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Bends Like A Willow

Posted on Fri Jul 7th, 2023 @ 10:36pm by Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Captain Mrazak & Commander Arianna Frost

Mission: Season 1 Interlude II (E5.5)
Location: Risa, various
Timeline: ID 6 following 'Other Side Of Paradise'

With orders and a battleplan issued, Arianna and Akiva were once again left alone. Hopefully Cal and Nandi would be able to get themselves, Ryland and Laena back to the ship and initiate the search for Khaiel, Sophie, Storr, Jaya and Mrazak, the same went for Finley finding Rodi and Bao. Hopefully, the latter two weren't infected and were somewhere together.

This left Ari and Akiva trying to find Jaya and Storr once they were cleared at the Medical Centre.

"You okay?" It was a safe, easily justifiable question, or at the very least was in Arianna's mind.

They were headed off the atoll towards their beam-out point.

"Been better, been worse," Akiva said flatly, staring straight ahead without breaking stride. "Not sure how I should feel, so I'm going with that."

Arianna merely nodded as she had to put in some effort to keep pace with him, having a shorter gait and all, though not by much.

"Once we take stock, depending on results, we may need to consider enemy action. There are too many loose threads to simply consider the going off grid for a few days thread." Arianna said with a sigh as they closed in on their beam out point.

"I haven't ruled that out," Akiva said with a nod. "It's not unlike Storr and Jaya to get lost in... passion. And I know they can take care of themselves. It's still concerning." Looking at Ari for the first time in their jaunt toward the rendezvous point, he asked, "Are you suspecting some kind of coordinated enemy effort?"

"I'm not ruling it out." Arianna echoed his words. "I've been going over it in my head and I can explain everyone but Khaiel and NICK. Cal and Teejay suggested he wanted to get out of this life, and whilst I get that, doing that through the regular channels is not easy. Doing that through irregular channels is even harder. There is no way he could have done that without help. To strip NICK out of the ship and disappear...shows premeditation. He would have to know we'd come looking. Regs going AWOL is going to get investigated by Security and IA, people from our branch even more so considering what we do and what we know. Which invites the thought of someone influencing that decision for him." She said as they reached the beam out point. "And if he got flipped then we have a serious problem, because we have a high level breach. But we won't know till we can get to the ship and look at sensor logs and all I have is educated conjecture. Either way, this many people out of contact for our type of unit is highly unusual, because of what we do, so we can't afford to discount anything."

Akiva skipped a step for a moment and stopped short. The cold logic froze him solid. "We knew something weird was going on, but even so..." He couldn't help but shake his head. "...did we really get caught with our guard down?"

Arianna sighed and looked over and up at her companion. "Probably," she said with a shrug, "but such is the nature of our business. We play chicken with each other to see whose guard falls first. If the theory holds up we'll have some major catching up to do. If it doesn't then we may have dodged an enemy bullet but we still might be standing still for the bullet coming from our own side for this slip-up."

"I've been trying not to think about that part," Akiva admitted. "Any way we look at it, we're walking a dangerous line."

Arianna nodded and tapped on her communicator, requesting transport to the medical center.

As they approached the medical center, there stood a number of Starfleet Medical personnel in discreet and transparent PPE guiding officers into a mobile lab erected strictly for the crisis.

"Looks like they aren't taking any chances with the local medical facility," Akiva said. "Recognize anyone who is here and shouldn't be?"

Ari did a discreet look over as they got in line. "Nothing as of yet. Interesting to see Captain Kishinev here, from the Antalya. He's not the type to shoreleave in places like this." She said with a smirk, nodding in the direction of the older human-looking male a few people ahead of them. "His missus is...or was a big prude, he had to be all cool and distant when that wasn't who he was as a person."

"Maybe he's here for the museum exhibits," Akiva joked. The line wasn't exactly rushing forward but neither were they standing in place for long. He looked at the medical staff. "Are those standard issue uniforms?"

