USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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Just because you're paranoid...

Posted on Fri Jan 6th, 2017 @ 6:10pm by Lieutenant Elsa Johansson

Mission: S1E3 - Operation Adrestia
Location: Chief Science Officer's Office
Timeline: Mission Day 17 - 19:00

Many people had no understanding, much less appreciation, for all of the after-hours of work that were required of a ship counselor. Jaya's duty was never done. And, since it allowed her a modicum of social interaction without deeply investing in personal relationships (they often proved too murky for Deltans and their sexually charged nature), she would not have it any other way.

Still, house calls were always tricky, especially clandestine ones. As Jaya quickly made her way to the Science Labs, so as to be on time, she inwardly hoped that this particular visit would not be as "tricky" as previous ones. She had had little to no previous interaction with the Lieutenant, and the precious few moments spent near Elsa were when her inner workings were on lockdown, making her a difficult read.

By the time she reached the door to Elsa's office, Jaya had achieved an inner calm that would give her maximum clarity in assessing the situation and Elsa herself. She buzzed the door out of habit, even though Elsa was almost certainly expecting her.

Elsa took a deep breath before saying, "Enter."

Jaya cast a worried look over her shoulder before entering. She had not entered this meeting into her counselor's log before coming, as she had not had time to return to her quarters first. The doors closed behind her, the whishing sound giving a sense of secrecy to an already unusual meeting.
"Here I am," Jaya said meekly, though she cast a sidelong look. "What's on your mind?"

"Interesting that you should ask that question, Ensign," Elsa said, as she made an entry into her PADD. The door Jaya had entered locked itself behind the Deltan. Elsa then produced an odd device from her desk and placed both it and her comm badge on the desk. "Have a seat and place your comm badge on the desk next to mine. The device is something I cobbled up during my time with the Constortium when I wanted to ensure a private conversation. As the maxim goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you," Elsa explained.

Jaya's smile faded, though her eyes remained playful. "Just so you know," she said coyly as she removed her comm badge and set it on the desk, "the last person who locked me in a room to steal a kiss from me did not enjoy it in the end." The Scandinavian lieutenant had over half a foot on her in height, so Jaya nearly craned her neck to maintain eye contact, emoting peace all the while. "I do hope you feel more safe."

"Before I...rejoined Starfleet," Elsa began, with both her face and voiceless humorless, "I was on a self-designed regimen of medications to induce selective anosmia, specifically against pheromones such as you exude. Even though I've discontinued that regimen, the effects haven't worn off yet. So trust me when I say I'm not looking for a kiss. Now please take a seat so I can tell you what I do want," Elsa directed, taking her own seat as she directed Jaya to take the seat on the opposite side of the desk from her.

"Very well." Jaya seated herself across from Elsa and crossed her legs with hands folded atop her knee--a very picture of poise. "What can I do for you, Elsa?"

"During our recent battle," Elsa began. "We laid a trap, a cloaked minefield. We had advanced knowledge of where the Consortium force would be dropping out of warp and entering the system. We also had a psychological advantage. A force that large would be under the control of the Consortium's political masters, not its military strategists, and thus would be relying on brute force rather than tactics. Thus, the odds were in our favor that the field should have removed two or three of the escort vessels out of the vessel, at a minimum. Instead, the Consortium knew exactly where and how the minefield had been deployed, and had sent picket of ships to dispatch it as soon as they had arrived."

Jaya's eyebrow shifted as she observed Elsa's body language. She didn't need her latent telepathy to read the lieutenant's suspicion or predict her conclusion. However, she chose to remain silent in order to let Elsa finish.

"Ensign Bogolyubov immediately informed the captain of the Renown that herself and I were the most likely suspects, which was true, considering our backgrounds and our involvement in developing both the mines themselves and their subsequent deployment. And no," Elsa added, holding up a hand, "I don't hold a grudge against the Ensign for doing so. Someone else would have gotten around to that same deduction sooner or later anyway, so it might as well have been sooner."

Jaya nodded and intoned an amiable, "Mmmh."

"So I found myself along with Ensign Bogolyubov in the brig, and this is where things got strange."

