In Orbit of Khitomer
Head down, Astrid stepped past Commander Ly'et, Colin Groves and the Ferengi assistant into the turbolift. Turning back to face them, she waited for the doors to close. Just before they did, she looked up, caught Colin Groves' eye - and winked.
The look of surprise on his face was priceless. She smiled to herself, enjoying the feeling. Not bad
, she thought, not bad at all
. She’d got the reaction she had hoped for. Besides, Groves wasn’t bad looking, in that ever so slightly sleazy, politician-type way. She could just about see what Lizabeth had seen in him. Surprised, she realised that she was actually looking forward to seducing him.
The turbolift thrummed and hummed around her, carrying her forward and down to her deck. Astrid ignored the Klingon security officer behind her, idly replaying the events of the past few days in her mind. Ever since Lizabeth Carter had activated her primary personality - just after her encounter with Jasto Dax in sickbay - she had been busy. First she had needed to convince Doctor Malok to let her out of sickbay so that she could keep her eye on Sarine and the other senior officers. Then she had had three months worth of recordings and intercepted messages to sort through. And finally there had been her meeting with the Klingon spy, Doctor Keene.
With her ‘official’ position as conn officer and the responsabilities that accompanied it added to the mix, she had found herself carrying out quite a juggling act.
She loved it.
Astrid had been an agent of the organisation known as the Company since her fifteenth birthday. Recruited while in high school, she had been brought into the fold and trained both mentally and physically, taught how to make the most of her genetic heritage. After the loss of her parents, the Company had taken care of her, had given her a home, and a new family, and a way of life. In return, she had given them her loyalty. She had become one of their finest, most capable spies, one of only a handful they had within Starfleet.
That was what made her so useful.
The turbolift came to a full stop on Deck 9 and she stepped out immediately, without even glancing back at the Klingon security officer. Down here in the main habitat decks, there were a lot more people, men and women of every race making their way from or to their assignements. Her ‘Starfleet’ persona knew many of them, so Astrid nodded and smiled, even stopping once or twice to share pleasantries. Slipping back into this persona was easy, not even requiring a conscious effort. All the time she was talking to her 'colleagues', though, the majority of her formidable mental energy remained hard at work, filing away even the most innocuous phrases and gestures for future study.
Finally, she arrived at her quarters. The doors slid open on her approach, her biometric signature unlocking the very special locking mechanism she had installed during one of her active periods when she first arrived on the ship. Her 'Starfleet' persona had had no idea, of course, no more than she had known that she had switched her own bio readings in order to hide her genetic enhancements. The two were totally separate, locked away from one another thanks to months and months of conditioning.
The moment she stepped inside, she knew something was wrong. Years of training combined with her highly tuned senses to set off alarm bells in her head. Side-stepping smoothly, she pressed herself against the wall before peering into the room.
Darkness and shadow. She tried to pierce the black veil, but even her highly attuned eye sight couldn’t make out more than vague shapes. Someone was there, though. She could hear him or her breathing.
She wondered for a moment whether it could be Keene. After her meeting with him in the cargobay, they had agreed not to meet again until her part in their plan had been completed, and even then it was supposed to be at her request. If it was him, what reason could he possibly have for entering her room? More importantly, how could he - or anyone for that matter - have gotten past her defences?
She was about to move into the room when he spoke.
"Hello little one. Have you missed me?"
A cold sweat broke out on her skin and her throat dried up. A shudder followed moments later. The terror of a thousand broken nights seemed to reach up and squeeze closed her throat. She knew that voice. She knew the intonation and the pitch as if she heard it every day. In a way, she did. She heard it every night in her dreams.
Neither a lifetime of experience as a spy nor the years of training and condition she received from the Company could overcome her natural, instinctual reaction. It was like being faced with every fear she had ever had, all wrapped up in one single voice. Her whole body froze, her enhanced strength and reflexes all for nought.
