Shattering the Mirror
Location: LT Freya's Quarters, Deck 4
Timeline: Day 0 - 1300 hours
Freya looked at the masses of light brown hair on the floor and gave a grim smile. That was part one done, she thought, as she carefully applied the black hair dye. For too long, she had pretended to be someone she wasn't. The hairstyle had just been another part of the persona she had been forced to adopt. But no more. This universe's Freya Svanirsdottir was long dead. Time the universe actually knew.
Not long after, the dying process had finished, and, as Freya looked at herself in the mirror, she actually recognised herself again - almost. Determined, she took out the medical tricorder she had borrowed from sickbay after the mishap with her leg, and ran it over her left arm. A smile, this time one of genuine happiness and relief, grew on her face as the intricate lines of her tattoos were finally restored. The massive raven on her left shoulder, and the intricate tribal lines across her arm, signifying her descent from a long line of warriors, had been hidden by Starfleet on her arrival as her counterpart did not have them.
"Only one thing left to do, then," she said out loud, to nobody in particular. As soon as she had arrived in her quarters after being dismissed from the bridge, she had stripped down and thrown the red Starfleet uniform into the replicator. Only the rank pips and combadge were left. Just as the ship moved to warp, she had begun her return to her true self.
Now, standing there in her bathrobe, she slowly walked over to a locker that she had kept locked ever since she had moved into her new quarters, and finally opened it. She threw off the robe, and began to get dressed.
After putting on the tight black body that was the usual underwear for Terran officers, she pulled on the thigh-length black skirt with blue piping, showing once again her true department colours. This she followed with the matching tunic, to the collar of which she attached her Lieutenant's pips. Then came the knee-high black synthleather boots, and, finally the jacket. Somewhat similar to the Federation's uniform, it was black with grey shoulders. However, this was a double-breasted design, with blue piping along the clasp and the right shoulder bearing a clasp in the division colour. Finally, she clasped on the uniform's belt, to which she could attach all sorts of holsters and sheaths if she so desired, and slipped on the black synthleather gloves.
After giving herself a long, appreciative look in the mirror, Freya walked over to the table, where the two combadges lay. She had already reprogrammed her Terran badge to work with the com system on board the Poseidon, but she hesitated to pin it on.
Commodore Gregory Paladin had concluded the ship's departure, a positive experience had it not been for the abrupt forced departure of the original Lieutenant who was supposed to have the honor. Following the events on the bridge, Gregory was not a happy man. He had corrected the Commander in the best way he could, but the majority of the issues he now had were forced on him and he felt the necessity to act to correct them. To that end, he had departed the bridge, having a junior relief officer take the helm in his place. He had proceeded post-haste below decks, looking up and tracking down Lieutenant Freya's quarters. If this issue was going to be resolved, it had to be now, and soon, before it got way too out of hand.
With a soft sigh to relieve some tension, Gregory stood at the door to Freya's quarters. There was a feeling in his gut that told him that something had been deadly wrong ever since he saw Freya's reaction to him. He knew some of the events, some of the history, but he never considered that something of himself could be involved. It harkened back to his deepest, darkest fears in that moment as he watched his family suffer and die; the man that was him, but not. Thinking back, and finally having a chance to think properly on it instead of emotionally, Gregory began to connect the dots in his head. Freya's salute on the bridge seemed to be the final piece of the puzzle.
It didn't take a true detective to figure out that Gregory Paladin was the victim of some sort of twisted mistaken identity. He didn't know the specifics, but the man that killed his family and tried to kill him - his clone, his mirror self, whomever he was - was tied somehow to Freya. How much he was tied would be revealed very shortly, but Gregory wanted to move past this, establish that he was different, make sure Freya knew she had a friend, someone to rely on, not someone that wanted to hurt her.
Gently, he pressed the button on the panel for entrance. "Commodore Paladin requesting entry," he said for the greeting.
Freya nearly jumped when the door chime rang, and Paladin announced himself. What was he doing here? Why now? What could he possibly want? Well, there was only one way to find out - but she would be ready. She pinned on her Terran combadge, and clipped her katana to her belt, ready to draw. Then, finally, she called out for Paladin to enter, stood at attention, and saluted.