"Alone in the brig with Anastasia? I can only imagine," Jaya said with a chuckle. "She is one of a kind."

"To put it mildly," Elsa replied, a small smile appearing on her usually taciturn face. "Before Commander Tolan arrived to begin the interrogation, my conversation with Ensign Bogolyubov was...let's just say I wasn't expecting to have such a conversation for at least twelve to fourteen years, at the earliest."

"I believe I've had similar conversations with her," Jaya replied with a grin. "From anyone else it would have been out of line, but from her..." Jaya rolled her eyes as she thought of the word. "... it was rather endearing." She straightened her mouth as best she could and got down to business. "So what happened during the interrogation?"

"Commander Tolan was all force and bluster, which I was expecting, at which point Ensign Bogolyubov suggested we call for you, an idea I seconded. Commander Tolan advised you were unavailable. Without checking with the computer, which I found odd. Granted, information gathered strictly by telepathic means is inadmissible in front of a court martial, but it can be used to direct an investigation and even be used to sway a hearing to convene a court martial. Both the Ensign and I were willing to submit to a telepathic scanning, but the idea did not seem to appeal to Commander Tolan."

Jaya turned a sidelong glance as she listened. There was more than Elsa was revealing at this time, which meant the lieutenant did not trust her completely. Yet she had arranged this meeting, and that meant something. She decided to be forthright.
"Elsa, I have few standing appointments among this crew, so I was indeed available. But I suspect that if Commander Tolan wished for a telepathic screening, he might have called upon Lieutenant Linn or even Ensign Saalkan, as their telepathic abilities are likely more refined than my own." She looked down at her hands still folded on her knees. "The Deltan psyche is hardwired to sensory experience, meaning that I do not simply detect thoughts or wishes--I feel and experience them as my own. It's part of the reason for the Oath of Celibacy."
She bit her lip. "Deltan society is more... congenial... than that of other Federation cultures. There's no such thing as a stranger, if you catch my meaning." She blinked away her inner turmoil, returning to her outer veneer of good cheer. "All of that is to say, Elsa, I do not believe I would be a suitable interrogator. Perhaps Commander Tolan knew that. Or perhaps he was simply playing a card to make you crack under pressure--'bad cop,' I believe, is the appropriate Terran expression."

"I would be inclined to agree," Elsa answered, "Except that after ten minutes of aggressive interrogation, the Commander disappeared to communicate with someone else, and then immediately released myself and Ensign Bogolyubov afterwards, apologizing and clearing us of all charges. I did tell the Commander I could prove mine and Ensign Bogolyubov's innocence beforehand, but I don't believe that had anything to do with his decision to release the two of us. There is something about Commander Tolan that is sending up warning lights with me. Which is where you come into the picture, Counselor."

"Unless you wish to talk through your feelings about the incident, then I'm not certain how I may assist you." The precious few feelings that slipped through Elsa's dour disposition did not inspire hope for Jaya in what her request was going to be. Still, she was the one Elsa had chosen to confide in, so if nothing else she felt obligated to hear her out. The corners of her mouth turned up a smidgen as she projected positive, encouraging feelings toward Elsa. "That being said, please continue."

Elsa gave Jaya a wan smile. "I realize I'm not an easy read, Counselor, particularly with some of the mnemonic devices I use to clutter my conscious thoughts and emotions. That and I have certain...life events I can focus on to drown everything else out. But I am going to need to you to look around and pull out some memories, including what I was feeling at the time," Elsa added, tapping her right temple. "Yes, I could go to another telepath who might be a better interrogator, but there are number of reasons that would disqualify them. And I'm not looking just to establish my innocence. I'm looking to establish my loyalty as a Starfleet officer. And the two reasons I want to do this with you is that Ensign Bogolyubov trusts you implicitly. And, for some reason, Commander Tolan didn't want you involved." Anastasia shrugged. "Perhaps I am being paranoid, but living in the Orwellian of a Consortium ship will do that to you. And there is the fact that there is an active Consortium cell on this ship. No offense meant, counselor, but being a Deltan makes you as unlikely a candidate to be turned by the Consortium as anyone I can think of."

