Echoes and Effigies
Location: Holodeck 2
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1600
[MD 1: 1600 Hours]
Danni stood in front of the small group and thought, not for the first time, how different the Federation was from her own world. Self-defense had never been necessary since the Azhadi considered it an honor to defend those who chose not to fight for whatever reason. But those days were long gone, and she pushed the thought aside as she addressed the group.
"The techniques I'm going to show you were developed for hand-to-hand combat. My intention here is to show you how to defend yourself should there ever be a need for you to do so. We begin by standing sideways with your legs separated, about double shoulder-width apart, and your knees slightly bent."
She showed them how to stand, offering corrections as they were needed, and then finally, nodded in satisfaction. "Good. There are two things you need to know before we begin. Critical distance and bridging the gap. Critical distance is just staying out of range. That gives you time to plan what you're going to do and forces him to make the first move."
She gestured toward Kestral. "If you could join me up here?"
Mulhern adjusted her stance as instructed, looking over at Balsam once True had moved to the front of the group. "I'm glad it's not just me in this class," she whispered warmly to the cadet. "Maybe you could go easy on me if we get paired up?" Sheila smiled before turning her gaze back to True and Kestrel. She sensed they were about to demonstrate the aforementioned tenets of critical distance and gap bridging and didn't want to miss it.
Kestrel all but bounced her way over to Danni, a warm grin lighting her features. The bubbliness of the Argelian was deceptive. As a tactical officer, Kestrel was well trained and a solid match for Danni to use during the demonstration. But her almost joyful nature made her come off as slightly naive -- a contrast and contradiction all in one. With quick steps, she settled into a mirroring stance beside True.
Noah Balsam glanced up at the words, If you could join me up here? in mid-reverse punch. He frowned at how... clownish... it seemed to be as an attack. The engineering was there! Rotation generates increased power. Absolutely. But was it practical? Distracted by some of the preparatory holo-feeds he'd watched on basic Federation self-defense, he watched Kestral sidle up through the small grouping. He pushed a breath up into his bangs when he realized True hadn't been asking him.
His gaze met Mulhern when she spoke. And Noah blossomed his wide goofy smile. "I'm-I'm just glad she didn't choose me to practice on," he mused to Sheila. He nodded enthusiastically at being a fellow Engineer's partner. "Uh, deal."
Noah fidgeted at the wrap-like form of his Gi lapels, unsure why it dipped unnecessarily low on his sternum. He wished he'd just worn a SOJO shirt under it. A stray thought lightninged into Noah's brain and he grimaced at the possibility that Lieutenant True might have other partnerings in mind. He leaned to Sheila and looked around the room. "At-at least it's not all Security personnel."
"True enough," Sheila nodded. "Out here in the Delta Quadrant, we need all the help we can get, I think," she smiled over at Noah before training her eyes on True and Kestrel again. In her mind, her thoughts went back to dodging drones in the engine room, leaping over and under energy beams meant to disable the crew. Then it was Vidiians, strolling through the halls of the ship and waiting to jump out and steal her organs. With a shudder, she realized she had a lot of reasons for wanting extra security training.
"Critical distance," Danni said, "is just staying far enough away from your attacker so that he can't just ... there is an idiom for this but I don't know it ... strike you suddenly before you're prepared." She moved back from Kestral, far enough away that a leg or arm couldn't be used to take her down suddenly. "Bridging the Gap is just how to cover the distance to move into and out of that critical distance. Now, let's apply this."
"Suppose someone grabs you from the front," Danni said and gestured for Kestral to grab her top. When she did so, Danni immediately grabbed her arm at the wrist, pinning her hand into place against her chest while she placed the palm of her free hand under Kestral's chin and gently pushed her head back. "Mind the strength you use in this move ... but the idea is that when you control the head, you control the body. But before we practice this, I have a few things to say."
She released Kestral from the hold and gestured for her to return to the group. "Life is precious and cannot be replaced. Use only the force that is necessary to defuse the situation. Pushing the head back sets up your attacker for a second move which I will also show you. It's always better unless you are security and it's your job to stand between the crew and harm, to avoid rather than check the person's actions. If you can't do that, then check rather than cause physical pain. Cause physical pain rather than cause serious injury. Cause serious injury rather than kill. That's paraphrasing an old Earth martial arts practice called Kung Fu and I use it here because it was easier than trying to translate the teachings from my own world." She smiled sheepishly. "Translating isn't easy for me and my native tongue is not in any Federation database. So now, everyone should pair up and try just that one move. One grabs, one reacts and then vice versa."
Brown eyes dancing, Kestrel popped her eyebrows at Danni as if she hadn't just rendered her perfectly harmless with a singular defensive move. "Partners?" she asked. She'd only just stepped back with the rest so was more than happy to pair back up.
Danni nodded at Kestral and gestured for her to come closer.