When Gregory entered, he stopped in the doorway. There she was saluting again. It brought a mixture of anger and sadness to his expression, the Commodore resolving himself not to react to this. Freya was clearly having some sort of breakdown right now, evident by her change of uniform, by her Terran outfit. He knew what that was, he was briefed after his incident, though he admitted he never saw the opposite gender uniform before. He took in a deep breath, stepped forward a few steps so the door could close behind him, then faced Freya with all the muster that a superior officer could gather.
"Lieutenant Freya, I am not from the Empire," Gregory said, his expression resolute, almost bordering disgust. "Quit that silly display of tyrannical imperialism and stand proper as a Starfleet Officer before your Commodore. If you have no respect for me, fine, I accept that, but you will respect the ideals and sacrifices of Starfleet's personnel who came before you to even allow you to be here."
Freya took a step back. "You say you are not from the Empire," she said, "but that is exactly what you would say if you were and wanted me to feel safe, is it not?" Nevertheless, she took her sword off her belt, and put it on the side table, before sitting down in her armchair. "However, I somehow see no harm in believing you, for the time being. Please, take a seat. What brought you here?"
The Commodore crossed his arms as he watched her, quite uncomfortable with the situation as his nostrils flared. A brief respite of the mind later and he decided to accept the invitation to sit, doing so slowly. His jaws seemed to clench and unclench briefly as his hand went up to rub his temple softly.
"This," he said, other hand gesturing around them, "all this. This situation, you, whatever it is you hold against me. I'm tired of it and sick of it. I have too much on my plate to worry about some lost puppy who sees in me someone they hate."
A brief intake of breath, an exhale. Gregory looked up, directly into Freya's eyes. "Look at my face. Do I have a scar? Do I have the scar? You have a medical tricorder? Run on it me. See for yourself. I know who you think I am."
"Scars can be hidden. So can injuries. But one thing cannot, and you know that." Freya stood, and walked over to the locker in which she kept all of her possessions from the Empire. She took out a little scanner, and turned back to Paladin. "If you are lying, you will not leave this room alive." She clicked open the cover of the scanner. "Do you know what this does?"
Gregory's jaw clenched in frustration. "No," he said. "But whatever it is-" his eyes bore into Freya's "-it will find I'm not lying."
"The Empire, for years, was worried about infiltrators from this universe crossing over and causing problems. So, they developed this." She walked over to Paladin and showed him the tiny needle in the top of the scanner. "It takes a tiny blood sample from any living being, and analyses its quantum signature. Your finger, please. This will hurt a bit, it is Terran technology after all. But it is infallible."
He grunted softly, not impressed. Nothing was truly infallible, if his history told any truths. Gregory presented his finger to her.
Once the pin-prick was done to his finger, he withdrew it and eyed her intensely. If she wanted to do him in, she had the opportunity to do so now. He was tired of the games, he had just started to move on in life, and Freya was a last obstacle of sorts to that happiness. It would end here, in either case, or he'd fight his demons to death again. This time, he wouldn't run. He silently maintained his composure, prepared for the worst as his body slightly tensed.
A moment felt like an eternity, until the scanner finally chimed and displayed a result. "Well, Commodore. It appears I really am the only Terran on this ship." She looked at the man sat in front of her. "But that leads me to a whole new question. How did you know about the scar?"
Gregory almost wanted to snort, but he refrained from such displays of aggression. Instead he looked away, hands folding before him as his head lowered. A moment later one hand came up to rub across his hair and head, displaying exhaustion that bore deep on a mental level. A hesitant breath, then a short sigh. He looked out the viewport window to refrain from having to look at Freya for the moment, not wanting the look of disgust to show to her.
"As you know, I was originally assigned as Commander of this vessel a year ago. Back then, I had a life and purpose; I had a family." His head lowered, gazing at his clasped hands, fingers toying with one another gently as he continued. "That was all taken from me in what was classified officially as a shuttle accident. You may of heard of it, it made the rounds on Earth Spacedock as one of the most recent fatal civilian accident in modern times."