Arianna chuckled and took a closer look at the staff at the question. "No." She said after a few moments, still trying to place the design. She'd seen it before, some years ago. "It's another department."

Just when you thought things couldn't get much worse.

"Fuck...I think it's Division 14." Ari swore. "If it's them and Arex is still in charge, this is going to go swimmingly. Word's definitely out." The space aussie sighed.

It took a moment for Akiva to recall just who that was exactly. Despite their similar mandates, there was no common overlap between Memory Theta and Division 14. "Are you sure?" he asked. "If they're here, then this must be worse than we thought."

"I can't be sure from where we are but keep an eye out when we get closer." Ari nodded, shifting a little closer so they were not quite overheard by everyone around them. "Someone must have tipped them off, provided its them. They don't come for any old thing, you're right."

Akiva froze in place for a moment at a horrendous thought. "Mrazak." The name was preloaded with all manner of concern. "Isn't he responsible for the rivalry between Division 14 and Me... my agency?"

Ari shrugged, "I don't know. I haven't been here long enough to know the local legends, I'm afraid." She had to admit, it'd not even been a year and yet oh so much has happened to such a small group of people. "Say more."

"I don't know the details, not without referencing old mission reports," Akiva said, "but there is a standing protocol for our agencies to avoid one another and it was pushed through by Mrazak during one of his brief stints as interim administrator."

Arianna nodded, "in that case we can rule Mrazak out as the grass. Had to have been someone else who knows about the infection. Wouldn't have been any of us...unless it's Khaiel...but he he most likely wouldn't know." As she spoke she stepped closer again, her voice dropping down to a whisper."

"Sure, but he has to report here the same as us," Akiva pointed out. "What might happen when he does and finds them?"

"We'll just have to deal with it as it comes. Ultimately he is no longer Administrator, we are and the Head of D14 will have to deal with us." Ari nodded, looking over at the person in PPE that was now a few meters away. "It's definitely them..." she added with a whisper.

When it came time for Akiva and Ari to get scanned, they were quickly cleared. "This way," indicated one of the protected personnel. He gestured them to follow a lighted path which took them back into the public common area.

Akiva blinked. That was rather anticlimactic. "Care to tell us what this is all about?"

"No," said the technician in the uniform with the D14 patch. He added a terse, "Sir."

Looking at Ari, Akiva quietly wondered whether they should press the issue to learn more or if they should take the out they were unexpectedly given.

Ari was having similar thoughts of her own. They'd been scanned, obviously found negative. Would they be approached by 14? Or was 14 waiting to be approached?

"Tell your boss Tyche needs a word," she said as they passed the technician, deciding to go on a hunch.

"Is that supposed to mean something to me?" the technician asked. He nodded up the chain of command, though. "Tyche," he repeated to his supervisor who then repeated the word into her communicator. A muted response came back through to which she nodded.

"This way," said the senior technician, gesturing for Ari to follow.

Akiva smirked at his friend and colleague. "Well done," he said.

Ari gave him a cheeky smirk and a wink as they followed the technician. As they were escorted around the side of the mobile lab away from the patient line, there was a distinctly familiar voice carried on the air.

"... and I am telling you that I will have your combadge if you don't give me the treatment protocol right this moment!"

Akiva closed his eyes and allowed a cringe to pass through his body. "Mrazak..."

Frost shrugged, "look at it this way, one less lamb we need to find." She said to Akiva and stepped forward. "Ah there you are, Captain. What's this about a treatment protocol?" Ari announced her and Akiva's presence.

Turning around, Mrazak barely acknowledged the two humans before he resumed yelling at the medical officer. "I want an extra dose and I want it now!"

"Captain Mrazak, as explained, if you know someone who is infected, they must be treated under medical supervision and kept for observation until a proper--"

"Stop repeating yourself and give me what I want!" Mrazak shouted.