"None taken. What you're describing is akin to a Mind Meld," Jaya said, "and it's not a particularly strong skill among my people, at least not in the way you think. I myself have only attempted it twice outside of... intimate relations... and succeeded only once. Even then it seemed a matter of luck." She stroked her chin as she weighed Elsa for a moment. "If your mental control goes both ways, then I suppose we can try. But you will have to be exposed and vulnerable, Elsa. Will you be able to bare your innermost self?"

"It's not something I would choose willingly," Elsa admitted, "But necessity is more oft than not a strict taskmaster. So how do we do this?"

"Most effectively? In whichever way makes you feel most relaxed," Jaya replied. "I will have to touch you, ideally your hands, head, or anywhere with a strong tactile awareness."

Elsa stood up and moved her chair to the other side of the desk, then sat down, facing Jaya and sitting close enough so that their knees were almost touching. Elsa closed her eyes, took a deep breath and exhaled, trying to visualize all the "little tricks" floating in her mind being expelled. She extended her hands for Jaya to take. "Ready when you are," she told the Deltan.

"Before we begin," Jaya said slowly, "I need you to understand that this is dangerous, and therefore cannot be aborted without proper...disentanglement. If you pull away too abruptly, it may not be with all the pieces."

Elsa did not withdraw her hands, so Jaya took them in hers, gently at first. She felt the transfer of warmth as their skin touched. Pheromones began to mingle, merging their biochemical signals. Jaya reached out with her mind, allowing it to blur the distinction between her feelings and Elsa's akin to their tangle of hands.

Pulsing.

Jaya gasped as she felt the link forge between them--the energy within their hands flowed like river rapids, ebbing to and from between their hands and knees in a sensuous circuit.

A surge of carnal desire swelled within her as a reflexive response. It has been so long away from another, away from home ... No! Jaya firmly clamped it down, filtering that desire from the emotive power which compelled it. She would need that power to break through the outer layer of Elsa's psyche, and she couldn't afford to be distracted.

"Sorry," she muttered, eyes closed. She knew better than to hope that Elsa had not felt that, so she put even that blush-worthy thought out of mind.

"Just between us," Elsa replied, with perhaps a touch of humor in her voice.

Once Jaya pressed beyond the surface, the outer layer to Elsa's emotional being spread before her like a meadow of wild flowers. Each individual feeling was a mere speck of the whole, waving in whichever direction her tempers and humors blew, together forming a tapestry of latent memories all whispering in discordant unity.

"Calm," Jaya whispered. "Peace, like a stream flowing in spring thaw, neither frozen nor churning."

"Calm. Peace." Elsa repeated

Serenity.

And there it was. The access point from Elsa's vestigial and repressed emotions to her conscious core. From this point onward, Jaya could touch Elsa's thoughts as well as her feelings.

That's good, Elsa, Jaya mentally projected to Elsa through their link. No matter what comes next, stay with me. If you find it difficult to form words, then use images. I will interpret them.

A vortex swirled around them, though rather than pull them apart, it slammed their minds together. Jaya was accustomed to this level of oneness, though she had only experienced it through intimate relations with her own kind. Elsa's soul was indeed alien by comparison to past experiences, but there was nothing foreign about her in this state.

We should hurry, Jaya projected. I don't know what effects a prolonged link might have (or how long I can hold myself back). Think back to the brig. Remember.

The vortex slowed to a single point and portrayed the ship's brig around them, though the scene was blurry and without actors. Objects blinked in and out of sight.

Remember the people there. Recall the sights, the sounds, the smells, the feel of the enclosed space. Remember!

It was an odd sensation to Elsa, seeing the scene play out before her, like she was both experiencing it and remembering it. She could...for lack of a better word...taste her own emotions as Lieutenant Zuzan escorted her to the brig. There was the semi-bitter taste of sardonic humor mixed with resignation as she found herself once again under suspicion because of her forced association with the Consortium and again having to prove her innocent and a loyalty that had never wavered. There was a fiery taste of anger and resentment in the background, and Elsa could feel herself channeling those emotions into a gravelly determination.

