding at the sergeant, Akiva noted there was only one occupant. A most dangerous occupant, if the incident reports were accurate at all.

"Yes, I know this man," Akiva said. Or, at least, he'd read of him. "Why am I here?"

"Because you do not truly know him," Jaya said. Turning to Cal's cell, she said, "Calderon... there's someone to see you. Please tell him what you told me."

Cal stood to his feet and took a couple of steps towards his visitors. he stopped short of the barrier and regarded Jaya and her companion. Higher rank, serious face and a mind that felt - uptight and exhausted? - the colours were clearer now than ever before, dull shades of emotions currently defining a man who likely held the key to Cal's future. Cal needed to win this person over, swiftly, and in the right way.

"I had a Lethean consciousness sharing my head for two years. He owned me and my very existence," Cal said. "And I'm here," he continued, his gaze directly focused on Akiva, voice steady and calm. "Wherever this is, because my own father turned me into the authorities." He stopped there to see how the other man reacted.

At first Akiva was incredulous. He looked from Cal to Jaya and back to Cal again. "I read the logs about what happened," he said at length. "Everybody has a story. Do you really mean to tell me that you were not in control of your actions?" Despite the neutral look on Jaya's face, Akiva could tell she was convinced. "Of course you do. That's why I'm here."

He really didn't have time for this. Or did he? Priorities seemed to be a very fluid concept right now. Running a hand over his face and taking a breath, he said to Jaya, "All right. Let's take it from the top. This man did not commit the heinous acts he was witnessed performing? It was really some dybbuk controlling him?"

Simply nodding, Jaya said nothing. At this crucial juncture, he didn't want to give Akiva anything against which to argue.

"Do we have any evidence to that fact?" The captain was clearly skeptical.

Jaya handed him a PADD. "This is the official recommendation. Within it you will find neural scans that corroborate his story."

Waving it off, Akiva said, "I'll... I'll review that later. Right now I want to jump to the chase." Looking at Cal, he asked, "Who are you really and what do you want from me?"

"I'm trained in agent handling, in counter intelligence and I've just survived a two year hostile takeoever inside my own mind," Cal stated, plainly and without bravado of any kind. "What I want is to be able to work and pay back the debt I owe your people. I think I might have some skills that would be useful, some I had before, some I'm gonna need to train some. But I'll work. I'll earn trust. If you'll let me."

"... what?"

The word fell out of Akiva's mouth with no shortage of stupefied, incredulous disbelief. He'd been expecting a sob story, some passionate plea for clemency or at least better conditions. But what Akiva had heard instead was...

"You mean you want to be assigned here?" The question sounded even more ridiculous out loud.

"He can do it," Jaya put in.

Akiva scoffed. "Do what? Not kill or maim a few dozen people and sabotage environmental controls? We already have people who don't do that every day."

In response to his snide questions, Jaya simply held his gaze. Without words, he had nothing to argue with. She kept reminding herself of that.

"How am I supposed to sell this?" Akiva asked. "He's a prisoner. I'm sorry he was dealt a lousy hand, but so have we all."

Jaya's gaze turned into a glare.

"Don't you look at me that way." The tone Akiva used was threatening despite the angry falsetto. When she did not respond, he let out a sigh. "I'm sorry..."

Though he seemed capable of yelling at her in that moment, Jaya pushed forward anyway. She didn't think he really would. "Listen, Akiva. If it's within your power to help someone, then that is what you do," she said. With a touch, she could calm him, but this needed to be a decision he made without outside influence -- for everyone's sake. "It's what you've always done. It's what you will do."

Akiva shook his head. "No, that's not how it works. Even if I wanted to conscript this man into service, I don't have the power."

"You forget that you can't lie to me, Akiva." The glare on Jaya's face melted into a knowing sisterly smile. Now that he was actually considering the proposition, it was now merely a matter of negotiation where she would address his concerns. "Calderon Jarsdel once held a commission in Starfleet before his life and very mind were stolen from him. It can be reinstated by JAG, to which you have a direct line."

"He would need psychological evaluation!" Akiva protested. "Batteries! Benchmarks! Continuous improvement oversight!"

Nodding solemnly, Jaya said, "I will administer them."

"Will you administer his updated training as well?" Akiva countered, tension entering his voice again.

"Calderon was a criminal profiler for SFI's Counterintelligence desk at one point. His record indicates they had him on assignment everywhere from the Diplomatic Corps to Starfleet Medical. Whatever gaps he might have with current protocols, I'm sure Commander Frost could fill him in."

Akiva winced at the mention of her name. The nature of his reflexive action was far from lost on Jaya.

Oh, Akiva... she thought. Don't you dare do that to Laena...

"The commander is no longer with us," Akiva said evenly though with great strain. "She transferred away. Her replacement arrived yesterday."

While that was a surprise, one that was even a bit hurtful as Ari had left without saying goodbye, Jaya made a wealth of inferences from it. Once again, she would have to follow up on them later. "I see. Even so, I'm sure the new Intel liaison would find a use for someone of Calderon's skill set. What other choice does he have, Akiva?"

"Perhaps we should not be so formal in front of the prisoner." She had said his name a number of times already, but Akiva could feel himself giving in to her arguments. He'd needed at least something to offer another objection before he committed professional suicide.