Obediently- but not without some trepidation- Noah assumed the position of the attacker so that Mulhern could subdue him. He mimicked Kestrel's actions- if a little lacking in thrust and killer instinct- and in novice fashion slightly delayed until it seemed like Mulhern was going to definitely be able to intercept him.
Sheila did, indeed, grab the stick bug's arm, gently moving it into the same position she'd seen True use on Kestrel. It felt too easy, though, and she imagined that Noah wasn't exactly going to come at her full force right away. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied True watching them and asked, "How was that?"
"Come on," Danni said to Kestral and gestured toward Noah and Sheila. She stood next to Noah and Kestral stand next to Sheila. "All you're doing here," she said to Noah, "is grabbing her shirt front. It's a common move among bad guys everywhere. You do her no favor by going slowly in this, she needs to learn to react, just as you do. So, step in again as though you mean it. All you have to do is grab the shirt. That's it."
Kestrel positioned herself next to her roommate and shot the other wan a warm grin before turning to Danni just in time to snag the Azhadi's arm and twist it up against her chest. It was a close thing that she would have held better had she not stopped to glance at Mulhern first. She held Danni's arm firmly in her own for a moment longer than expressly required, leaning in toward the woman, a sort of wild grin on her face, before releasing her.
Danni found herself laughing in response and answered Kestral's smile with one of her own as she reached out and gently stroked the bottom of her roommate's chin.
He was found out by the observant woman and he nodded with respect. "Sorry I just thought for the first time..." He nodded again. "I'll try again." Noah tried to imagine the old tough guy movies and holo-theatre from Earth, from Mars, the Izar Colony. He was no John Wayne, no Liam Neeson, no Argus Ischenko. But he tried. Noah executed a slow breath and dropped into the back stance position Danica had been showing, and he'd been trying to emulate. Then he rushed forward and went to seize Sheila's Gi lapels. He wasn't sure what to do next except improvise.
"That's good, Noah," Danni said. "Now just wait. This is for Sheila's benefit."
Sheila was ready for it but Noah moved even more quickly than she'd anticipated. She hadn't been able to grab his arm this time but did succeed in twisting her body, keeping her lower half locked in place in her stance while presenting a twisted side-profile to Noah, making it much more difficult to grab her lapels. Instead, she grabbed an errant wrist that had been reaching for her front and swung Noah around. Not hard enough to send him flying but, should he stumble, he'd definitely fall into the mats.
And he did. Noah went to the mat on his knees and ultimately, his lip. "G-good one," he said. He planted his feet and brought his tall lank up to standing. And then tugged his Gi back in place.
Danni saw the move and came over. "Interesting move, Sheila, but you've lost control of the situation. You pushed him away and now he gets to plan another attack. Remember what I said. He grabs your shirtfront, and you grab his wrist, bring your free hand up, palm under the chin, and push back gently because this is Noah and we don't want to hurt him. If you were actually fighting, you'd put more strength into the move. This is only the first step, once you get this we'll add the second part."
"Right," Sheila nodded, taking the correction seriously and poising herself to go again. This time, she presented her front to Noah and waited for him to move. As his hands felt for and latched onto her gi, Sheila reached out to grasp his wrist with her left hand, then brought her right up in an approximation of how Danni had demonstrated the move earlier. Her palm met Noah's chin but made only the slightest of contact.
"Excellent," Danni said to the pair, "and now, you switch. Sheila, you grab and Noah you respond."
Engineering was rather calm today and Margarar had made certain that Noah was off schedule when she was on. In this manner, she did not have to see the stinky, annoying cadet much. If she had her way, the cadet would be thrown out of the academy. Adding insult to injury, they shared the same room. And the Gods forbid that the cadet have one ounce of self-respect. After all, Noah could not handle anything for himself. He had to involve others. Gods knew why their roommates preferred him.
However, while in engineering, Margarar noticed that Holodeck 2 was having some power fluctuations. After running some initial diagnostics in engineering, the Antican could not find the source. Perhaps someone was doing something unauthorized in the holodeck.
The Antican headed over there and walked on in. There, she saw Noah. Her eyes met his and she grumbled, "I should have known," under her breath. Margarar then looked around and saw the others. "Has anyone but doing anything unusual in here?" she asked, while looking firmly down into her tricorder, trying to get a sense of where the abnormality may be originating.
Noah didn't answer, his dark eyes simply avoiding his bully and demuring to those of higher rank. He didn't know of anything strange- other than the odd anomaly in Computer Control that had happened at the beginning of his shift four hours ago. And that had led to a dead-end, an incident report filed and carbon-copied for review by his superiors- along with an hour-long diagnostic of the Computer Core's holo-grid.