And somewhere in the darkness around the edges there was the icy taste of loss. Always there.

Elsa pushed that loss aside, even as she felt her memory self do the same.

Resist divergent threads, Jaya projected. The more I experience, the deeper we connect, and the more complicated the release.

Then Ensign Anastasia Bogolyubov was escorted in. When the two were alone, the Ensign began confessing and apologizing for informing the authorities that the two science officers were the most likely suspects in revealing the deployment of the minefield to the Consortium forces. Once Elsa assured Anastasia that she hadn't done anything wrong, Anastasia then asked her department head for advise on her personal life, including specific questions about the mechanics of personal intimacy.

The whole episode had a cotton candy-salty caramel taste of humor and embarrassment, with a laughing bassoon trill in the background.

It was almost a relief when Commander Tolan entered the brig.

The "screen" froze as Tolan stood in front of her cell as a flare of too spicy anger was quickly forced down, and everything was again tinged with cynical humor as Elsa knew she would once again have to establish her innocence and a loyalty to Starfleet that had never wavered.

But there was something immediately obvious about the picture in front of her. There was a wispy, golden cord that extended from Commander Tolan's head and disappeared into the bulkhead behind him.

You're naturally intuitive, Jaya projected in a sudden epiphany. No wonder your mental acuity is so strong. It's more than mnemonics would account for, but not quite telepathic. It may've even been strong enough to subtly influence those around you and deflect suspicion during your time on the Cukela.

Jaya slowly pushed herself upon Elsa's perception and projected a guiding request. This is so very dangerous for many reasons we've already discussed, but this appears to be what you're after. I will perform the action of exploring this memory from outside your sensory perception through your intuition, but you must follow my lead to the nth degree, or...

The moment began to solidify around them to the clarity of a holodeck. Jaya appeared next to Elsa within the memory, a translucent apparition. She took Elsa's hand and lifted her up from the bench inside the brig. Elsa's solid form remained frozen in place along with the rest of the scene, yet she arose next to Jaya with her hand held in place.

"Follow the golden cord," Jaya said, her voice now audible at this stage. She jumped at the sound of her own voice. "That's not good. We must hurry."

Elsa focused on the golden cord and lost herself in a blur of sounds and lights and found herself in the past. She was standing at attention inside the Captain's ready room on the Cukela. Commander Dmitri Bogolyubov was seated at the table. He had the same Slavic features as his sister Anastasia, though unlike his sister, Dmitri Bogolyubov also showed his Haliian mother's forehead features.

Elsa immediately tasted fear and anger and despair. each much more pronounced than before, and each blanketed by determination. A dozen wispy cords emanated from Commander Bogolyubov, as well as dozens of thin blue rods. Elsa knew immediately what those rods were. They were loss. The loss that Commander Bogolyubov had been the source of.

The loss was stronger here, causing a chill to go through her.

And again, she pushed the loss to the back of her mind.

"Too far," Jaya said. "Stay near the present."

Commander Bogolyubov paid no attention to Elsa, focusing instead on the PADD before him. It was a trap, of course. Besides commanding the Cukela, Commander Bogolyubov acted as a controller and conduit for the various Consortium resources in the area, both overt and covert. For the most part, Commander Bogolyubov kept things compartmentalized, telling even his senior officers (like Elsa) only what he thought they needed to know and only when he thought they needed to know it.

He did like to tempt his officers, though, into trying to learn more than he wanted to share. And then punish them for their sins of transgression.

Elsa stood patiently, her eyes cold and unseeing, as Dmitri made entries into his PADD. After each entry, one of the golden threads would grow brighter, then fade again.

"You have intuited a direct connection between Commander Tolan and a high-ranking Consortium leader," Jaya said, pulling the thoughts from Elsa's own mind. "I think we found what you're looking for. I suggest we begin disentanglement now... before anything permanent happens."

