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Firewall my brain

Posted on 07 Dec 2023 @ 1:52pm by Lieutenant Commander Harva Taliborn & Lieutenant Commander Cintia Sha'mer

3,001 words; about a 15 minute read

Mission: Miranda
Location: Planetside, camping site 1

It was later in the evening now, things had settled down. At least, inasmuch as they would, for the situation. One does not just dump a several hundred people starfleet crew onto a planet in the wilderness and have a nice, quiet evening. Though the remaining after-effects of the sickness still going around put a bit of a damper upon the general noise and hubbub. The Sirran had sequestered himself near the edge of the site, content to simply observe, and take it easy.

Sha'mer saw him sitting in the fading light and walked over. "Enjoying the view?" she asked softly. The planet was beautiful, in a strange, wild and somewhat lonely way. Sha'mer had always loved being out into space, but occasionally spending some time on a planet wasn't bad. She just didn't want to be stationed there and had fought hard to be able to get assigned to a ship's position in the past. Still, camping for a couple of days was a wholly different experience and one she was surprised to find herself looking forward to.

"Hm? Oh, hey Sha," the large engineer flicked an ear, offering a tired smile. "Yeah, it's - nice, being back on a planet for a bit. Gravity feels much nicer. Bit low, makes moving easier. Still - " he trailed off, shoulders slumping a bit, gaze returning to the distance beyond the camp once more. "Head full of thoughts. Not all of them pleasant. Nose full of blockage. All of that unpleasant. Still a bit of a headache."

With Harva sitting and Sha standing he was still taller than she was, though not by much. She looked at him sympathetically. "Well, you have been pretty sick, I'm sure it'll take a bit of time before the last traces of that disappear. I hope a good night's sleep will help… What thoughts are bothering you? If you want to share them, that is."

"You'll find out soon enough," he smirked darkly, focusing his gaze on her again. "You wanna put that firewall in, now? Figure now's as good a time as any."

Sha'mer looked at him and nodded. "With some luck it'll give you some ease of mind." She looked around for something to sit on as well. What she was about to do would mean that all her attention would be focused on his mind, with little left over for herself and her physical state. Sitting down or standing up wouldn't make much of a difference. But doing something like this would take time, and sitting down and relaxing would be easier on her body and her mind once she was done.

"Now, I don't really need to touch you," she said once she had found a chair and set it down in front of Harva, "but skin to skin contact makes it easier. It's the same reason why Vulcans don't like to be touched. What will happen is that I will touch your mind and… well, consider it this way. I enter your quarters, you show me around. I could open drawers and cupboards and closets, but that's not polite. I'm a guest in your mind. You show me around and tell me what you want to be firewalled and what not." She smiled. "The difference is that while you show me around, you have access to my mind as well."

"Uh," Harva flicked an ear. "I'm gonna need better instructions than that. I have absolutely no idea how any of this works, what to expect," he rumbled.

"Um." This time it was Sha'mer's turn to hesitate. "I don't really know how to explain it. You'll sort of feel me in your mind. If you think in pictures, you will see me. If you don't, you'll just feel an extra presence. You share with me the memories you want to wall off and I will make certain that it's done. Think… putting them in a vault and handing you the key."

A nod. "Alright," he agreed. "That I can work with. Yeah. Alright," With that he reached over a hand, palm up. She mentioned skin-to-skin contact, so he figured fur would get in the way and so he offered his paw-pad.

"For some it helps if you close your eyes," she said and took his paw in her hand. Hands, for his paw was considerably larger than her hands. She touched his mind with a tendril of her own, knowing that his mind would now feel a touch of warmth, a presence nearby – like the sensation that one could have of not being alone when standing in a dark room.

Then she opened the 'door' and entered. His mind, she noticed straight away, was a good reflection of his body. Someone without her training and experience would have a hard time – well, not entering, per se, any advanced telepath would be able to do that. But it would be harder to influence him or destabilize him, there was a natural resilience in his mind which intrigued her. It was a good thing that Sirrans, as a general rule, were non-telepathic, they could be a formidable force if they were. Even more formidable, she amended.

Well, here I am. She made no move to rummage around. This was his mind, these were his memories and she was here as a guest and as a friend, to help him. For a moment she wondered when the last time had been that she had entered a mind this way. A long time ago, long before she'd joined Starfleet. She sometimes missed it, that sharing of minds.