Ari looked over at Akiva. While she had an idea of how to handle this, ultimately, this was Akiva's command and he called the shots. She did however lean a little bit closer and whispered, "perhaps we should back his play in order to fix our own problem. Either way, I'll back you up, however we play this."

"Mrazak..." Akiva said. "If you want to tell us what's going on, maybe we can help."

"I don't need any help from you," Mrazak said. "All I want is another dose of the inoculation that was administered to me and they refuse to provide it."

"Perhaps an alternative solution will present itself like a phantom," Akiva suggested, "if we only search for one."

Mrazak's eyes jumped up. "I see..." But then he frowned. This was taking longer than he'd expected and there was someone waiting for him. Then again, he pondered to himself with a devious smirk, perhaps this would work out even better. He gave one last look toward the medical supervisor. "I will have your combadge for this insubordination!"

"Right." The supervisor couldn't have looked less concerned. "Good luck with that, sir."

"I make my own luck." Mrazak clenched his fists at his sides and turned away. "Let's go!" he shouted at Akiva and Ari. "There isn't a moment to lose."

Ari shared a look with Akiva before turning towards the other officer. "Tyche sends her regards. Until next time, gentlemen." She nodded towards the figure in the back before turning on her heel and following after the two men, Mrazak still further ahead.

Frost caught up to ben-Avram, just as another familiar figure stepped up towards them. The man was tall, broad, blonde and built like a brick house, with silver hair, that was usually very upstanding and firm, now softly curled under the care of the Risan sun and salt.

"Arochka! I thought that was you!" He said, his voice coloured in the slavic tones of Earth.

Arianna fought a grimace as she recognized the frame. "Shit...," she muttered through her teeth that framed a smile. She glanced over at Akiva quickly, "play along!" A quick hiss before she returned her attention to the other man.

"Well if it isn't Captain Oleg Kishinev, it's good to see you again, sir." Arianna greeted the aforementioned Captain, extending her hand to him.

Instead of a handshake returned, she got enveloped in a crushing bear hug.

"Arochka, so good to see you!" He released her just as quickly and Arianna took a deep breath, and stepped back.

Kishinev looked over at Akiva with interest, which Arianna caught. Hoping that the Hebron would cooperate, and forgive her later for the very un-familial act she was about to do, Arianna stepped closer to Akiva, placing a hand low between his shoulder blades, motioning to Kishinev with the other, and said, "Captain Oleg Kishinev, this is my partner, Captain Aaron Horowitz. Aaron, this is Oleg. We used to serve together on the Miyazaki. Oleg was my Security Chief when I was Security Investigations at the start of the war."

It was too late for Akiva to keep his jaw from falling agape, but he at least summoned the presence of mind to close it. "Hello..." He extended a hand in greeting toward Captain Kishinev, though his focus was all but fixed on the warm palm against his spine. Partner. It made his pulse spike. "I am indeed Captain Aaron Horowitz." The way Ari had spoken the name was as close to fluent as Akiva's own accent. Impressive. "And I need... to... excuse me." His breathing turned heavy as he broke away to follow after Mrazak.

Oleg looked after him, with a smirk, before turning to Arianna with an even bigger one. "Not bad, not bad. You are alright, I take?"

Arianna shook her head in amusement, "sorry about that. We have plans with a friend, but yes, I'm doing well. I trust Sveta is good too?"

Oleg shrugged, "wouldn't know. We divorced ten years ago. Lara," he said with a warm smile, "she is great. I should go back, we have lunch at the Bazaar."

Arianna grinned, it was good to see the man come into his own finally. "We'll have to do a proper catchup when we have more time, eh?"

"Da, da." Oleg extended his hand. "Good to see you again, Arochka."

"You too, sir. Take care of yourself." Arianna shook his hand and the two parted ways with Frost heading to catch up with Mrazak and Akiva.

"Mrazak to Phantom! Phantom, respond!" Mrazak held his combadge nearly to his lips as he yelled into it.