She sensed him moving in the darkness, a murmur of movement that she couldn't quite grasp. Her eyes were the only part of her that still moved, scanning the black in a futile attempt to catch a glimpse of him.
"I missed you, you know. It has been sooo long."
He laughed, a cackling giggle that drove spikes of fear into her mind. The curse of the augment was to have perfect recall, a photographic memory so precise that it could almost be called holographic. She could still see him that night, his hand still dripping with her parents' blood, as he walked across the kitchen towards her.
“Have you been good while I’ve been gone? I don’t think you have, have you?” he taunted her. All she could hear was the dripping of blood on tile.
“I’ve seen what you’ve been doing, you know. On your little computer? You’ve been following in mummy and daddy’s footsteps, haven’t you?”
The voice drew closer, louder, and yet seemed to be overwhelmed by the sound of dripping in her mind. She began to shake, clutching at her arms as tightly as she could.
“You’ve been spying, like a naughty little girl. Spying and scheming and lying.”
“Just. Like. Them.”
A hand dropped on her shoulder. She screamed, the sound a mingling of fury and fear and pure unadulterated hatred. Wrenching away, she scrambled into the room. The contact seemed to have unleashed something within her and she yelled for lights.
The computer did as it was told, flooding the darkened room with artificial lighting. Astrid just had time to view a shape rushing towards her across the room. The light reflected off of a sharp reflective object and she reacted instinctively. Dropping down to her haunches, she kicked out, catching the man on the knee. With a grunt, her attacker stumbled forward and down. Spinning out of reach of the knife, Astrid grabbed at the man's other arm and turned a full circle on herself. Then, with all of her strength, she launched Haebron across the room.
With her augmented strength, she easily lifted him into the air. He flew across the room and struck the wall so hard that she heard a crack. Flexing her knees, Astrid prepared to launch herself at her attacker again if he came for her.
Instead, she heard a groan. Remaining where she was, poised like a jungle cat, Astrid’s eyes remained fixed on her attacker, this man who haunted her nightmares. Another groan.
, she told herself. Don't let him fool you, he's pretending.
Her breath coming in shorter and shorter gasps, her heart racing, Astrid took a step towards Haebron. She had to calm down. One of the benefits of having a genetically enhanced body was the control it gave her. Seizing conscious control of her heart beat, she forced the pulse to calm down. Adrenaline still surged, but she tamped it down, flooding her body with erythrocytes to control the concentration in her bloodstream.
Taking another step, she looked around for the knife. If he was pretending, he would have the knife somewhere on him, or nearby. He would be waiting to use it against her as soon as he could. She couldn't see it.
Another step, eyes locked on his broken body. Protection. I need to protect myself against the knife if I...
Another step and this time she felt something beneath her foot. She glanced down quickly, her eyes breaking away from him for a split second. The knife. It was under her foot. Never leaving her appraisal of her attacker, she dropped down to one knee, picking up the blade and holding it firmly in her hand.
Now she was armed, she felt better. She took another step, then another, and finally she was just over an arms length away.
A groan. "Get up," she said again, the words coming through gritted teeth.
The head lifted slightly, just a bobble, then more. Finally, with what seemed like a concerted effort, Haebron lifted his head but Jasto Dax looked up at her.
His eyes were unfocused, confused. He frowned.
She wanted to scream. Not again. Not like in sickbay. He wasn't going to play this little game with her again.
"Get up," she hissed.
He shook his head, as if trying to clear it of a buzzing. "Lieutenant, I..."
"Don't!" she shrieked. She took the last few steps towards him and before she knew it, she was kicking out at him. "Don't. You. Dare." Every word punctuated with a kick - to his leg, to his hip, to his stomach.
Jasto yelled out, rolling his body into a ball in an attempt to protect himself. She kicked him one last time, catching him in the shoulder, then fell back, almost dropping onto her backside, breath coming out in a great rush.
What am I doing?
