Two Minds Are More Paranoid Than One
Mission 1: Unscheduled Madness
Location: USS Orion, Small Conference Room
Timeline: MD03 0600
Eilaea returned to their quarters with two tumblers of tea in time to find Vriha, now awake and dressed, reaching into the recessed notch in the bulkhead to retrieve the one she had just replicated. A tiny gesture with one hand, barely possible while carrying the drinks, stopped that in its tracks. Despite the confusion she saw on the other officer's face, Eilaea still said nothing, tilting her chin towards the door and turning, waiting for Vriha to follow her out into the corridors.
Puzzled, but both trusting and obedient to her superior officer, Vriha left the tea she had just replicated and quietly followed Eilaea out. Given her recent strange dream, her mind swirled with questions, but she did her best to show nothing of that to any others they might pass in the corridor.
Eilaea led them on a winding journey through the ship until she came to an empty conference room. Once the doors closed behind them, she fished inside her tunic and drew out a small jamming device with an equally small radius--just enough to hopefully keep the conversation between the two of them. Only once the lights flicked on in the right sequence did she begin to speak.
"I believe someone is attempting to...observe us...aboard this vessel. I found several devices hidden in our quarters this morning and disposed of them." A pause as she took a sip of her now-lukewarm tea. "All inquiries to the ship's computer indicate no entry during the time they would have to have been placed and indicate we were both sleeping at the time. Our own records show only a momentary fluctuation. There were no physical disturbances I could find, beyond the devices themselves."
"Elements!" Vriha gasped, eyes widening. "I heard my sister's voice in the office last night, warning that I was being watched." She shook her head, still quite able to believe it. "I thought it was a dream ...that I had dozed off while reading... I ran every possible scan but there was no sign of transmission or transport or even the residual heat signature of another being anywhere nearby."
Eilaea began to simultaneously wish that the beverage in her hand was something stronger, and be fervently glad it was not. "Your sister..." she queried in a flat tone that gave away little; "...the one who is presumed dead after going missing during the Battle of Cardassia?"
"Missing, not dead," Vriha replied firmly. "She was never listed as KIA. A good section of her fighter was recovered, but no body. You know how fighters are designed. It's vaguely possible the self-destruct wouldn't have activated when the escape pod ejected, but highly unlikely."
The small nod in return was near-absolute in its agreement and acceptance of that last statement: Of all systems on their vessels large and tiny alike, the self-destruct and its associated fail-safe systems was possibly among the most carefully constructed and checked systems aboard. Barring the sort of once-in-a-lifetime failures Vriha was referencing, or destruction so complete as what had befallen the V'rela during her time aboard her...And yet even that, Eilaea knew, had been thoroughly studied by their engineers and scientists, to attempt to improve the systems. To continue to give them the best chance to assure others would not come into possession of their secrets and technologies. And for a small craft like the one Vriha referenced...Well. If there had been reason for a pilot to believe the damage was so severe the system would fail to trigger with the ejection sequence, the protocol was clear; they would never have abandoned it, but remained to trigger the sequence manually.
"But a transporter sweep, after enough systems were damaged to allow it to lock on, but not enough to trigger the destruct sequence...." Eilaea's voice trailed off as her eyes locked with Vriha's. "...Where better to acquire personnel from the other galactic powers?" She asked half-rhetorically. "Than in the midst of a battle of historic scale in which nearly all of such are participating?"
Vriha's jaw tightened but she inclined her head fractionally. "I have thought the same many times," she agreed grimly, and then continued, voice dropping to whisper and eyes darting side to side despite the measures against spying that Eilaea had deployed. "But also wondered if her disappearance might not have been staged as cover by some ...parties... within our own Empire."
"Not unreasonable conjecture." Eilaea agreed. "But I would doubt...such parties...would find us the most compelling targets to survail aboard this ship." Though she took a moment to consider the possibility, at least: Loval had seemed convinced that the two of them would end up doing his bidding eventually, somehow. Though if the Tal Shiar had someone aboard the ship, the way they were going about things was terribly inefficient. "There are others, however. Counterparts of such parties. Whose loyalty lies with other empires, and who would find us most interesting." Another pause, another sip of tea. "Though theoretically I suppose some type of situational cooperation between the two might also be in play. Elements only know what might bring it about, however..."
"And with all the factions and splinter groups since Hobus..." Vriha only suppressed an urge to wring her hands by clutching the now cold tea. She was torn between worry about their mysterious watcher's purpose, fear for her sister and fear of what she might have become. "Who knows if there is truly only one Tal Shiar? And even if Loval's organization is the only one to use that name, we know other powers have divisions operating outside their official intelligence services, and sometimes even at odds with them... with the chaos back home, such entities might take far more liberties to pursue their own agendas. Agendas we could barely guess at."
"Yes." Eilaea had had similar thoughts over the last few years before, more than once. But hearing them put into voice was still chilling. Her eyes flicked to the weapon at her side, then the one at Vriha's. "We need to assume we are under surveillance and potential threat at all times aboard from now on. Now that I've removed the devices they planted...Whoever they are, they know we're aware of them. Where things go from here..." One of Eilaea's hands unfurled and waved across the table slightly, in concert with a quick up and down of one eyebrow; as if gesturing to all the unknown possible paths on which they could now be about to embark.
"Until we can discover more, we can only take precautions ...and defensive measures," Vriha replied with the sort of smile that would make most humans back away slowly. "They clearly have advanced surveillance techniques and technology, but there are what I believe the humans would call 'old school' countermeasures they may not expect, as well as some ...more creative... approaches that can be improvised."
Eilaea, for her part, returned the edged smile in kind, along with a deliberate nod, lower her voice even moreso than before. “Within the schedule of our duties aboard, please begin immediately. I will do the same.”