Paying Penance

Posted Nov. 13, 2020, 3:53 p.m. by Lieutenant Casela Synthi-er (Counsellor / RTF) (Jennifer Ward)

Posted by Captain Zachariah Cobb (Commanding Officer) in Paying Penance

Posted by Lieutenant Casela Synthi-er (Counsellor / RTF) in Paying Penance

Cobb took the offered PADD and studied it with single-minded focus, those sharp, cerulean eyes scrutinising each word in turn. There was a classic stereotype reliably invoked by the words “Starfleet Security” - that of a strong, brave, confident fighter. And most certainly those individuals were invaluable to any starship and its crew. But as a former engineer, Cobb had often worked alongside a different branch of security, one whose purpose was equally essential on a vessel given over to computerised control. Digital security. And as he continued to read the reports at his fingers, Zachariah got the feeling that they were describing an excellent security officer and one whom not only understood the standard measures and tests required on starfleet systems, but also had some innovative ideas for improvements up her sleeve. On paper, she seemed like an ideal candidate for the Leviathan. Which, to his suspicious mind begged the question, what was the catch?

Handing the PADD back to Casela, the captain nodded. “She’s certainly impressive and could be put to good use on the containment deck, of that I have no doubt. Of course, I’d have to clear it with Roebuck first, but I can’t see him fielding any objections. Unless there’s more to this one than what’s being handed to me?”

The formalities of captain and counselor dismissed, he laughed dryly and added, “Come on, Cas. What’s the real story with this one, eh?”

  • Captain Zachariah Cobb

OOC: I’m going ahead and posting this because this is about the character of Ashlyn Trenton and not really character development for Casela. This is posted with Brian’s permission.
Casela looked at him, her voice very quiet, “I owe her.” The holodeck changed. A program, collected from different files, recordings, and reports had been compiled. There would be sections of silence, but low in the dark outside the images would be Casela’s voice whispering her thoughts and telepathic voice. Overheard thoughts would be equally given a whispered voice of the owner. Casela would not leave, she would not deny her part in this horror or shirk away from the condemnation she deserved, but she would disappear from their side to the hard to see darkness where the light ends and the shadows begin. The brutal mask of the woman, the other version of herself, of Valkyrie would never falter from the records, it was not so to the woman standing watching the horror she had inflicted unfold again.

Interrogation on Earth
The trip back had been troublesome for the crew of the Constance, the nearly feral girl was terrified of anyone in uniform and quickly turned panicky and violent when they were bringing her into the Starfleet Medical Facility on Earth. They were hoping to get her IDed at least, then get her some much needed help. The poor girl had been found eating the survival rations of a shuttle and was clearly in horrible shape.

Because of the panic, the doctors had to come out and sedate the girl to get her into the facility where they could run some simple tests and determine the best course of treatment for her. Unfortunately, as soon as her DNA was identified the Doctor’s phone rang. Immediately the girl was ordered to be quarantined in a separate location out of public view and away from any of the Constance Crew. They of course made arguments until their Captain came to retrieve them, stating they were ordered back to their ship.

The girl was moved by Starfleet Intelligence officers shrouded in dark uniforms though places that would never be seen by the general public. Because she was sedated, she was easy enough to move to the S31 office hidden deep within the city. When the girl came to, she saw four unfamiliar people in black uniforms in an unfamiliar location. Fear was settling in and she was starting to panic, only to discover she was restrained in a chair bolted to the floor. One of the uniformed men turned to another, “Get Valkyrie, she can conduct the interrogation more quickly.” The other man walked over to a console and input a command that the girl watched. =^=88259, report to cell 7 for interrogation.=^=

When the Constance had reported finding a stow away girl, alone, and eating ration bars, near the Makoa III colony, reports had appeared almost instantly on Casela’s desk. She kept track of EVERY mission herself. She’d gone back to find that girl only to find her well hidden already. Now she was on the USS Constance and headed to Earth after all these years. Casela arrived three days before her. She had pushed the engines of her shuttle hard. She had a good…contact, working on fixing Valkyrja. It wasn’t hard to be put onto the girl’s case. Casela was on the original team. HQ would expect her to fix this. The girl’s name would draw attention once the DNA scans were done: Ashlyn Trenton. And then name would register from Casela’s previous admissions to her guilt to Zachariah around that campfire.