Having heard the Antican's comment and seeing Noah's response, Danni instinctively stepped around and in front of the young engineer. To an Azhadi, a brilliant and gentle spirit such as his was meant to be protected and so, she put herself between him and the ship's Chief Engineer before she even realized she'd done so. "No," she answered quietly.
"Then perhaps you can explain what you all have been doing in here," Margarar replied bluntly, as normal. "I have been receiving some intermittent abnormal readings."
"We have done nothing that would affect the ship's systems," Danni said quietly. "Perhaps you could be less ... intrusive?"
Sheila's voice caught in her throat as she watched True square off against the Antican. Most folks seemed content to let the assistant chief engineer walk all over them -- likely because of the woman's position onboard -- but True didn't seem to flinch one bit. She admired that.
"No, Lieutenant True, I cannot be less intrusive. There is a mystery that requires solving. If I could have done it remotely, I would have done it." Margarar waved a paw-like hand in her direction, telling True to go about her business. "Just continue whatever it is you were doing and I will continue my tests. I'll only interfere if there's something that leads me towards the problem's solution."
Noah had been trying to steel himself to say something and finally found enough. "Do-do you need assistance, Ma'am?" His soft voice added to the mix. The mystery she mentioned was what pushed him over the edge. "We had an anomaly in-in the computer core. Around Lunch. Is this related?"
Kestrel had held back, but her eyes followed Danni as if the other woman were a guide to what steps to take. She noted the protective stance of her friend and took up a similar position slightly back and to the side where she could, if necessary, step in front of Sheila.
Before Margarar could answer, the double doors of the holodeck groaned open again. Another Antican -- identical to the first -- walked in, a PADD in hand. She walked right past her counterpart and sniffed the air as if trying to identify the source of a pungent smell. Her nose brought her in the direction of Noah. "Should have known that smell was you, human. Cheese sticks, sweat, and cowardice: I'd recognize it anywhere." She looked around then, spying the two security officers looking as if they were about to square off with someone. "Teaching him to fight his own battles? Good luck!" she huffed and puffed with laughter.
"Security alert," Danni said as she tapped her commbadge while moving quickly, her Anakei reflexes in action, to intercept so that she now stood between the pair of them and her students. She stood balanced and ready for whatever happened next. "There is," she said, in a voice that implied threat as only an Azhadi could, "only one of your species on board. I have studied your people and I have checked the ship's record. So ... exactly who are you?"
Noah interjected, "Computer erect a containment field around most recent occupant of Holodeck." He stated, closing his eyes to make sure he said every word quickly and clearly. He looked at Lieutenants True and Kestrel. "This-this happened earlier. In the computer lab."
"I didn't see any notice of it come through Security," Danni said, frowning slightly. "I'll have to check on that when there's time." She returned her attention to the intruder. "Computer, run a scan on the intruder currently being contained on the Holodeck."
Margarar looked at the other one of her with wide eyes. She tilted her head curiously and started a scan. "Where did you come from?" she asked the new version of herself. Then turning to Noah, Margarar pointedly asked him, "If this happened in the computer lab, why did you not report it to me immediately?"
Noah gritted his teeth behind his lips, feeling the old phantom of their first encounter rising. "I work in the computer core, Ma'am. And I did. Did you read it?"
The computer, meanwhile, seemed to have some trouble with the commands directed at it. When asked to erect a containment field around the most recent holodeck entrant, the computer did as instructed, throwing up a security field around Margarar. However, the Margarar it ensnared was the first who entered the holodeck, as if the computer did not recognize the newer version that'd come in. And when the request for a scan was made, an error sound bleated back, followed by "Unable to comply. No intruders are present."
"But...she's right there," Sheila pointed to the second of the Margarars. "We're literally looking at her right now," the engineer said with some degree of frustration.
"Please restate request," the computer unhelpfully intoned.
Meanwhile, the second Margarar wasn't one to just stand around while people talked about her instead of to her. Turning to look at the first Antican, she sniffed the air and then bared her fangs. "You consort with them? These weak humanoids who offer so little? Amazing," she said with sarcasm before turning back to True and the others. "I will bear no more of your idiocy," the Antican said, striding towards the doors of the holodeck, intending to leave.
"Read it? I never got it," Margarar insisted. There were many things that Margarar thought of Noah, but a liar was not one of them. When the second Margarar accused her of consorting with weaklings, the first Margarar growled irritably and said, "You are a poor imitation. This is my pack and you will not insult it. I demand that you rescind your accusation." The hairs on Margarar's side started to stand out more, making her head appear larger. "And you will tell me where you came from doppelganger!"
"Poor imitation, tha-that's what it's like..." Noah said at once, waving a finger at the Antican double. "It-it was like seeing a caricature of my-myself, trying to act like me. Just like this one. But it's exaggerated. Something uncanny valley." He chewed his lip. He wasn't quite sure how to explain it. Noah studied the figure the computer had failed to contain, slowly back-stepping toward the Holodeck wall. His eyes darted to its black and yellow checkboard grid, falling on the subtle panel seam that was an access node.