Elsa heard Jaya's words, but her focus was on one of the blue rods. "It's been so long since I saw them." Elsa murmured. "So long." It felt as if a cold Arctic wind emanated from several of the rods, circling around her. The cold solidified around her, almost burning, as her attention focused on Commander Bogolyubov. Flames of images burst up around her.

Grief. Mourning. Rage. The consuming void of negative emotions called upon Jaya's inner being to fill it in and thereby bring cathartic wholeness. But she dare not. Elsa had to find inner healing on her own terms or be lost.

Jaya immediately began separation. Too swiftly and it could fragment Elsa's mind, but she had already lingered far too long already. She feared Elsa's neurology may not sustain any more, with the risk of permanent dissociation or catatonia running high.

Release, Jaya projected, her thoughts no longer audible. Find yourself.

The scenes around them swirled back into the whirlwind of memories as their minds began to unjoin.

Elsa felt Jaya's presence leaving her mind. That action gave her the strength to bring her mind back in order. A metallic taste filled her mouth as the slamming of steel doors rang through her mind.

And then Elsa found herself back in her office, sitting across from Jaya, holding the other woman's hands. The Scandinavian woman gently extracted her hands from the Deltan woman's, using the back of one hand to wipe her face. After taking a couple of deep breaths, Elsa was in control of herself again.

"The first thing I need to know is," Elsa said in an emotionless voice, "Are you satisfied that I am, and have been, a loyal Starfleet officer?"

Jaya heaved a few deep breaths herself, eyes wide open and beads of perspiration on her bald head.
"Yes."
She had to blink her eyes back into focus as she rubbed her temples. "At the very least, you have a murderous vendetta against the Consortium." As the world came back into focus, Jaya's face spread into a gracious smile. "But that was already my professional opinion, Elsa."

Elsa returned Jaya's smile with a hint of her own. "I wish I didn't have to had put you through all that, Counselor, but I needed someone besides myself to understand and believe the facts. And speaking of facts, I wish I had something solid I could tell someone about Commander Tolan. My subconscious must have linked things Commander Bogolyubov said and messages he sent for me to have come to the conclusion that Commander Tolan is working for the Consortium. But I suspect Commander Tolan wouldn't find it too difficult to discredit any accusations I could level against him."

Jaya hated that she had to force herself to focus on Elsa's words and not on her supple curves that she had suddenly become aware of as a result of their bond. No. Not that. Never that. You're not even that lonely. It's just the empathic link. It will fade soon, just like with Captain Garlake.

"Your intuition connected Tolan with a specific individual rather than a faceless conspirator," Jaya said. "It's my understanding that Anastasia was not as close with Dmitri as with her brother Roman, but perhaps she can provide more familiar information that could be used to confirm Tolan's collusion with him. If nothing else, I will certainly be more observant when in his company."
She sighed in contemplation. "I suppose we should inform Captain Ainscow. If we had proof, we could alert Security directly. Even as it is, though, I'm sure the captain would want to be kept abreast of any suspicion."

Elsa's face took on a somber countenance. "I'm hesitant to bring Anastasia into this. She's...an innocent. Nothing like her brother Dmitri. It's almost impossible for me to believe the two are even related, though Dmitri talked about her so often you could tell she was almost obsessed with him."

Elsa paused before continuing. "Still, we do have a duty to present our suspicions to the Captain. And again, I apologize for putting you into this predicament, Counselor, but I didn't see any other way to get to the point where we are now."

Jaya gave an earnest nod and look down at the floor. "It was my choice," she said. "I will be fine. Schedule a meeting with Captain Ainscow tomorrow. I will join if you would like." With that, she scooted her chair back and stood up. "If there's nothing else, I'm in dire need of a cold shower."

"If you have no objection, I will inform the Captain that it concerns the recent demotion and discipline of Ensign Saalkan," Elsa said, as she also stood up. "I'm going to assume that the Consortium monitors the scheduling of all the Captain's meetings. Discussions of administrative matters shouldn't warrant undue attention from them." Elsa paused, then extended her hand. "Thank you again for all your help...Jaya."

"Not a bad idea," Jaya said, hesitating at first before shaking Elsa's hand but eventually if gingerly shook it. "And... you're welcome."

 

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