Casela had been there when her family had been executed for treason; she was the one who recommended not looking for her and that she had probably died in the explosion. Her showing up and at the attention of the section did not bode well for Casela or the girl. Casela didn’t care about herself, but she did about the girl. This was the first time, and it would be the last if she had anything to do about it, that one of Casela’s children had caught the attention of S31. =^=88259, report to cell 7 for interrogation.=^= Casela’s stomach rolled. A child? Really? She knew what interrogation meant. Damn it! She punched a large dent into the bulkhead of her temporary office. =^=Acknowledged. Valkyrie out.=^= She hated that name. Avenging angel of the gods, choosing the honored dead to fight to save the world. Valkyries were chosen because they died an honorable death. She didn’t die, it would have been kinder if she had.

She walked down the corridor. She had a reputation, and no one, once having heard her paged, would get in her way. As she moved down the corridor those in the way disappeared into alcoves and offices and then reappeared as she passed to whisper amongst themselves. She moved like she never touched the floor. She walked with purpose, but at the same time seemed bored and taking her time to answer the summons. There was an air of arrogance to Valkyrie that even the oldest operatives didn’t want to touch. They all knew the story. They had all hacked the system for it. Her ordeal with Mad Man and having come out still whole, scared the new operatives and got the respect of the older ones. “I heard it was just a few days before they let her go.” “That’s foolish talk. I was around then. 6 months. 6 months at their mercy. I couldn’t do it, neither could you.” “Did you ever see the medical pictures? Evidence, I want evidence.” From down the hall, “I was there when they brought her in. I saw it, some of the doctors even vomited. You don’t want evidence.” “Stop making up stories to scare the newbs.” An older operative, grunted and then her CO stepped into the hallway to silence them. But it wasn’t necessary, with that same air of purpose but all the time in the world, Valkyrie turned and raised a terrifying brow at them and flashed a feral smile. The hall fell silent.

Valkyrie had no patience for any of them. She knew the lies they’d been told. But now she had her own way, and HQ was lucky they could get her to cooperate at times. The corridor emptied before her as she strode, in eerie silence toward her destination. Her shoes, issued like everyone else’s, didn’t make a sound, where others did. It was a game they all played. No one knew who she really was, and she didn’t know them. That’s how it worked. They only knew who Valkyrie was. She stopped outside the door and took in the scene around her. She stepped into the room and over to the guard, “Give me the keys.” He hesitated glancing at the other men in the room. All four of them were a lot taller than her and a lot bigger. She reached to her side, not so subtly. “Don’t make the mistake of the last idiot who thought he’d tell me ‘no.’ Hand them over.” The guard gave them to her. He was a new recruit and stories of Valkyrie were…terrifying. Casela nodded in approval. “Good. Now get out.” She turned to the other three men, raising a brow, so reminiscent of her teacher, waiting to see if they were dumb enough to try and stay. All four men left. Her CO’s CO turned to look at her. She raised a brow at him again, “I know what you want, now get out. Or I can leave and you won’t get it.” He seemed to take a half step forward until he met her gaze, and then he, like the others, left. Casela shut the door and took in the terrified child in front of her. Struggling against the restraints, eyes dilated fully, and in full panic mode. She moved over to the control panel and turned off the audio recording and just to ensure she put a lock out code in so it couldn’t be reactivated remotely.

She turned back to the girl. Her heart aching that she’d been brought here, but she couldn’t let her superiors see that. “Hello Ashlyn. Where have you been hiding?” Her voice was not cold nor warm, but calm and deceptively soothing. She hoped the use of the girl’s name would give her focus.

Focus came to Ashlyn almost immediately, while her mouth didn’t move the girl’s mind was practically roaring answers at the Betazoid. Certainly there was only one girl in front of Casela, but there may as well be 15 or 16 of them in the room all giving different answers, another 7 that were crying out in terror, sadness, fear, or some other panicked emotion, and 3 more that were rather quiet but had a keen understanding of her surroundings. They even recited back the lock code she had observed the S31 agent use on the console earlier, figured out by watching movements of fingers and the wrist and applying it to a logical positioning pattern based on common interface configurations. There was one more voice to add to the noise, this one spitting venom the likes of which reserved for only the worst of people, but it was all directed at herself for having trusted the uniforms to take her someplace safe. Instead she was drugged and now she was in this room to die a horrible death after- It was best to stop listening to that voice specifically, it was horrible.