"Comms are down," Akiva said, fleeing the scene of embarrassment.

"Then get them back," Mrazak enunciated, biting off each word one at a time.

"A lot has happened since you went missing," Akiva said. "Where have you been anyway?"

Mrazak grinned as he contemplated the last day and a half spent with T'Sen along with their plans for the future. "All in good time, ben-Avram. All in good time."

Arianna joined them at that point. "Sorry about that. I don't run into people I know from my reg days often." She looked over at Akiva then, "Sorry know..." she gestured behind them. "It was the most believable story I could think of on the fly without raising too many questions. Didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, Captain. I know it's not SOP, but we had to keep your cover at the very least."

The last sentence was more added for Mrazak's benefit than anything else, to cover the undercurrents between them from the narcissistic team leader. Though, it was also the truth, funnily enough.

"Less talking, more updating." Mrazak's face had turned back to his regular scowl. "Where is the Phantom and why can't I raise it on comms?"

"NICK went missing," Akiva said, figuring that was safe enough to say out in the open. Nobody would know he meant an operating system rather than a person. "We're not sure how yet. Since you're back, we need to regroup and figure out what's going on here."

"And get the treatment resynthesized from my bloodstream," Mrazak said. "Yes, yes, we went through all of this a few weeks ago with the Corvans. What are you waiting for?"

"Not just for your friend, but for our friends as well." Ari gestured between them, her eyes fixated on Mrazak. "Five of them caught the same bug you did. Just imagine, you can lord it over them that it was your blood that saved them. Four of our friends are missing along with NICK, another reason we need to regroup."

It was an obvious bait, to see if his sense of narcissism would kick back in at the thought of the self deluded win. Or the ineptitude of the others, all things Mrazak loved to emphasize to people. Or would he be more focused on this second person that he wanted a dose for. They way he was acting...this was more than just a friend...

"Interesting, very interesting." She thought as she observed the unhinged Vulcan.

If that was the price of getting what he wanted, then Mrazak would pay it. T'Sen would just have to wait a while longer. "Fine," he said with dispassionate irritation. "Let's find a way back to the ship and get to work."

Akiva raised two fingers, feeling uncertain about inserting himself into whatever was going on with his rival and counterpart. "We already have people working on that. There are a lot of moving parts to our response to this crisis and--"

"DON'T GIVE ME EXCUSES, BEN-AVRAM!" Mrazak shouted, leaning into Akiva's face. "GIVE ME RESULTS!"

Wiping the spittle off his face and suppressing the primal urge to throat-punch the other man, Akiva spoke with soft but clipped words. "I am not your subordinate. Do not speak to me as if I am, or I will see you hanged."

At first Mrazak glowered back at the threat, but the fire in his eyes sizzled into a delighted, almost twisted sense of joy. He started chuckling at first, soft and low. Soon, though, it bubbled up into a full burst of raucous laughter that nearly took his breath away. Only when Mrazak let out a giggling falsetto did Mrazak regain control and equilibrium. "Yes, ben-Avram. You do that. Meanwhile, it looks like it falls to me to save the day one more time."

Arianna observed the exchange. Mrazak had something planned, that much was certain. This person he had indirectly indicated existed had a lot to do with it or everything. There was no care or concern for his own team members, which for Mrazak was not surprising, considering who he was. However his focus never once switched nor did he show surprise. All of which indicated he had other plans that didn't include his team nor the unit overall. They were all just an annoying obstacle to his focus.

In most societies, this meant a loved one was the true focus. However, narcissists weren't capable of those feelings, only their mimicry toward a selfish goal. What poor soul had he charmed under his forceful spell?

"Alright boys, we're all on the same side here," Arianna spoke up, motioning towards their beam-out point. "Let's go meet up with the others."

Akiva nodded and led the way back to the villa where, with any luck, a mode of transportation would be inbound.

As they began walking, Ari decided to test a theory. "So, Mrazak. Who is she? Or he? This person you are desperate to get back to?"