Though the Argelian had remained quiet and at the ready through the whole strange exchange she spoke now. "Computer, identify the person closest to the arch." She was curious if the computer recognized the duplicate as if she were the acting chief engineer, or if it didn't see her at all.
"Requested holodeck occupant is Lieutenant Margarar, Assistant Chief Engineering Officer," the computer replied. The response may not have been entirely helpful as, clearly, there were two Margarars. Which one did the computer mean?
The second Margarar, meanwhile, stared back at herself. "I shall do nothing of the sort," she huffed in response to the notion of taking back her accusations. "I meant every word I said." The comment sounded steely; dangerous and extreme given the growls that followed. "It is you who are the imitation," the Antican groused, baring her teeth at her doppelganger. "But I'm done with all of you. I shall be reporting this directly to the Captain." And with that, the second Margarar stepped through the now open holodeck doors and began to stride down the hallway.
"C-computer, release the containment field on Holodeck occupant," Noah stated. He wheeled for the grid pattern and opened the access panel with a couple of deft touches.
Kestrel dropped from her hold onto motion, glancing at Danni and coming to the woman's side. "Divide and conquer?" she asked, waiting for instructions.
"We're in pursuit. Notify the Bridge," Danni said to Noah and then turned to Kestrel. "We'll have to follow," Danni said, already in motion. "If the computer doesn't recognize her and can't contain her, then I'm thinking we won't be able to either, but we have to try." She moved out the door, following the Margarar, and as she did so sent instructions to shipboard security both to take up stations along the route and to protect the important areas of the ship.
"On it," Noah stated over his sloping shoulder, his fingers already active on the panel before him.
The Argelian tactical officer was immediately on Danni's heels, following her friend out the door, but then pausing to glance both ways. The fake Margarar was already, somehow, out of sight. "Which way?" she asked Danni, confusion in her tone.
Danni came to a stop, looking in both directions, and sighed as she looked down the long stretch of hallway. "It's unlikely the intruder could have gotten that far ahead," she said. She turned back to Kestral and said, " Do me a favor and release the class? I'm going to notify the Bridge and then do a deck-by-deck sweep of the case just in case. Look for anything that isn't supposed to be onboard ... equipment, rude extra Anticans, candy wrappers ... anything."
Kestrel's confusion turned quickly to agreement as Danni described what she planned to do, though by the end she couldn't help a small giggle. "The candy wrappers... just can't trust 'em." She grinned broadly at her superior and then turned to head back into the holodeck, glancing once over her shoulder to flash that broad grin one more time.
She smiled at Kestral, the warmth of edun surrounding her for a moment, and then started issuing instructions as she went. She informed the Bridge first and then set about organizing security for the sweep. No corner of the ship would be left unchecked.
The returning whoosh of the holodeck doors brought the remaining occupants' heads all facing her direction and Kestrel's grin dimmed slightly as she shifted toward a more business-like demeanor. "Gone," she said at the questioning looks. "No way that she could have moved out of sight that quickly. Lieutenant True is going to do a sweep, but asked me to release the class here in the meantime. We'll reconvene to complete the training at a later time."
Sheila looked disappointed and intrigued all at the same time. "Sorry, the lesson got short. Probably for the best...Noah was going to wipe the ground with me," she chuckled, reaching out to pat the stick bug on the back. "Strange, that other Margarar though," the engineer said, looking back towards the real deal. "Ma'am? I'm technically off duty but if you need anything given all this," she waved her hands in the air to indicate the doppelganger situation, "I'm here."
Noah was meanwhile chewing at the data he was peering at in the Hologrid's log panel. His fingers were flurrying, scrolling, swiping, and examining. There was a systemic disruption in its operation right around the time the second Margarar came in. He glanced back at Sheila and skirted Margarar with a nod. "N-no I wouldn't have but thanks for saying it Sheila." He straightened and fixed his Gi. "I've got to keep practicing but... take a look at this data." He stepped back to let them see.
Margarar took the access panel space from Noah without a word. Her eyes were narrowed and her skin was bristling. She growled, "I will find out what happened here if it is the last thing I do." Her sharp canines drew out from her mouth as her lips slipped under. Looking at the data and then sharply at Noah, she growled, "You're with me. I want to know everything that you know about your other experience with a doppelganger. We will be coordinating scans and data from the two events so we have something intelligent to tell the Captain. Understood?"
Noah chewed the inside of his cheek. What more could he add that hadn't been in his incident report. Still, he nodded his head in assent. "Ma'am."
=/\= Joint post by... =/\=
Lieutenant Danica True
Chief Tactical/Security Officer
Assistant Chief Engineer
Lieutenant JG Kestrel
Ensign Sheila Mulhern
Midshipman Noah Balsam