There's No Place Like Home
Heart and Soul
Location: Andoria Northern Wastes
Tags: Andoria Wrap Up
The mission to Andoria had been completed successfully, but it was not a mission without casualties. Nobody from the crew of the Hera was seriously injured, save a dislocated shoulder for Commander Rita Paris that was currently being healed back on the Nebula Class Starships sickbay. Rather, the casualties today were emotional.
Flying over the icy surface of the frigid moon in the Runabout Selune, Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox and Captain Enalia Telvan were seeing to the mind of the one this mission had been the most important to: The Hera's Chief Engineer, Lieutenant Commander Thex sh'Zoarhi.
While Captain Telvan had stayed aboard, arguing with the planets seemingly intractable government to ensure the legal permission to explore on this, one of the founding worlds of the Federation, Thex, Dox and an away team snuck down to investigate a series of powerful telepathic calls for help that had come to the Andorian engineer. Calls that lead them to a hidden facility and an ancient, buried pyramid on the icy world. In that facility, over 200 Andorian clones being kept in stasis tubes for a terrible purpose.
After a pitched conflict that involved using all of their mental faculties to re-seal the eldritch horrors within that pyramid from escaping. In that conflict, Thex learned a number of troubling truths that the azure inventor was still struggling with. That she too was a clone. That she had been taken from that same facility years ago. That the memories of her childhood were fabrications.
In the chaotic hours since the team returned to the Hera from the abandoned facility, much work had been done. Conversations with Starfleet about the nature of that facility and the crimes committed there. Meetings with Andoria's security council and Thex to discuss the future of the clones that had been kept there. It was only the beginning of something that would likely take years for many higher-ups in many governments to work through, and Thex would be inexorably linked to all of that as a Starfleet officer.
But for today, the talks had ceased for a time and Thex had something personal that she had requested permission to do. A bit of much-needed closure and confirmation. Seeing for herself that place that she still remembered growing up in. Something Captain Telvan had insisted on being with her friend for.
From the helm of the runabout, Dox flew the sleek craft deftly through the atmosphere. "Lieutenant Commander, we're approaching the coordinates you gave for your village."
Thex nodded as she placed the water bottle down as she walked to look out the front of the shuttle. She remembered the mountain ranges with the one shaped like a finger scraping the sky towering high into the sky. " It's on the eastern side of the hot spring lake. " She said pointing as the lake which was still bellowing giant plums of steam into the atmosphere allowing this area to be relatively clear of snow and ice.
That was a factor that made Dox a little grateful. They had area-appropriate cold-weather gear, but the prospect of putting her EVA armor again for this wasn't something she was looking forward to, though all of their armors were stored in the ship's hold. "Okay. I'll bring her in for a pass. Sensors are queuing up landing zones for us."
Deftly maneuvering around the mountain range and over the lake, Dox brought the Selune in for an initial pass over what was described as the place where Thex had grown up, but what they saw as the smaller ship parted the swirling mists of the hot springs was different from those expectations.
Surrounding the hot spring was a forest of the small squat trees that were native to andoria. Several small furry grubs the size of a large dog were sucking the sap from the tree's thought they took a break as they stopped to look at the shuttle flying overhead. A faint heavily worn path lead from the lake in a few directions, one back towards the nearest city and another up towards the mountains. Along this path which the shuttle was now following came a clearing was the faint ruins of a perimeter wall could be seen. It had long since fallen into ruins becoming overgrown with thick foliage.
"This is one of the most pleasant and welcoming places I've ever seen on Andoria, and yet..." Enalia paused a moment to look over not just the landscape, but the buildings and structures in the area as well. "It looks like no one has lived here in at least fifty years - probably even longer."
Bringing the Selune down gently in the tall grasses near the entry point of the main perimeter wall, Dox pursed her lips and glanced over at Thex. While she herself had traumatic childhood memories she had repressed for years, that was nothing like what had to be going through the azure engineer's troubled mind. But whatever was to be discovered, Thex wouldn't be alone in the moment.