Welcome, I suppose, If Harva's voice was a deep, resonant rumble when speaking, the omnipresent thunder of his thoughts made it seem like a whisper. Flashes of images - seeing the attack on her through a red haze, feeling the shove she inflicted, seeing the haze clear up - the comm terminal in Harva's quarters with her face on it, now the camp, planetside - seeing herself from his perspective. And seeing how small everything was, relative to said perspective. A world made for children, populated by child sized people.

It took only a fleeting moment before he started thinking of the things she was going to lock away. It was as much consciously recalling those things as it was involuntarily - thoughts often went in directions without specific effort or control. The Starfleet Intelligence logo on a terminal - though with a title below, DUW. She knew what it meant without ever having heard of it before. The Department of Ungentlemanly Warfare. Harva was one of its agents. Assigned to Romulan space, living there on a colony as civilian. One of a few agents belonging to the DUW - how many, he did not know.

Said logo made way for text - cold, white text on a black screen. Instructions. Sabotage this system. Kill that scientist. Disrupt such and such project. A cold intelligence, reading the text, silently accepting it - a mission - memorizing it, before dismissing the message, and going in to the logs to ensure no record of the message remained.

Black clothes with silhouette-disrupting dark blue patterns on it. Sneaking, staying to the shadows. Breaking in to facilities, using the tech available. Romulan design. Every time. Romulan technology. Romulan guards - snuck up on, dispatched with dispassionate efficiency. Ruthless. Cold. Reaching his goal - different goals each time, depending on the mission. Technology - weapons projects mostly - sabotaged. Destroyed. Projects disrupted. Key scientists - all romulan - dispatched with the same detached efficiency as the technological projects. Files purged. Logs deleted. Feeds modified. Evidence wiped.

I was - ... Cold. Calculating. From time to time he would be spotted. A guard. A quick shot from a concealed weapon, always a stolen one - or a quick snap of a neck. It had to be done, That thunderous rumble of his words explained. And he truly believed it. He knew that counterintelligence was real, as well. Romulan agents infiltrating and sabotaging Starfleet projects. Tal Shiar agents.

Little of the jovial, charismatic, friendly giant that Sha'mer knew and called friend existed. That was a practiced, purposeful persona that came later. Not false, not fake, but deliberate. On top of the ruthlessly efficient person she was getting to know, now, through these memories - these missions. Then everything went wrong, on the seventh mission. Though he completed his primary task - another sabotage - he was caught. A fight broke out. Reinforcements. He quickly fired a shot at a canister, using his arms to shield himself from the massive explosion that followed. Immense pain, the smell of burnt fur, dragging himself to an escape shuttle, passing out ...

... Coming to in a Starfleet medical facility. Whole body bandaged. A nearby terminal, once again the SFI logo with the DUW title below it. A new mission? No. An expression of sympathy, and the announcement that his days as agent were over. That he'd be given a cover story. That he'd be given a choice. Retire from Starfleet, or stay on as engineer, after his recovery.

That's - ... Nobody can know, An added thought - he was just about certain that some of his missions, the Romulans knew about, or at least strongly suspected. But that accusing the Federation of the attacks meant admitting to the existence of their own projects, and mutual embarrassment.


There was little surprise in the small Sha'mer that walked along with him in his mind as he showed her these things, little surprise and only a cool acceptance, both of his personality – the difference between the exterior and the Harva he was inside – and of Starfleet's darker side.

When he showed her the actions he had taken, sometimes responses within Sha'mer's own mind lit up and she did him the courtesy of showing them instead of blocking them off. Glimpses of her own past, the place where she came from: the Vo'Sh'un Empire, lead by the ruthless hand of Emperor La'garn of the house Go'dral. It was located at the outer edge of the Delta Quadrant, far beyond where a lone starship called Voyager had once ended up and travelled on its long way home. Sha'mer – illegitimate daughter of the emperor – had been one of his 'special operatives', tasked with missions which frequently took her, either alone or with a small group, into places where her mental skills were being put to use. Places where she used her abilities to change her appearance. To enter rooms which were locked. To enter minds, influence them or, in some instances, kill.

The difference was that Sha'mer didn't believe in the 'greater glory of the Vo'Sh'un empire' and wasn't driven by idealism or the need to maintain a certain balance, but by sheer survival. She saw her chance when a younger half-sister of her ended up in the Federation by accident and carved a new life for herself before returning to the Empire.

Flashes of the Empire. Images of the homeworld, Vo'Shala. Images of the colony on which Sha'mer had grown up. The ships of the Vo'Sh'un, ranging in size from the average Starfleet shuttle to complete battlemoons.

She locked them away again. Enough of that. Let's get to work.