She would have expected this from the other Astrid, the one who lacked her control, who hadn't had the experience of the Company to back her up and help her make sense of what had happened. She had thought she had this under control. It turned out she had been wrong.
She stumbled back, not quite believing what had just happened. She allowed herself to fall back against the wall, then dropped down until she was sat, her arms wrapped around her legs. She stared at Jasto, at this man who had destroyed her life.
After a few moments, he unravelled, every movement tentative and shaky. She just stared. He coughed as he stretched out his legs, his eyes searching the room. When he saw her, he froze, eyes wide.
He opened his mouth to say something else, but she forestalled him. "Get. Out."
He stared at her, and then nodded. Using the wall, he climbed awkwardly to his feet. He stumbled along the far wall, past her table and chairs, his eyes never leaving hers. She watched him go, her eyes following every move he made, searching his face as if to see any sign of Haebron coming back. Part of her wondered what she would do if she saw it. Would she kill him? Could she risk her mission that much?
When he reached the door, he stopped, eyes still fixed on her. "I'm sorry. Truly I am. I thought... I thought I had it under control."
She just stared at him. He opened his mouth again, but nothing came out except a heavy sigh. Nodding once, he walked through the door. Moments later, it closed behind him.
Astrid sat there, her back against the wall, and watched the door, as if hoping or expecting that he would come back. I have to finish this
, she realised after a moment. One way or another. I have to finish this.
Lieutenant Dax’s Quarters
Jasto stumbled through the door into his quarters and let the tears come.
He had held them in all the way back to his room, keeping his head down and his eyes averted from everyone he met. Part of that was to avoid anyone seeing the state of his face, the bruises and cuts, but it was also because he was terrified that if he met anyone's eyes, they would see it there. See Haebron.
He could hear him, giggling in the darkness behind his head. Ranting and raving.
he screamed. Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet!
Haebron screamed back. No, not anymore. I have to finish it. Once and for all. Dirty, dangerous little spies and their dirty, dangerous little games. Finish it, finish it, finish it, finish it, finish…
Stop it, stop it, stop it!
Jasto pleaded. He paced up and down, holding his hands to his head as if he could somehow smother the other man’s voice. Please Haebron you have to stop!
To his surprise, the man’s voice faded away. Jasto stopped dead, his eyes wide. Did I do that? Or did he decide to leave me alone?
He wasn’t sure which option scared him more.
Collapsing on the bed, he curled up and closed his eyes. The pain from Astrid’s attacks were a welcome distraction. How did this happen?
All he could remember was falling asleep hours before, then waking up on the floor of Lieutenant William’s quarters, his body screaming out in pain. There hadn’t even been a nightmare this time, a vision to give him an idea of what might have happened. Just darkness. Nothingness. I was gone and he was in my place. I lost control.
He started to cry.
I had it under control!
He wanted to scream to the heavens, to curse the Pools of New Trill, to pray to the Great Symbionts themselves. It wasn’t fair. He had had it under control.
He couldn't remember how long he sat there in the dark and wept. It might have been a matter of seconds, or it might have been three days. The only light in his room was the unchanging flickering darkness of the starfield outside. Why?
he asked himself, over and over again. Why?
By the time he came to again, he had come to a decision. Haebron had become a danger, a real risk for this ship and for him. He couldn't afford to let such a risk persist. There was only one solution he could see.
Still, he hesitated. It seemed like such a final choice; he wouldn't ever be able to take it back. Could he go so far? Was he willing to end everything this way?
Finally, though, he realised that he had no other choice. With trembling hands, he reached up and pressed his comm badge.
"Dax to Captain Sarine.”
“Sarine here.” The captain did not sound at all pleased, his voice tense as if he were in the middle of an argument. “I’m in the middle of something here, Lieutenant, so- -“
“I'm sorry to disturb you captain,” Jasto pushed on. He had to do this now. If he waited… He might never do it. “I am sorry, but… I need to talk to you. Now.”