Thex breathed in deeply before she stepped out of the shuttle. This felt wrong somehow. Her memories of this place had the tree's far larger and more densely packed. The road had been cobbled not the hard finely ground sand that it had now turned into. Walking towards the wall she could remember falling as Vash had pulled her over and feeling the pain as she ran into the woods as the guards chased after her. " This place... it's changed." She managed to say as she heard her two friends approach.
While Dox had a tricorder on her belt, she kept it closedfor now. But the evidence of her eyes showed something she didn't need a tricorder to tell her. "Thex... I've read your personnel file. This looks like... far more than twenty some odd years of growth and disrepair."
" I guess it was all fake implanted memories, but this doesn't make sense. It was modern building materials it was made from, not solid stone." The Andorian said leading the way to the gate.
During their time on Andoria, much had been revealed to the troubled engineer about the truth of where she really came from. "All things considered, that's not impossible. However, the level of disrepair that we found in the cloning facility also indicated that what happened there happened a long time ago as well."
"Perhaps your memories happened longer ago than you had thought." Dox added, curiously, as they reached the gate. "But this is all still familiar to you? Why implant a memory of a real place that had been abandoned so long ago? Unless someone wanted you to come here... find something?"
Thex gave a shrug as she stepped through the remains of the gateway. " Perhaps or maybe they're just memories of the original me that they update in case they need to realize one of us." Thex said before pausing. " I've already started referring to them as us."
"That would make sense," Enalia began as she scanned one of the fire-grubs happily munching away at one of the trees not far away. Talla P’Trell, mentioned in the reports, is likely not only the original DNA doner, but also the memory doner as well."
"This is just a hypothesis, but..." the captain motioned towards a darker, partially collapsed building further into the small settlement that resembled a church or spiritual center. "A cult was founded for whatever reason, she acted as the center of it to preserve knowledge across generations, either intentionally or because of a variance in the system her memories weren't completely copied to you - only her memories of growing up."
"The better parts of the cult then helped you escape and forget about their world for a time, leading you to your own life choices," Enalia finished with a hint of that lopsided grin of hers. "But who knows what really happened now. In the end, you've become an amazing Starfleet officer and engineer with a host of achievements under your belt. That's something they can never take away and have no claim to."
" Maybe." Thex said as she stopped in front of one of the buildings. It had been a kitchen or at least her memories had had it as a kitchen. " I wonder why she decided to run. What were they going to do to her?"
"If she is the basis for your memories... the answer might be with you as well." Dox said, looking around and keeping her eyes and ears open for any potential threats as they explored further. "Perhaps when we return to the ship, Sonak can help you with that. He was... instrumental in helping me unwrap the memories I'd repressed from growing up. It might take a while and be unpleasant, but it's something."
"Unless she feels compelled to talk to you again through your telepathic sister." Dox added with a shrug.
"I may be able to help with that." Came a voice from the doorway of the largest roundhouse. Stepping out of the door was an ancient-looking one-armed Andorian who Thex new very well.
"Thavan." Thex said in a strange mixture of relief and bitterness.
Captain Telvan tapped at her tricorder and scanned not only the mysterious new arrival but the building he came from as well as the ones nearby. "That explains the sensor reflections under the foundations of the central buildings..." she muttered as she eyed Thex's Thavan.
Vash or whatever his name truly was raised hs one good arm. The space was his other one had been seemed to move as well before fading back. " I mean you no harm. I'm sorry for scaring your colleagues in Starfleet intelligence captain. I'm sure they're quite surprised on how I vanished from there care. "
"Thex's Thavan? You're who sent those files to Thex to begin with? The clues that prodded all of this into action?" Dox asked, a hint of anger in her voice.
" What do you want Vash? " Thex butted in.
" I can let you talk to you. This place meant so much to Talla. Her spirit is tied here as is yours." The old Andorian said before coughing out a sound that sounded like shredded seashells being trodden on. " Consider it a parting gift. "
With that the unAndorian andorian seemed to slide his figure over the air before the foreground of the roundhouse. A ghostly transparent yet visible reflection of Thex dressed in the finest garments available to bronze age andorians stood before her.
Watching the exchange, it all felt like callous manipulation to Dox, who had experienced far too much of such in her own life. Working to keep her own feelings contained for Thex's sake, Dox raised an eyebrow at the visage. "Talla P'Trell?"