Behind the practiced facade Casela felt like throwing up. The girl’s mind had shattered in the intervening years. Casela knew it could have happened, that’s why she went back for her. The trauma was too much for even full grown adults. But instead her mind had developed in a way Casela would not have anticipated. And she clearly thought she was going to die. She probed that thought. The dark uniforms, she recognized them from the team. The black and grey combat uniforms. And the girl knew her passcode. That was dangerous, and she was bloody brilliant. The four gods forgive her. She answered the girl’s thoughts directly (thoughts that a watcher of the program wouldn’t have heard). “Yes Ashlyn you were given drugs. You were screaming and hurting yourself. But you are awake now. We need to talk. Where have you been hiding before you were on the Constance?” In the meantime a plan was forming in Casela’s mind, but she had to get the information HQ wanted first. (The bystander would simply see that Casela’s gaze turned focused and directed at the girl) She prodded at Ashlyn’s mind, pushing her mind to give up the information Casela needed. She was going to the darkest of Hells for this.

Ashlyn looked confused, most of the voices in her mind turned to try and understand why the agent said that when she never said a word. Some of the voices were convinced she was still drugged up and all this was a hallucination. She was going to wake up in a few minutes in some other dealer’s bed and have to sneak out the window again to escape and deal with the withdrawal symptoms…again. Some of the voices started to calm and turn to logic in order to make some kind of meaningful answer to the question the agent had asked twice now. “Sector five, section two, decommissioned structure seven five seven main drainage pipe.” A clear answer between breaths trying to get herself under control that was rapidly giving way to memories of abuse, starvation, field medicine that was going wrong, watching her family be executed one at a time for no explainable reason. To this day, she still had no idea why her family had been targeted by the Federation Uniforms, but that much was clear. They were targeted by the Federation.

Casela knew exactly where that was. She’d been there, right there! She didn’t think Ashlyn would have been able to navigate the crumbled structure and had gone looking elsewhere for her. She breathed slow and deep keeping the self loathing and anger at bay. She couldn’t ask how she got away. She might remember and HQ could NOT find out Casela smuggled her out of the house that night. And that dealer was her father’s ‘best friend.’ She knew where she was going when she left Earth. Oh it was time for Valkyrie to do what she does best. ‘Ashlyn, what did your family do? Why aren’t they here?’ (Again that direct look that said Casela saw, heard, and said more than what the bystander could detect) Casela felt sick as she put the words right into Ashlyn’s head. Her already fractured mind wouldn’t take kindly to the invasion. At least this way no one who could lip read would have to know this girl’s inner most horrors. At least this way it would go faster. She’d erase the memory of the telepathy later.

Rage, hatred, anger, every voice inside that fractured mind was screaming every description of their death, every horrible detail of their interrogation that came before. Though the message had been delivered by thought, Ashlyn started pulling violently at the restraints again screaming incoherently with the occasional “You murdered them” making its way out enough to be understood. For any hardened agent this would be expected, but this was from the perspective of a confused 12 year old that had no understanding of why something that gruesome and violent was taking place. Any time she had asked someone about why her family was killed, they would turn violent and chase her out, never bothering to explain what had happened. The memories that flashed by were clear that after she had escaped the holding facility, she had lived alone, without support, without being able to learn anything about what had gone on or why no one was willing to help her. She was lost, mad, and desperately trying to rip herself free of the restraints which were starting to cause damage to her wrists and arms.

Not yet, Casela couldn’t do anything yet, to help her. She made no move to stop the terrifying and heart breaking damage Ashlyn was doing to herself. “He did something very bad Ashlyn. He made someone very angry. You know what he did. Don’t you?” She already knew Ashlyn had no idea, but she had to prove it one more time, or they’d execute her as well. Anger, Ashlyn needed anger right now, not panic. Or she would really hurt herself. Then Casela could work on getting her out and to safety.

“Daddy didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t know what he did that made you so mad at him, but he didn’t do it!” The girl was pleading for her father’s innocence, even a bystander could tell she didn’t have any idea what was going on. Now she was in tears, still trying to get free but her attempts were more feeble than before. She was out of energy and her mind was desperately trying to push her to keep going without any success. She sank and eventually gave up and went back to just sobbing over her loss and recapture after having avoided the uniforms for years.

