USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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Meeting Za'ul

Posted on Tue Oct 3rd, 2017 @ 9:39pm by Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Za'ul & Captain Claudia Ainscow

Mission: S2E2 - Vindeux
Location: Starbase Unity Brig
Timeline: MD 127; 1200

The swirling blue energies of the transporter dissipated to reveal a dark, stark, and cold environment that lacked anything resembling aesthetics. One might mistake it for a cave if not for the symmetrical design of the environment. Akiva assessed the small group that had beamed over from the Vindex to Starbase Unity to face a foe they had hoped and prayed never to lay eyes on again.

Akiva turned to Claudia who stood next to him on the transporter pad. "Shall we?"

Claudia was dreading seeing Saalkan again. She genuinely didn't believe Akiva or the unpleasant woman from Starfleet until visual proof the Vulcan man had indeed been captured was shown on screen.

"Let's get it over with. Before we do though...do you think it's a good idea to suggest bringing Lieutenant Linn along?" Claudia responded.

Akiva frowned. "His past experience with Saalkan is troublesome, but his Intelligence contacts may prove useful when analyzing whatever it is we hear today."

"If I may, Captain," Jaya interjected softly. "All of us have lingering wounds from that whole ordeal. I think it would be best for Lieutenant Linn not to suffer his alone. If for no one else, you should bring him along for his own sake."

Claudia pondered for a few moments before nodding in agreement with Jaya. Claudia, Akiva and Jaya would all be there to support Kazyah if it became necessary.

"Let's bring him along. Who wants to ask him?" Claudia responded.

"I will," Akiva said. His gentleman's agreement with Kazyah required that much of him. "Ben-Avram to Linn," he said with a tap to his commbadge. "Please meet us at Starbase Unity's brig immediately. Ben-Avram out."

"I'll be there when I can," Kaz said, his annoyance coming loud and clear through the comm signal before it cut out.

Akiva turned to Claudia. "After you, Captain. It seems we'll have to find our own way."

Rather than wait for Kazyah to beam over, the trio followed the markers to the nearest turbolift. The brig turned out to be an entire level of the starbase devoted to detention cells.

"It appears the Dominion held many prisoners here at one time," Jaya noted.

Akiva nodded but said nothing. This place gave him the creeps.

Claudia disliked Starbase Unity. It didn't have the warm, bright and friendly feel of a standard Federation starbase. She was hoping to avoid boarding the facility as much as possible save for the debrief with Task Force 9's senior staff.

"I hate this place" Claudia commented.

Before they could wander too far into the labyrinthine detention level, they were met by the same unpleasant captain that had sent the transmission.

"Finally." The woman scoffed at them in a rude imitation of a greeting. "Come with me."

The woman did an about-face and stomped back the way she had come.

"Rude," Jaya muttered.

"You get used to it," Kaz said, having almost appeared out of nowhere amidst the group. "Not everyone in the galaxy is pleasant."

Claudia was in no mood to argue with the rude woman. She took the lead and followed the Starfleet Command officer to the cells where Saalkan was being held. The Vulcan man's name was seldom heard on the Vindex and for good reason - and now the Vindex quartet were going to come face to face with him once again.

"Where was he found?" Claudia asked.

The unpleasant captain spoke loudly from behind them. "He was apprehended on the promenade of this very station. Security detected his biometrics among a crowd of refugees the moment he stepped on board."

Kaz's body stiffened as he saw the man within the cell. "You son-of-a-bitch," he said under his breath as he took a few steps forward. "Where is it?" he yelled at the man.

All eyes fell to the disheveled Vulcan huddled in the corner of the brig. He looked up at Kazyah's outburst, then ignored him at the sight of the others.

"Your... Your Grace," he stammered. Claudia, Akiva, and even Jaya seemed to fill him with terror. "Please! Have mercy! I..."

Understanding seemed to wash over him. "You... you aren't them. Oh, thank the stars you are not them."

The Vulcan wept openly in relief.

Akiva arched his eyebrows at the other three. He clearly did not know what to make of this display.

"Whatever is going on here, Captain, I sense sincerity from him," Jaya said, softly enough for only her fellow officers to hear.

