Reflections #54 - "Discovery"


Less than two hours before her shuttle was supposed to leave, Kathleen Black found herself talking the security guard at one of the docking areas into letting her back on the USS Pegasus. Once on board, she contacted Williams and talked _him_ into getting her a decently-sized padded box with several layers of padding and a couple of engineers to carry it in for her. That done, she made her way to crew quarters and entered in her override code to enter Sulan's quarters. There was the collection, hanging in place, not a piece missing. Kitty sighed in relief and told the helpful engineers that she would let them know when she was ready for them again.

It didn't take her long to find the bundle of silks. She laid them out on the bed and began taking the weapons down one by one, handling them as gently as she'd handled that ship in a bottle, wrapping them carefully, and laying them into the padding. She carefully sank each item half into the padding layer until it was covered, then placed the next layer over the top. Her years of packing and bringing her cello everywhere had given her a lot of experience in packing fragile items securely.

All of this took time, but Kitty simply kept working at it steadily and uncomplainingly, until she had wrapped the last dagger, the box nearly filled. As she carried it to the container, she suddenly tripped. "Gah!" Kitty staggered across the entire room in something resembling a quick dance as she tried to keep her footing while preventing the wrapped dagger from either taking damage or hurting her. She succeeded, and stood there shaking slightly from the sudden adrenaline rush. "The floor's uneven..." she said to herself in annoyance, as she laid the dagger into place and placed the last layer of padding into the box.

Kitty walked back over to the bed, slowly, until she found the uneven spot. Then she checked for the carpet seam and pulled the carpet aside. "Look at this," she grumbled. "The deck plating itself is misaligned. Probably some Starbase engineer.. I'd better see what's plugging it up, we don't want something in there going dreadfully awry." She pried up the plating, setting it aside, and peered into the wiring. "No wonder this thing's gone funny, someone's spilled a memory chip among the conduits, this could've been causing any amount of trouble. Kitty lay down, reaching deep into the hole, and retrieved the chip. "What's this?" she said out loud, perplexed, as she reached further into the hole and sideways towards the corner of some sort of box. "It's stuck... oof!" She pulled it up and lay it on the floor with the chip, then spent a moment realigning the conduits before sitting back up.

"Kitty, you're a bit of an idiot," she told herself. "If they're going to mothball the ship anyways, it doesn't matter much if someone spilled a chip into the wiring. Ah well. Let's see what got dropped in here." She retrieved a nearby PADD and inserted the chip, checking the files. "Orders from.. hm, just a list of 'orders from' and associated dates, so let's check the oldest one... what's this? Nice picture..." It was an old crew record from somewhere. Kitty scanned down the information, puzzled. "This guy wasn't ever on board this ship. When did this chip get dropped down there, anyways? This isn't an order, it's just a record..." She froze as the record ended with a simple instruction... Terminate. She checked the file attributes, checked to see who had written this. She couldn't read all of the complex identifier code, but she could decipher enough to recognize a set of characters used only by subgroups within Starfleet Command itself. Important stuff.

Kitty slowly paged down the rest of the file, eyes widening as a different writing style picked up, making proper notes and plans and then detailing how the man was... killed. It had been written out in an emotionless, descriptive manner that gave her the shivers. She was almost afraid to continue paging down to the ending... a growing dread in her heart told her that she already knew who'd done it. She didn't feel any better when she saw confirmation that the last editor of the document was Telek Sulan.

The PADD dropped from her fingers and clattered on the bit of floor where she'd stripped the carpet away. "Oh god..." Kitty gasped in horror. "She killed him. Under orders."

"She was telling the truth."

Kitty scooped up the PADD, checking the next orders file. A bright old Admiral with a kind-looking face... a record... Terminate. Another description of precisely how it was done. Each 'orders' file went the same way. A young man just out of the Academy. A middle-aged woman, science officer on her vessel. Pillar of her community. This man was a first officer trying to make a new life after fighting a terrible addiction. This woman had an infant son... _Oh, Sulan, tell me that you didn't..._

She did.

Kitty read on, helpless, unable to stop, seeing name after name, until the tears in her eyes made it difficult to read. She saw each person in her mind, in her vivid imagination, on one side... and on the other, she kept seeing that scene in her mind of the young girl in the run-down shuttle, the woman returning to her worst memory to see her parents one more time... "How?" she asked softly, a tear running down her cheek now. She remembered something Sulan had said about someone who would be coming after her. "Flash-written with the same programs..." And again, about fighting the lethal response that would usually follow being struck. "Perhaps she didn't have a choice," Kitty said to herself softly. "That must be it. Those programs, the distance she keeps from them now that she can control it... she couldn't have done all this of her own volition. She simply couldn't have...