He controlled his impulse to wander, instead being a good observer and keeping his proverbial hands and feet inside the ride at all times, out of respect for Cintia. His basic reaction was to wonder about the mechanics, the logistics of this, and seeing what he could do - but he chose to limit himself to just watching what she chose to show him. Memories, not that different from his own - sure the background was different, she was doing it to survive, he did it out of ideology, but the end result was the same. He felt a kinship, and she could feel it in his thoughts. Do it, he rumbled.

Her hands tightened slightly around Harva's large one and her face tightened with concentation. She worked with surgical precision, placing the barrier in his mind, around his memories. It was like tracing a line around them, a faintly glowing line which separated the memories he didn't want to be accessed from the rest. Once they were all safely behind that line she activated the barrier and 'keyed' it so that Harva only had to trace his memories back to this point in time to access them.

Then she began the second part of her work, creating the false front of memories which were consistent with the story he told others. With the story he had told her, during one of their late-night encounters in Odin's mess hall. The story was there already, all she had to do was to use the building blocks and placing them in front of the firewall to hide the fact that a deeper layer, a true layer of memories was there.

Something Harva took a few moments to cotton on to, but he appreciated when he did. He couldn't help but nudge one of those walls as it was raised, or at least picture himself nudging it, but finding it completely immobile. Which made sense, it was placed there by someone with a far more powerful mind than himself.

There, Sha'mer said when she was done at last. If you want to add anything to the memory screen, you can do that now. In fact, I strongly urge you to walk through it and add some details of your own, just to make sure that nobody picks up on the fact that these memories were placed by someone else.

That's~ he trailed off, not quite sure how to go about it. Some thoughts though, and he started figuring it out. Some basic memories - some true, some he'd used as a cover story, went up on the memory screen. It was imperfect, but functional. It dressed up large parts of the walls, though some gaps remained where the wall was still visible. Still, she could tell this was very hard work for him and he was getting exhausted.

Nearly there, she sent soothingly and used his additions as a basis to cover the rest of the wall. A wave of her hand and the rest of the wall became transparent and seemed to vanish altogether And done. With that, she withdrew and released his hand.

"Thanks," he spoke, opening his eyes again. He looked beyond tired, the situation had taken its toll on him - especially considering he was not trained whatsoever in the ways that she was. His mind had always been his and his alone. He squeezed her hand before she released his and heaved a deep sigh. "That's it, then?"

"That's it," she confirmed with a smile. "Nobody who gives your mind just a cursory scan would be able to see that there's something hidden there, or that there's a gap where one would expect memories to be. People would actively have to enter your mind to notice there's something off, and if they try to break through the wall, you'll know." There were some interesting traps there for any daring telepath who would like to try something like that, too. "As for you yourself... well, you already had a false narrative for explaining your scars. You'll be able to see those as memories inside you, if you look at the wall, just as you'll be able to access the true memories beyond at will. For now, though, before you get some rest, I want you to eat and drink something. Ground yourself. This has been incredibly draining on multiple levels and if you don't do this now you'll pay for it later."

"Yeah, I will. This is - " he trailed off, now quite knowing what to say. What would one say, at a moment like this? Having learned and shared things, questionable things, with a friend - whom he had now learned was perhaps the only one on the ship who could understand where he had come from. So practiced was his false narrative, the front he had presented for years, that he had forgotten what it felt like to have someone who understood, even without the need for words to be spoken. As such he just said "Thank you," and left it at that, for now.

"You're welcome." Sha'mer gave a tired smile back. This had worn her out, too, not as much as Harva, but still enough to feel it. There had been a time, she realized, when she could've done this and more without breaking a sweat, but that had been some years and change ago. There wasn't much use for those skills of her these days. "I'll get you something to eat," she said and got up, returning some time later with a tray filled with with food and a jug of water. Plenty for both of them, even for someone with Harva's appetite. She handed him the tray and sat down again. In the distance, some people had gotten campfires going, above them the stars were visible, forming strange, unnamed constellations.

How strange that, after all these years, there was now someone who truly knew her. Strange, but it was something she could get used to.

A tired smile, "Thanks," as he took a bite to eat. Just, slowly, leisurely, without hurry or rush. After another moment he put his arm around her, gently pulling her a bit closer so she was leaning against him. No words spoken, just enjoying the moment. Very, very tiredly.

Normally Sha'mer avoided being touched, especially when she was tired and her mental shields were weaker than usual, but there was nothing she could pick up from Harva that she didn't know already. She relaxed against him, enjoying his company, his presence, and closed her eyes.


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