“Ashlyn,” Casela goaded. Gods she hated herself. “What about those strange looking men, Daddy brought home? What do you know about them? Did he make them mad?” There was no indication that Adam Trenton had been on the wrong side with the aliens, but if Ashlyn made up a lie to justify it, then it would mean Casela was wrong. She didn’t need to get into the girls, her brother had been using and selling. Just the aliens. The pain radiating off of the girl was heartbreaking, and Casela at that moment saw herself for the monster she really was, a monster that needed to be put down, but she had to get Ashlyn out first. For all appearances Valkyrie was bored with this menial task given to her.

Ashlyn was still sobbing, but now she was also confused. She had no idea what strange looking men the agent was talking about. “Do you mean the Bolians or the Tellarites? I don’t know what strange men you’re talking about.” The internal voices were making noises of shuffling through what sounded like old file cabinets and papers, looking for anything on strange men that her father had brought home but all of them were turning up nothing. Ashlyn had no involvement or awareness of what was going on, ignorance is bliss usually, but in this case it has led to a lot of suffering for the girl. Homeless, starving and terrorized anytime she was seen for things she was completely unaware of.

Casela latched onto the filing system and watched with great interest. Not just for the information it might give about her father, but for the brilliance of it. She turned and looked at the camera with a “I told you so” look. Valkyrie was PISSED. Brought her in to interrogate a child. Worthless waste of her time, the look seemed to say. She turned back to the girl. She had to push her again, she needed a reason to remove her. The interrogation lasted an hour. “Yes you do Ashlyn. You always knew. Your brother must have bragged, he liked to do that. It made him feel important to know what your Daddy did.”

Ashlyn gave the agent an incredulous look that insulted her intelligence. “I hadn’t seen Thomas in three years and Maxwell was mute. Don’t you people talk to each other, you should know this already.” The thoughts in the girl’s head turned from panicked cooperation to doubtful resistance, it was evident to them now that the agent was fishing for something she didn’t have or was maybe trying to trick her into admitting to something she didn’t do. So she did something else that was probably not the smartest move. “The only thing wrong I did was steal rations from Federation supply crates. I learned my lesson about being caught the hard way.” She flexed her right hand to show it was missing the pinky finger. “Other than that, I didn’t DO anything. I don’t KNOW anything. Why do you keep asking me like I know some amazing thing that would explain why you killed my family?”

And that was all Casela needed. With a very strong mental push she forced Ashlyn to sleep along with all the versions of herself. (This time the look was quick and more than focused and as Ashlyn fell asleep a watcher would know Casela had ‘made’ her sleep.) She turned to the small table to the side and picked up the hypo. She replaced the vile in it for one of her own. A mild sedative, it would keep Ashlyn asleep for the duration of the trip. And this way she wouldn’t remember getting another hypo. She hit the comm on the control panel. “This is Valkyrie. Get me a transport, and clear the corridors. NOW.” Her voice sneered and whipped across the comm but never rising. She’d taken people off before. Some work Valkyrie only did alone. This time, by the Gods, it would be for the right reason.

She turned and unlocked the cuffs at her feet and wrists and left the keys on the floor, and with an amazing show of determination and strength, Casela lifted the far too skinny and underweight 16 year old into a fireman’s carry. She turned for the door and opened it. She looked both ways down the corridor. She didn’t see anyone, but she knew they were there. Everyone wanted a look at what Valkyrie was doing. She hated this place, and there was only one way out for her now. She owed too many to take it just yet. Soon, though, very very soon. With one hand locking Ashlyn’s legs in place, the other went to her weapon concealed on her belt. She moved down the corridor to the transport that was waiting. Casela took Ashlyn to a small undisclosed hospital where she was treated for several days for her injuries and poor health. Casela visited every day, wearing a Star Fleet Security uniform. She was there for Ashlyn, but as far as Ashlyn knew she was just the officer on duty, but after several days, Casela managed to desensitize her to the sight of the security uniform. S31 uniforms were so different that they could almost be seen as being different governments all together and so she never wore one around the girl again.

Once Ashlyn was well enough to return to the regular Star Fleet hospital, Casela left. Valkyrie was in a vengeful mood and out for blood.
Lt Synthi-er, S31
Ashlyn Trenton

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