Gregory cleared his throat, surprised now that no tears came. Images of Canaan erupted in his mind; their night together and brewing love. It provided him with comfort and support. He breathed another sigh, clearing his throat again of whatever sadness was left, holding onto Canaan - his image - for support from the demons of his past. It was a struggle, but he won in the end.
"Over forty-six civilians lost their life that day, a year ago, and among them were my parents, my siblings, my wife, and my kids. I was right there, too, watching as this masked man pressed a button and a detonation happened on the side of the shuttle. It fell, violently, flinging burning bodies still screaming out into the void. I recognized some of them. They recognized me in their last moments."
It was hard to keep the tears away, but he felt Canaan there. Holding him. The metaphorical projection of support was all he needed to keep the horrors at bay. He continued.
"The pinnacle of the monstrosity was when it crashed on the deck near me, I responded as any officer should along with several hundred Starfleet personnel. I was close to going in to save whoever survived, I saw my wife and kids, their burning bodies twisting and writhing in agony, and I almost made it to save them," his head and body turned, facing her as he sat then. His eyes were red, an amount of moisture.
"Then he showed up, stopped me, tried to stab and kill me. The man with the scar. Me. My doppelganger. It was like a scene from some horror movie. My family cried out to me for help and I was restrained and forced into a fight, punched and bruised and stabbed. I tried my hardest, but he didn't allow me to save them, he tried to kill me. I grabbed a burning piece of wreckage and finally got good hit to his side. I was too injured to continue, but thankfully Starfleet security had arrived by then, and he ran off cursing me. By the time I looked back at the wreckage, my family had turned into inhuman burning lumps. The plasma fire was that intense. They were dead, and he prevented me from saving them."
Gregory looked into her, through her, to see any reaction. Eyes searching. His heart was being spilled here, and it felt good. It felt good to face a connection to that demon, to share that pain they inadvertently caused, to feel the relief and release. To feel that love of someone new, holding him, helping him move on. In his mind, he held Canaan's outstretched hand, and took it as he was lifted from his pit of despair. The moisture around his eyes lessened. A single tear dropped. He was free.
"That nightmare has lived with me for this past year, along with every horror I witnessed in the Dominion war," Gregory admitted. "That has been my curse to exist, to be told I must admit the death of my family was an accident and not a murder, to not have justice. It brought me back here to the Poseidon, to seek that vengeance. But...things have changed."
As he said that, he turned and sighed again, gazing out the viewport. "I found someone to help me understand my pain, and that's why I'm here. I'm trying to let go now, because whether you like it or not, you're connected to him. I refuse to allow you to take my down with him. I want to move on and I want you too, because I'm not that monster, I'm Gregory Paladin, Commodore in Starfleet."
His head turned, gazing at her, waiting for her response.
For a moment, Freya sat in silence, before she finally spoke. "Commodore Gregory Paladin was the commanding officer at Starfleet Academy when I went there. It was commonly known that he loved to punish and brutalise cadets. Especially females. I ran foul of him many times. He hated me. A few months after my arrival at the academy, he tried to force himself on me, as he had done with many cadets before. Except that they had not been armed. That scar? I gave him that." She gestured towards the katana on the table. "Four times, this weapon drew his blood. But I never managed to kill him. Just over a year ago, not long before I graduated the academy, he was suddenly reassigned, and nobody ever heard of him again."
Freya, too, stared out of the viewport for a moment. "He was rumoured to have had connections with pirates, possibly the very gang that killed my parents. Everyone knew, feared his bloodlust. What you tell me now, it makes sense. The Empire must have sent him across intentionally. To what end, I do not know, but I am sure he was meant to take your place."
Falling silent for a moment, Freya looked the Commodore straight in the eye. "For years, it was rumoured that a Bajoran captain was planning a coup, and that she had some way to travel between universes. I am by no means a friend of the Empire, but I am an officer of the Imperial Starfleet. And I believe that Commodore Gregory Paladin has become a traitor to the Empire, which would make it my duty, as the senior Imperial officer present, to hunt him down, and to execute him."
Everything clicked then, Gregory nodding as he seemed to appreciate better the position Freya was in. She may be from another universe, but she was loyal to the empire she was trained in. Gregory could respect that.