Then Kitty gasped as she saw the last record, the crew picture, Hannah O'Driscoll smiling up from the little square. "Oh no..." she said softly, reading down the record, the order, the beginnings of notes made... And then Sulan's notes ended abruptly mid-sentence with the single word No. And that was it. No exclamation points or emphasis, nor repetition, nor sign of internal struggle was left on the file... just the word No. And nothing further.

She could bear no more. Kitty let the PADD drop to the ground again as she curled up and burst into tears. She cried for the victims and for the murderer, for all the awful things she'd read and the sudden stop to them. When she finally began to calm into hiccups, lying on the carpeted floor, she looked at the PADD, but didn't reach for it.

"What am I going to do with you?" she asked it between hiccups. "You're the proof. She said she couldn't prove it, but this together with her statement is proof that there was someone giving her orders. But it's more than that.. it's proof that she's a k-.. a killer. What do I do?"

Kitty sat up slowly and pulled the box into her lap. She opened it up to see that the contents were very similar to what she'd already quietly expected... rows of tiny poison bottles, a thin wire, some sort of specialized knife... She took a deep breath. "What do I do with all this? It's not my responsibility... or wasn't, until I saw it. Now I suppose it is. This stuff confirms her story. So why didn't she ever show it? Maybe if I show it, that may get her into trouble... Yeah, but will it get her into deeper trouble than being stuck in the brig with an assassin on her trail?"

The debate raged in her head. "She's a friend... but she's a murderer... but those were programmed behaviors... How much of it was programs? Remember the corpses on the ship... But I did that too, I agreed with her... am I a monster? Is she?... What if I don't tell anybody?... What if I _do_? Did she hide this out of a vestige of loyalty to that organization, or because she's ashamed of what she's done?" She closed her eyes. "I need to make a decision..." She fell silent for a long time, then opened her eyes and rose to her feet.

Slowly and deliberately, Kathleen Black pulled a spare memory chip out of her toolkit. She headed over to the terminal, booted it in secure mode, and copied the entire contents onto it. Then she slipped the copy into the box with the poisons and wire and such, and settled the box in the corner of the larger box with Sulan's weapons collection. She sent for a couple of engineers and watched them as they carried the heavy box away.

A pleasant, cheerful-looking blonde woman in a Security uniform stopped her as she started on her way back. "Excuse me.. Lieutenant, isn't it? The Chief Engineer? Boy, am I glad to see you. I'm supposed to sweep through each room and make sure it's emptied, but I guess nobody knows how to communicate anymore and they didn't give me half the passcodes I need. Do you have the override for any of these crew quarters?" She paused by the door that Kitty had exited only minutes ago. "Yeah, sure," Kitty said with a vague smile, lost in thought, and tabbed in the passcode. As the door to Sulan's quarters opened one more time, the cheerful Security woman said "Thanks!" brightly and Kitty continued on her way.

Kitty returned to her temp quarters and spent a moment putting a message together. "These files confirm Sulan's story about being given assassination orders. Based on this evidence, I am inclined to believe her when she told me that instincts had been programmed into her mind that make it difficult for her to show restraint when she feels threatened. I don't know what to do with them, so I am hoping that you do. This isn't the only copy, and I'm keeping the original with me. I think someone, somewhere, probably won't want it to become common knowlege." She attached every file on the memory chip and sent the entire package off to her captain.. at least he was still her superior officer until further notice.. and she had no doubt in her mind that he was wiser than she.

Kitty wondered for a moment if she should go back to see Sulan in person, and realized that she simply did not want to. She didn't want to anticipate Sulan's reaction, and she didn't want to try to justify her decision out loud. She was tired of this, of confusion, choices, fear, terrible sights and way too much knowlege. She just wanted to go home.

So she made another set of copies attached to a message for Sulan to pick up whenever she got out of the brig. "Please believe that I've tried to do the best I can, as a friend, as well as in the best interests of the truth. I hope this will work out for the best for you, and I hope you won't be mad at me." She added the passcode to the luggage area that now contained Sulan's weaponries and Kitty's cello, and password-protected the entire mail. That took her a moment, trying to figure out what Sulan might come up with as a password, something she might know to think of, considering that it came from Kitty. Something they would both know, that wasn't common knowlege.

"Password: 'Elmer'."

Kitty came running into the shuttlebay, late, apologizing to everybody in sight.. the pilot, Evans, Ryylar.. "Ok, I'm here, we can go, I'm ready, I'm sorry!" Her decision having been made, feeling that she'd done the right thing the best she could, Kitty was upbeat and optimistic again.

Resting in a protective sleeve, tucked into a little pocket on the inside of her shirt, was the original memory chip.


Lt. Kathleen Black