"Captain, unless you have any objections, I suggest Lieutenant Linn should open the line of questioning," Akiva said.

Kaz cracked his knuckles, "I plan to use force," he said, his eyes boring holes into the Vulcan.

Claudia nodded and watched on as Kaz prepared to interrogate the man. Saalkan had not earned mercy and Claudia had no intentions of letting anyone show him any.

"Go ahead" Claudia instructed.

The Vulcan sat huddled in the corner. "He lied." His head shook with reluctant, forlorn acceptance of what he dared not believe.

"For the last time," the Vulcan said, "my name is Za'ul of the Kaiyen tribe of Vulcan. I was an ambassador of the Terran Empire until... I fled my mission."

With that, he dropped his chin to his chest. "If you're going to kill me, please do it now."

"Terran Empire?" Akiva huddled closely to Claudia, Kazyah, and Jaya to speak in a hushed whisper. "What in the world is he talking about?"

Claudia looked puzzled. She'd never heard of anything called the Terran Empire. It was undoubtedly Saalkan who was in the holding cell but he seemed...different...somehow. Aside from his claim about a "Terran Empire" he seemed too...nice.

"He's obviously delusional. I've never heard of this Terran Empire he's talking about" Claudia offered.

Jaya stepped forward to take the initiative.

"Saal... Za'ul. Do you know I am?"

Stark fear lit up Za'ul's face. "No."

Jaya stared at him askance. His fear was palpable, but his answer seemed honest to her empathic sense. Saalkan was a master of manipulation, but certain things just couldn't be faked.

"Why do you fear me?"

Za'ul twitched at the question. "You remind me of someone I once knew."

Truth again. Jaya nodded in understanding. "As you do with me. How did you come to be here?"

"I can't tell you that. I swore an oath."

Jaya turned around. "Lieutenant Linn, he's all yours."

Kaz reached down, grabbing the man by the shirt and pulled him to his feet. Throwing him up against the wall, the sound of skull against bulkhead resonated through the small group of people. Kaz closed his eyes, wrapping a hand around the man's throat and probed his mind.

Minutes passed in silence. One by one, the other members of the party began to inch closer as Kaz stood there in complete silence.

After a few more minutes, Kaz's eyes opened as the grip around the Vulcan's throat loosened ever so slightly. "He's not Saalkan," he said, his eyes locking with Akiva's. "Well, he is Saalkan, but at the same time he's not. I don't understand how, but he has no memories of the events on the Vindex...or my Rod of Kel."

Claudia stood next to Saalkan and decided to ask him a question of her own.

"So...you say you're Saalkan but Lieutenant Linn has determined you are not the Saalkan. The question I have to ask you - and would like an answer to is - who are you trying to protect? You say you've taken an oath yet you haven't mentioned who or what you're protecting. If you don't tell us then we will have...little alternative..." Claudia said.

As if to accentuate her point, Kaz pulled his knife from where he kept it, in the back of his uniform and gently ran the tip of its dual blade down the man's arm.

Za'ul trembled with fear before giving a sigh of defeat. "Very well. He said if I told anyone, then he would kill me when he returned. But I see that my life is forfeit so long as you believe I am him."

Taking a deep breath, Za'ul began his tale.

"I was contacted several weeks ago by my double from this universe." He paused for emphasis. "Your universe. The universe from which I hail is far different than this, even if the architecture is similar." His eyes ran up the walls of the former Dominion station.

Za'ul stared at everyone in turn.

"In my realm, you are the Empress, and you are the ruthless chief of her Ashmura Secret Police, and you... oh, I pray I never meet you again," he said to Claudia, Akiva, and Jaya in turn. "There... you are an abomination of the worst kind."

He darted a glance at Kazyah. "I have never seen your face before today." He cleared his throat before continuing. "My universe is recovering from a devastating war, and I had hoped to escape it by switching places with the... Saalkan... of your universe. Little did I know that he is a wanted fugitive." Za'ul gave a wry smirk. "As now, I suppose, am I, back where I came from."

Akiva stood unconvinced. "How can we believe you? Do you have any proof?"