At first Mrazak merely scoffed in contempt at such a preposterous idea. "I don't know what you're talking about, Commander Frost." But a smile teased at the corner of his mouth regardless. He couldn't help it. Love was in the air and in his eyes... even if the familiar call of duty compelled action from him that he would rather ignore. It was all for her and the new life they would begin together. "This is a radically minor outbreak as compared to our standard operations. Practically insignificant."

While listening to Mrazak's denial of what Ari was insinuating, Akiva shot her a glance and arched his eyebrows. "You think?"

"Yes, I do," Mrazak said, wrongly inferring that Akiva was addressing him. "But I suppose if you actually followed our field reports you would already know that."

Arianna shot Akiva a grin of self-satisfied confirmation. "Oh yeah," she said then turned to look over the Vulcan. "When Leah and Teejay told us of the shared dreams they spoke of a Cardassian woman..." Frost continued, though she was fairly certain that that was not who was on Mrazak's mind. Then again, tastes were a personal thing and maybe he had a thing for Cardassians.

"To Fusion with Cardassians," Mrazak seethed with sudden antipathy. It almost covered up the guilty look he had on his face. "Has anybody else reported shared dream experiences?"

"Not the Cardassian then." Ari shrugged, "they mentioned seeing Ryland, Sophie, you, the Cardassian woman and another Vulcan man. Your friend was probably there too, if you're needing a dose for them, unless it was the Vulcan man. That's all we know so far."

Mrazak stopped abruptly and stepped in front of Ari to give her a hard look right in the face. "My friends are, by definition, none of your concern. Whatever transpired during and after the V'tosh Ka'tur conference is none of your concern." With that, he resumed his brisk pace.

And now you gave me a place to look if I could be bothered. Arianna laughed inwardly. "Oh of course not!" she said casually as if he hadn't just done the typical attempt at superiority. "So long as they don't impact our business." Ari added just as casually. "Then, by definition, it is my business." A carefree smile to punctuate the point, "but a leader like you knows that already, I'm sure."

"If you're aiming to intimidate me, Commander, you had better use more gusto," Mrazak said without looking back. "I have disappeared better upstart officers than you for less cause, so if you wish to vanish without a trace, by all means, keep talking."

"Have you been drinking, Mrazak?" Akiva asked, joining in the fun with a stoic yet sardonic question. "You must be since you are issuing threats left and right. Good thing, too, otherwise I would have to intervene and you would spend the rest of shoreleave being detained."

At the mention of being detained, Mrazak visibly flinched. "I hate you both," he growled. "So, so much..." And then he trailed off.

Arianna smirked. Threats one intended to make actually got done, not telegraphed. If only she hadn't had much much worse in the last decade, she might have actually believed him. "My hero." She said to Akiva with a smile that echoed thanks for his support.

Then her wrist comm beeped. " we go. We have a hit." She did a quick glance over the incoming data dump from Matija. "Looks like they were last seen taking the tourist sail on Suraya Bay. There's more..."

"All right, so they're out of comms reach but safe," Akiva said, jumping to conclusions. "That gives me ease."

"Moscow Rule number one, Captain. Assume nothin," Arianna said with a serious tone. "The boat never came back. They were due the same day back but haven't returned nor extended their stay."

Frost tapped further instructions into the holo-comm keyboard. "Attain crew and passenger manifests for all boats on route. Sending additional funds."

Letting out a sigh, Akiva said, "All right. So they're still on the list." He looked at Mrazak's back and then up at the sky. Somewhere up there the Phantom waited. "We really need to get back to the ship."

Frost nodded and started following after Mrazak. "I should have more from Matija by the time we get up there. I'll call Fin, you check in with Cal and Nandi?"

The combadge in Akiva's pocket chirped. "Ensign Chakma to Captain ben-Avram."

"Finally," Akiva said with a grin. "Things are finally starting to go our way."


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