"Yes, Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox- I am she." The ghostly Andorian said with a warm, reassuring smile. "I would like to thank the both of you for looking after Thex. She means a great deal to me, I think. She brought help."
"She means a great deal to us as well." Dox replied, deferring to Enalia and Thex, both of whom had to be bursting with questions as much as she was.
"She's... special," the projection said as she cupped the cheek of the very real Thex. "They only had so much of the original genetic material- there wasn't a lot of me left. So they made copies, from which they made copies, from which they made copies. Over the course of time, you lose qualities of the original. Then they instilled the directive in all of them- subliminals pumped into their tanks telling them to reproduce. If her sisters and aunts and grandparents and great grandparents can all be integrated into society, they could be a boon. All of them want to breed... because they were supposed to serve as hosts for the Dark Ones. But now... they could help our world, our species. We struggle to continue, and our birth rates drop every year."
"And what about her memories of her growing up here when this place has been abandoned far longer than would have been possible." Dox replied. "Are those memories hers or yours or one of the others along the way?"
"That was her great grandmother's memories, transferred down through to her by Vash. To give her a past, so she could build a future," the projection of the progenitor of the line explained. "Thex carried all of our hopes with her, although she didn't know it. We lived vicariously through her, and a few of the other escapees through the decades."
Thex raised a hand to touch the ghostly version of her from across time and space. " I only hope I made all of you proud. Know I can free them and they can live their own lives."
Talla smiled as she hugged Thex, a smile upon her face. " And I can finally rest. It's been so long."
"Right when I think I've seen everything, something else proves me wrong..." Enalia muttered as she continued her scans, her frown deepening as something on the horizon caught her attention. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it looks like a storm... Blizzard? Bad weather is forming almost on top of us."
Checking her own tricorder, Dox nodded. "The runabout is equipped to deal with that, but looking at the wind speeds, flying through it will be a bit more dangerous than not. Plus... the winter gear we're currently wearing will not be sufficient for the cold. Looks like we have twelve to seventeen minutes, tops, before the leading edge hits."
"And Vash? I'll have to report your location to Starfleet Intel," Enalia added with a hint of her piratical grin. "They should be finished processing the release of information to the Andorian government in around... I'd say seven or eight local years at the earliest. You know how Starfleet regulations can be at times."
" I'll we hand myself into federation intelligence as soon as I've finished one final task. Someone needs to be put in her place. " The ancient Andorian replied.
Thex held Talla for another moment before letting the ghostly Andorian go. With a smile and a wave, she faded away until no trace of her being there remained.
" Who do you need to put in her place?" She said turning to Vash.
" Oh you already know who she is." The Andorian replied before he as well began to fade from view. "Take care of yourself little one." his voice echoed one final time.
"What... does that mean, Thex? Who were they talking about?" Dox asked, more than a little confused.
The Chief engineer of the Hera suddenly felt a small lump in her pocket. Pulling it forth, she unfolded the piece of paper to reveal an old photo. In the image, a crew of a Federation starship wearing the late 2270's uniforms staring back at her. And one, in particular, was obvious indeed. She'd seen the short Andorian before in her memories and the identical face staring back at her brought a smile to her face.
"I hate to break things up, but the storm is moving in faster than expected. If we don't leave now, we'll be stuck here," Enalia called out, glancing up at the wall of clouds forming over them.
As the spectral images of P'Trel and Vash had vanished, it was only Thex, Enalia and Dox left standing there in the ruins of of a memory given to the Hera's chief engineer. As Thex returned the photo to her pocket, he three women nodded and headed back to the runabout on the other side of the gate. A few moments later, with Thex at least having some idea that she was part of something bigger than she had ever realized, the small craft took off from the surface, speeding ahead of the storm back to the heavens and the ship they all called home.
Many, many years ago, the creature known as Vash... no longer Andorian... smiled slightly to himself as he placed a small, cooing Andorian child wrapped tightly in a box in the doorway. It seemed so cruel to do this, but everything did have to happen or the loop would be broken. Backing into the darkness he waited until the noise from her brought the two imperial guard officers that would find the child.
Like Thex, Tivri had a part to play. Now it was all a matter of time, and the cycle continued.