"I... I suppose I can take you to the tachyon singularity left behind by the interdimensional conduit we used to switch places." Za'ul grew more confident. "The tachyonic radiation would still be present."

Claudia nodded. "So you're saying all of us here have a double in this Terran Empire universe of yours and I'm the Empress? It sounds intriguing but I'm sorry - I'm just not convinced it's worth the risk taking my ship through your conduit. Especially if there's no guarantees we can actually get back safely - and more to the point...how do we know you're not making this up anyway?"

"You asked me for proof," Za'ul countered. "That is all I can offer."

Jaya whispered to Claudia, "Whether his words are true or not, he seems to genuinely believe them."

"A short trip might be worth the investigation," Akiva suggested. "If it's not too far away, then we can rule out some kind of anomaly. Either way we can falsify his claim. I for one would rest easier if I knew Saalkan had been reduced to... this." He nodded his head to the side toward the pathetic wretch in the detention cell.

Claudia turned back towards the man in the cell.

"Is there any guarantee we can actually get back from this shadow universe of yours? I'd rather not get stuck in the wrong universe or have my ship destroyed with all hands on board based on a fabrication. You will have to forgive me but...Saalkan...did a lot of damage to the Vindex and he is not trustworthy. And even if I agree to it...there's a matter of speaking to my superiors..." Claudia said.

"If you have any other way for me to prove I am not the man you believe me to be, then I am open to it." Za'ul slid down the wall back into his sitting position.

Claudia sighed. "Give me the co-ordinates of this disturbance of yours - and by the way if we do go...you're coming with us whether you like it or not. Otherwise it's no deal and you can stay locked up in here until you're called up for your hearing. You can take it or leave it but that's the best I'm prepared to do"

Za'ul cringed. "It's not as if I have a choice..."

Claudia briefly disappeared and relieved a nearby guard of his PADD and upon her return she held it to Za'ul. She had every intention of verifying this information before even considering taking the Vindex there.

"I'm glad we can agree on something. Now...tell me those co-ordinates before I change my mind about wanting to listen to you" Claudia replied.

Za'ul stared at her. "No." He met her stare wother defiance. "Take me away from here on your ship, and I'll give the coordinates to your helmsman."

Claudia turned to Akiva, Kazyah and Jaya out of earshot of Za'ul.

"We can do that...providing we get permission to take him with us...and then keep him in the brig until we've verified them. I'd rather not let him onto the bridge either - perhaps he can give the coordinates to Mr M'Rohass in his office?" Claudia suggested.

Akiva frowned. "I hesitate to let him anywhere near the Vindex. Saalkan's powers of persuasion nearly destroyed us before."

"If there is a sentient being that I would willfully kill in this universe, it is Saalkan." Jaya bit down on her teeth as she spoke. "But this man has no knowledge of what Saalkan did. It's possible Saalkan had a psychotic breakdown, but we can't rule out the sincerity of what we just heard: that Saalkan made a pact with this man." She breathed deep and exhaled before continuing. "One way or another, Saalkan has hatched another scheme. As much as it pains me to say it, Captain, but I think we need to see this through."

"I will have to speak to Starfleet first. They won't just let us take him out of here and head off on our merry way - I would suggest we keep him under heavy guard and confined to quarters for the duration. It may be wise for him to show us how to create a conduit so we can get back of our own accord - I don't really want to get stuck there because he's just used us for a ride home and pisses off the moment we get there" Claudia said.

Akiva scowled. "I don't know. I have a bad feeling about this."

"I'm not exactly sure about it either. Either way if it rids us of...him...then it might be worth it. It may be prudent to call a senior staff meeting first to gain some more opinions before deciding what to do about...him...in there" Claudia replied.

"Agreed," Akiva said with a nod. "That will also give Commodore Hutchinson due time to consider it."

Claudia nodded. "Alright. I'll go and speak to the Commodore and see what he can do for us - if you can get the senior staff assembled I'll let you know what he says upon my return. Counsellor...I feel it may be wise if you join us for this briefing - if you are willing of course"

"Of course, Captain." Jaya's eyes darted back to the Vulcan in the brig.

 

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