"If I find him, I will no doubt kill him myself," the Commodore said. "I had planned this ship for that exact purpose, between you and I, with Starfleet's approval. We were to draw him out, find a way to, and I was to capture or kill him. New information shed's doubt that this is even possible anymore, and with me moving on with my life recently I'm not even sure I can."
He thought for a moment, gazing down briefly. Pondering if he should say any more than he already had.
"I believe what you say about him being a pirate makes sense according to what information I have," he said after that moments pause, "but I am unable to say anything further. As of yet my job is still the same, an instructor for this ship, preparing it for the Academy's uses as a training ship. What I've said before must stay between us, and cannot be spoken to anyone. Is that clear?"
"Commodore," Freya responded solemnly, "we have a common goal. And on my honour as an officer of the Empire, I swear that I will aid you." She paused for a moment. "You intended to lure him out? I believe I can aid you in that pursuit. My arrival in this universe may have been an accident, but it is beginning to look like it was an awfully convenient one for us both. After all, I am the perfect bait for your prey, am I not?"
"Perhaps," admitted Gregory. "If what you say about your relationship with him is correct, and knowing his attitude, I'd think it might just work out that way. I'll give you contact information for my informant in Section 31. I was debrief by the guy and I'm sure he'd love to talk to you. Considering recent events, I highly suggest you do so. We'll be on the same page then, maybe even have a plan."
"Very good," Freya said, rising to her feet. "I am looking forward to it." She took her sword, drew the blade, and performed a ceremonial salute, before holding it out for Paladin to inspect. "This, Commodore, is not an Imperial manufactured blade. It is, in fact, over four hundred years old. It was given to my family in our version of the Second World War, when an ancestor of mine led the forces that helped the Japanese take the last remnant of the Soviet Union out of the war. This weapon took the life of the leader of the Soviet Union. And I swear to you, it will avenge your family."
In that moment, the silliness of the occasion was lost to Gregory. In such an advanced society, traditions such as the one displayed by Freya were usually looked upon in a comedic sense, perhaps an understanding and sympathetic one; America day in the old United States being an example of a sympathetic understanding of old traditions. He stood, inspecting the blade, careful not to rub too much of his fingers on the blade. He looked back to Freya, then nodded.
"Very well, Freya," he said. "Now stand at ease, and get back to your duties. I expect our differences are resolved now?"
"Commodore, my issue was never with you," Freya said, returning her sword to its sheath. "Oh, there remains one little problem. I threw my Federation uniform into the replicator. Ridiculously uncomfortable anyway."
Gregory was silent for a moment, then gently rubbed his index and ring finger along the ridge of his nose; slightly aggravated if not amused. He hid his chuckle in the disguise of a cough, nodding towards Freya.
"Speak to Commander Johnson about that, it's his ship."
Freya laughed. "How about we pay him a visit? After all, we should tell him that we resolved our 'differences', don't you think?"
"No," Gregory quickly answered. "I don't think that's a good idea right now. Wait a day or two. Franklin isn't in the know about any of this and if we tell them it'll compromise the mission."
"True," Freya said, unpinning her Terran combadge. "Without the badge and the belt, this could almost be seen as a Federation uniform anyway," she added, chuckling and taking off said belt. "Maybe I'll just wear this to duty and see what he says." Finally, she pinned her Federation combadge to her chest. "There, he won't notice a thing."
Still chuckling, the Lieutenant went to her drinks box and pulled out the bottle of Romulan Ale that Sydney and her had shared the previous night, dividing what was left into two glasses and offering one to the Commodore. "A toast then, to newfound alliances?"
Gregory smiled, awkwardly at first, then shook his head. "No, I have a date with someone special this evening. I appreciate the offer though. I'll see you around, Lieutenant."
"Very well, Commodore. In that case, enjoy your evening. And please do inform the Commander that the matter is settled, and that I will report to duty tomorrow as per the established shift rotation." Smiling, she held her arm up in a mockery of the Terran salute, before downing one of the glasses of ale. "And I promise, I won't be late this time."
The Commodore nodded to Freya, then left her quarters. Canaan was on his mind at that moment and he intended to see him.