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Posted on Tue Jun 28th, 2022 @ 12:17am by Lieutenant Karna Zsan

Mission: S1E5: Symphony of Horror
Location: USS Megaera
Timeline: During and after "The Rule of Nobody"

WARNING: This post contains potential triggers of psychological abuse and suicide.

Deep Space 9 was under lockdown with no way in or out. A rat could find a way out of nearly any hole, but today Karna was no rat. This was one of the days when he played the mongoose, the sheepdog, the barn cat, the nocturne bat that chased predators away from the helpless and the oblivious.

That the Trill Liberation Army's attack was of his own design and doing did not negate his role as fixer. His grey hat actions had exposed obvious flaws within the Starfleet Security apparatus. He had smoked a minor but persist terrorist cell out of hiding where they were entrapped and defeated. And he had done so by embarrassing the Federation at the crossroads between quadrants where every stellar power would know the pertinent details by the next fortnight. Everybody got knocked down a peg and balance was restored, just as it should be.

As for the real reason he had done it? Well, that was personal. Leaking state secrets to known terrorists was a capital offense. In the unlikely event he would be captured, Karna's reputation for being crazy like a fox just might be enough to convince all but the most stubborn interrogators that he had done it for the laughs. The thought of being caught was hilarious, though, and Karna had devoted no more thought than that. He could just as easily kill himself if needs be. That would be the end of that.

But what was life without someone to share it with? Karna had worked his honeypot operation all alone. And with no true friends or confidantes in which to entrust his personal motivations, Karna decided to wrap up the last loose thread with a personal touch.

Getting on board the USS Megaera was easier than it should have been. The post-hypnotic suggestion Karna had left inside Akiva's mind would last for several days at the minimum. Admiral Tau's assistant Clarice still had at least a day left from his last visit to her. Neither one registered any sight of Karna as he stepped aboard the ship. His proximity to the two of him allowed helped bypass the automated security measures. The stolen combadge with spoofed credentials would take it from there. Any ship scans would identify him as Lieutenant Oba Sholl, a maintenance team lead from DS9 newly transferred to the ship.

It was simple enough to melt away from the onboarding crew who had followed in Akiva ben-Avram's wake. Going to the security section where the brig was located would represent a different challenge. No matter. Opportunities that did not present themselves could be readily made with the right ingenuity.

"You." Karna locked eyes with a noncom Operations officer. "Do I know you?"

The crew member whose spots marked them as a Trill looked nervous at being called out, then mildly annoyed at the attempt at small-talk. "I don't think so, sir..."

"Are you sure?" Karna pressed, both verbally and psionically. Apprehension served as a solid conscious blocker, but it unfortunately left the unconscious wide open in untrained minds. Susceptibility to unconscious commands was at an all-time high. The poor bastard didn't even realize that Karna was already inside the lower levels of the mind which served as the higher echelons of behavioral psychology.

"I think so?" the noncom said sarcastically. But behind the fa├žade of sarcasm was a layer of uncertainty. "You don't look familiar to me at all and I don't know your name."

As the noncom searched his mind for any recollection, Karna was embedding a scenario with perfect visual clarity. There is a malfunction in the EPS distribution conduit in the security office that needs fixed. Deactivate power to that section.

"I see," Karna said with a smile. "My mistake, I guess, not yours. Forget all about it. On your way."

Karna walked away with a casual smile on his face as if it had been a perfectly normal interaction. The other person blinked a few times and then set off to fulfill an action he had no way to explain. After a few moments, there was a Yellow Alert.

A few days after the Yellow Alert, the Megaera departed from Deep Space 9 to its next secret destination and carried Karna along with it. He roamed the lounge, the corridors, the anywhere with a moderate amount of people where he would otherwise remain unnoticed. Sleep was unimportant; he could go days without it and remain unfazed. As of now, he was on the prowl but needed to remain nonchalant and invisible.

On his third pass of the day on the edge of the security level, Karna finally spotted his chance. There were only two brig officers on duty during Gamma Shift. Karna strode confidently through the doors as if he was supposed to be there.

"What are you doing?" asked the duty officer at the door.

"I'm your relief," Karna lied. "Go take a break."

The officer looked confused, but he couldn't bring himself to argue. "Yes... I do need a break."

"I'll take that." Karna held out his hand to accept the brig officer's weapon. "Now go lie down."

"I think I need to lie down," the brig officer mumbled as he entered an empty cell and settled into the cot.

At the sight of the bizarre display, the secondary brig officer marched from the back area to the front. "What is going on? What's he doing in there?"

Karna shrugged. "I think he died. You should check his vitals."

The second brig officer gasped with horror and then rushed into the brig. "I should check his vitals!"

"He's dead," Karna insisted, his voice laden with telepathic persuasion. "Isn't he?"

"Yes!" exclaimed the brig officer before he conducted even a rudimentary vitals check.

"And so are you!" Karna gasped with horror, his eyes wide with mock surprise.

"I am?" The horror was contagious. Patting his face and chest, the secondary brig officer began to hyperventilate. "Oh, God, no! I'm dead!" His breathing escalated to an unsustainable rate, leading him to pass out.

Karna simply chuckled and activated the forcefield. It was unlikely either one would wake up in the near future, but he saw no reason to allow even a small opportunity to get attacked from behind.