Jaya chuckled at the gesture. "Calderon is half Betazoid and has had his paracortex altered and expanded by Lethean neurokinetics. If he doesn't know your birthday already, then he very well could by the time you're finished thinking of it right now."

This was a whitewash. Akiva could see now that he'd been ambushed into attending this carefully constructed meeting in order to administer justice. And the worst part was that Jaya had been right. Deep down, Akiva felt pity for this man and wanted to help him. There was a lot of pain in the way, but Akiva could not deny it.

"Why is she advocating so strongly for you?" Akiva asked Cal. He held up a hand to preemptively silence Jaya. "Don't speak." Stepping directly in front of the force field to the cell, Akiva asked, "What happened in the last few days that makes her want to put her career on the line for you and ask me to do the same?" His brow gave a slight suspicious twitch. "Are you influencing her in some way? Are you looking to influence me?"

It was fun, watching these two interact. All those little nuances of people he didn't really know, had no background information on and yet who held his life in their literal hands. Their support, or lack of it, their decisions and their opinions would determine where he went from here, if he went anywhere at all.

It was good, being able to observe. To foster his own opinions and know that he could voice them if he wished. Those doubts, the curiosity, they were Cal's own again and the simplest things were back under his command.

He was lost, captivated in that multi-tasking - observation, ruminations and internal dialogue - when he realised this man was addressing him. While they had not been formally introduced, Cal knew his name - Akiva - not through nefarious or stolen thought, but because Jaya had spoken it aloud.

"I don't know," Cal answered honestly. "I don't know why she speaks for me, that decision is her own." He paused, remaining exactly where he was as Akiva moved in closer, and regarded the other man with a calm and curious expression. "What happened in the last few days? A Lethean killed and injured your people while I watched, unable to act in any way."

Cal lowered his gaze a moment, summoned up strength from within and held Akiva's eye contact for as long as the other man allowed it.

"I am not affecting her decisions with any conscious or deliberate mental prowess, no," Cal said. "If I could alter your mind, sir, you would have agreed by now. But yes, I am looking to influence you. Though only with words spoken and by actions to come. I believe I can be an asset to you. I am simply asking for the chance to prove that."

Of course he would deliver the perfect response. Akiva shot an angry side glance at Jaya that questioned whether she had coached the man, but she merely blinked at him. For all her pressure, Akiva could not deny she was forcing him to make this decision on his wisdom alone.

"Timtum, zine beh-sechel! L'azazel!" The blue streak of Hebron profanity began as a mumble but ended in a shout. "No promises," Akiva said to the both of them. "I will see what I can do, but there is no guarantee of success." He also looked at Jaya. "This action will also put a strain between us and the company of Marines... or what's left of them. That strain could extend to--"

"Storr and I have been through worse," Jaya interrupted. "We'll manage, whatever may come."

Akiva grunted at the interruption. "All right, then. If you want to risk unleashing another Karna Zsan or Saalkan Za'ul Kaiyen on the universe, then I will support your efforts." Drilling a hard look at Cal, he said, "Don't make me regret it."

A strain between us and the company of Marines... That rush of self-loathing reached up from within and made Cal step backwards twice and retch dryly. He'd killed them, not by thought or mission or need, but by proxy and somehow that was far worse than if the deed had been voluntary. To those who remained, to the Master at Arms and Jaya's... husband? Cal looked up from his feet and let his mind very slightly reach out to the life in the young Deltan's belly. Just a check for presence and consciousness, passive and kind. He was a paraiah to these people, to those who protected and defended them, and he likely always would be. But there was only forwards for him to go, he could not alter time or actions taken.

These people who owed him nothing might help, but his resumed life would not be easy, neither would it happen immediately. With a firm nod and a soft sigh, Cal stepped back further and sat down on the hard bunk in the cell.

He felt the anger, the fear and the loathing like a foul taste in his mouth as he raised his head back up again. Sour, unpleasant, potent and lingering. He would be hated and feared like that, for no fault of his own, but it would be reasonable and fair based on his actions. Jumik's actions.

"I can only do my best from now on," he said, simply. "I can only promise that I am me, and I vehemently wish to repay the debt owed. However that plays out, I accept the consequences, and I truly appreciate your support."

Akiva nodded, shook his head, and even twitched all in rapid succession. "That will have to do," he said. "I'll reach out to JAG and get back to you both with what they say."

"Thank you, Akiva." Jaya gave him a strained smile that expressed both gratitude and sympathy for the risk he was taking.

After the captain left, Jaya turned her smile onto Cal and turned up the warmth. "See? There is always hope."

Cal had remained quiet while Jaya gave her thanks, he'd narrowly avoided all-out begging for his freedom and he'd held that silence long enough to let the other man have peace to make his own decision. He owed him so much more than that - owed them both. There would be ructions, no doubt, when he asked his question. There would be heated words and a high chance of his life from here on being lived out within the walls of his current small cell. But, as Jaya offered up a genuinely caring smile, Cal allowed the sunny disposition that radiated from her to envelop him for a moment.

"Hope will do," he said, eyes briefly closed as his mind luxuriated in that basic sense of sharing affection with another sentient. Whatever else he was, Cal realised, enough of his soul remained intact to bring Jaya to his defence. Whatever happened next, he'd always be eternally grateful for that.

 

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