"Neat trick you did there," said a female voice from another cell.

"Thank you!" Karna said with an ecstatic grin. "It's always nice to be appreciated. So few people ever see the value in what I do."

The Trill woman behind the other forcefield crossed his arms in thinly veiled hostility. "Well, you can cross me off that list. Your intel failed."

Her petulance made Karna laugh from deep in his chest. "Of course it did. And if you were half the strategist that the ill-fated founder of your misbegotten freedom movement was, you would have known my proposition for the folly it was at first blush. But you couldn't resist the opportunity, could you?" Karna cocked his head to the side and turned out one cheek in a teasing expression. "You had the chance to be the hero, to be the one everyone honored for a great victory. You didn't do it for the cause, Vaera. You did it for your own glory, and that's how I hooked you."

Vaera threw her hands in the air. "So what now? You could have taken me in at any point. What did you gain by letting us go through with..." She stalled for a moment as her mind puts the pieces together. Her eyes met the black pits that passed for Karna's eyes and glared. He nodded slowly, his wolfish grin growing ever wider with glee as she realized the truth. "... your false flag. Damn it!" She punched her fist into her palm. "You wanted a public attack on one of the most famous space stations in the Federation. You spoon-fed us access codes and station schematics, but it was just enough rope to hang ourselves."

At this point, Karna was cackling so hard he couldn't keep up the nodding. "By jolly, I think she's got it!"

"So what now?" Vaera pressed bitterly. "You suss me out as some sort of master conspirator? Put me on trial and make a public spectacle of the dangerous terrorist so Starfleet can justify more of its fascist tyranny on the rest of the Federation, just like on Trill Prime?" She was sneering by the end of tirade. "You're no better than the Symbiont usurpers. You make me sick!"

Karna shook his head sadly and made several tisk sounds with overly pursed lips. "No, dearie, I'm afraid you've got it all wrong. If Starfleet knew I was alive, they would disavow everything I've done for, well, a good, long while." He chuckled at the admission, but he otherwise kept a serious expression for once. "The false flag operation was for personal reasons that would very probably bore you to death were I to take the time to explain them, and I am much too merciful to subject you to that."

As he reached for the phaser, Vaera's blood ran cold. She was not going to be interrogated. The end, for her, she came to realize was very near.

"Suffice it to say that I have few individuals in this dark, old universe that I could call 'friend' and your sacrifice will ensure their continued service to Starfleet. Cold comfort, I know, but no death is proud." He gave her a wink. "Trust me. I've dealt a lot of it. No one dies pretty."

To Vaera's surprise, when Karna deactivated the forcefield to her cell, he tossed her the phaser before reactivating the field.

"What's this?" Vaera asked, shocked at the unexpected turn.

"That is a standard issue Type 1 Starfleet phaser," Karna said plainly.

"I know that!" Vaera snapped. "What am I supposed to do with it from in here?"

There came that grin again. "I'm sure you'll think of something," Karna said coyly.

Vaera cringed as his veiled meaning became clear to her. "No," she said firmly. "No, I think I'll hold onto it to prove my story of what you've done."

"Oh, that does sound like a good idea," Karna admitted, nodding his head with strategic approval at her suggestion. "But somehow, I think, you're going to a change of mind."

"I don't think so." Vaera gritted her teeth. "I've got nothing left to live for. If I'm going down, I think I'll take the traitorous asshole who set me up down with me."

Karna smiled again, though his brow creased in concentration. "I think not." He tapped his temple a few times. "Do you know what they call people like me on my homeworld?"

"I really don't give a shit," Vaera retorted.

"A c'sasvaoth. Think of it like one of your Symbionts, except that I don't need to worm my way into your body." Karna grinned again, letting his eyes grow wide as he brought down the full brunt of his vastly savage and crazed mind onto Vaera. "Not when I can worm my way directly inside your mind."

Vaera winced in pain. Traumatic memories began to come back to the surface. Not one or two, but myriads of them, suddenly and rapidly which kept her from processing any of them. Physiological triggers made her muscles spasm under the tension as her breathing elevated along with her skyrocketing heartrate. "Stop!" she pleaded.

"You make it stop," Karna whispered verbally and telepathically.

"No." Vaera shook her head, tears shedding down her cheeks as her mind began to unravel. "Make it stop! Please!"

"YOU MAKE IT STOP!" Karna's voice bellowed in her ears and inside her skull.

Without a choice and without a hope, Vaera pressed the phaser against her chest and fired. Her body collapsed to the floor of her cell, the phaser clattering away from her cold, lifeless grip.

"Thus perished the Lady of the Trill Liberation Army," Karna intoned with a reverent bow of his head. He still couldn't resist a cruel chuckle.

With his mission accomplished, Karna hurried to the brig control console and wiped the logs from the past ten minutes. A dedicated digital forensic specialist might be able to reconstruct some of it, but the incriminating portions would be unrecoverable. Karna's espionage training would guarantee that. On his way out the door and back into the general crew population where he would resume his fake identity, Karna pressed the manual alarm that would summon a security team. He would be long gone, hiding in plain sight, by the time they arrived.

Finley and Leonora might never know what he did for them.


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