Dox's Leap 7: Be Careful What You Wish For
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse - The Worldship, Bar and Grill
Reality coalesced around Mnhei’sahe Dox again as the Bulukiya particles saturating her body moved her to another timeline with the same telltale moment of disorientation as the increasingly more weary Romulan pilot blinked for a few moments.
Looking around, she wasn’t immediately sure WHERE she was this time, aside from that she appeared to be on a space station of some sort. Or, at least, it was no ship class she was familiar with. She was standing in what appeared to be the corridor of a docking arm, based on the shimmy of the decks beneath her feet and the general construction, which immediately brought back memories of her time on the Smuggling ship she had been raised on. Taking a breath, she had just been to a reality back on that particular ship and she hoped this wasn’t a repeat performance.
As she walked down towards the open hach at the end, she could hear the sounds of bustling individuals and a concourse or promenade of some kind, and the location was beginning to seem familiar. But the one thing she was sure it wasn’t, was a Starfleet station.
Taking off her tunic as she reached the hatch, she folded it up in reverse and tucked it under her arm, hoping that the black undershirt and pants were nondescript for her to escape notice wherever she was. But the only thing she was fairly certain of, is that she would be encountering a version of herself before too long.
Looking out, she had been right. Outside the docking hatch, she was clearly in the promenade of a space station of some sort. The architecture wasn’t immediately familiar, but as she looked around, she began to realize why. Wherever she was, appeared to be a mishmash of building styles from places that all seemed familiar to her. The hatch itself looked like a Vulcan docking port she remembered stopping at as a child. To her left, the bustling area seemed partly constructed from a Cardassian station. Some pieces and parts looked like Starfleet construction, while others were Romulan, Breen and even Klingon. It was like a galactic bazaar.
The promenade was packed with people, seemingly from all over the galaxy. Every kind of being she had ever seen was wandering to and fro. An Andorian and a Trill she couldn’t quite see the faces of passed in front of her, and a group of Human Starfleet officers were down the corridor to her right, laughing.
Well, wherever this is, my uniform shouldn’t be a problem. Dox though, pulling her tunic back on, though leaving it unfastened as she slowly stepped out into the crowd. The promenade was very busy and the sounds of the crowds reminded her of the kinds of ports she and her mother stopped in often when she was younger growing up on the Forager. There was lots of drinking, dirty dealing and general activity all around her.
After a few minutes, she also noticed that more than a few faces seemed to stop on her’s as they passed. Which brought the Starfleet pilot’s mind back to where in this din her counterpart was. The answer came quickly as she heard the sounds of a fight breaking out on the mezzanine directly above her.
Stepping back to look up, there was a raucous crowd chanting and cheering for something happening in the bar on that upper level. Seconds later, there was what sounded like the sound of a cracking bone as the crowd seemed to call out “OOOH!” in near-unison. Then, stumbling back HARD, a fairly large Chalnoth with an unkempt mane of reddish brown hair doubled back, flipping over the railing and falling back to the deck right in front of Dox with a loud thud.
Moaning, the large warrior’s lower tusk-like teeth had been broken, and he was lying prone and defeated. Then she heard that familiar sound of her own voice coming from the bar on the upper level. “I kreldanni TOLD you not to touch me, Heqquis! Remember THAT... next... time...?”
Pausing, mid sentence, the counterpart came up to the railing and looked down to meet Dox’s eyes. She was a good degree leaner in the waist, with a somewhat more developed musculature overall. She was wearing black cargo pants, a black tank top and what Dox immediately recognized as her own favorite green, denim jacket. On the left sleeve of the jacket, appeared to be an ARTAN patch. Her nose was bleeding a light stream of green and her hair was significantly shorter, in an almost buzz cut that made her already large-for-a-Romulan ears stick out even more.
“Kreldanni Areinnye!” The other her muttered from the mezzanine, cursing in Romulan as she locked eyes on her Starfleet counterpart.
A few moments later, Dox had made her way up to the bar on the mezzanine as the assembled crowd seemed just as confused as her counterpart. Said counterpart, however, had made her way to the bar and was slamming down a shot of what smelled like a poor vintage of Kali-Fal.
As Dox walked over, she hesitantly sat on the stool next to herself, which caused the short haired counterpart to groan and sigh audibly. “Well, this is new.” She said, her voice a bit more gravely than Dox’s own raspy tones.
“Pardon?” Dox asked with a raised eyebrow. As she did, the weary looking woman in the green jacket with an Artan patch on her sleeve help up two fingers and tossed a thumb at Dox.
“You know. You. Looking like that.” The haggard Dox grumbled her reply as two shots of pale, blue Kali-Fal were slapped down on the bar, and without missing a beat, she picked it up and tossed it back. “I don’t have time for this Hnaev, so get to the point, please? What do you want?”
Clearly a bit confused, Dox looked around a little to notice that the patrons were no longer paying any attention to the unusual scene. “I… I don’t want anything, really. Except… I don’t really know what’s happening. Where are we? What are we doing here?”
“We’re doing... whatever I want. Isn’t that the rule? Isn’t that how it works.” The other Dox said as she grabbed the other shot, slammed it back, got off her stool and stepped right into Dox’s face. Inexplicably, she seemed to be a good couple of inches taller as she scowled at her not-quite-double. “Storytime is over. I have work to do, so tell me what you want or get out of my way.”
“I just want to know where we…” Dox started to say, before the other her brought her fist up with great speed and connected across Dox’s jaw. The world went black for what felt like only a second as the red-headed pilot felt cold deckplating pressing into her cheek. Shaking her head pushed herself up off of the deck of the mezzanine with wobbly knees.
“Imirrhlhhse…” She muttered, cursing to herself as she looked around, didn’t see her double anymore, and the crowd was pressed tight in every direction, seeming to pay very little notice to the short, Romulan woman who had been on the floor.
Seeing an empty chair, Dox climbed up on it to try and find where her double had gone, but she could barely make it over the crowd of faces that seemed to get denser the more she tried to see over them. Being nudged by a tall, blonde woman, Dox almost fell of the chair before quickly hopping down and trying to see where the woman vanished to. “Rita? No, It couldn’t be.”
Backing up to the bar, Dox rubbed her sore cheek which stung to the touch as she muttered to herself. “Fvadt... how long was I down for?”
“Just for a minute,” replied the bartender as he hustled to open a few bottles and deliver them to the waitstation. “But the redhead, she doan’ like nobody, so be glad she only hit you once and didn’t break nothin. You want a drink? On the house. Maybe some ice for that shiner you’re gettin?”
Turning with a bit of a start at the voice of the bartender, Dox paused for a moment as she processed what he said. “Uh… yes. Some ice would help. And, yes. A Kali-fal, please. So, you know her? She’s in here a lot?”
“She is in here a lot... drinkin’, skirt-chasin’, startin’ fights. So you got me- what’s in a Kali-fal?” The bartender smiled, his all too human looks bland and uninteresting as his job. He looked like a Security officer you’d expect to see at Starfleet Command.
Raising a curious eyebrow, Dox sat down at the barstool. “Romulan Ale. What she was just drinking before she hit me.”
“Rest a’da universe that don’t speak Romulan just calls it ‘Romulan Ale,” the bartender muttered under his breath, stepping off to fetch the bottle of pale blue ale.
Looking over her shoulder again at the crowd, something was bothering Dox that she couldn’t quite put her finger on as she scanned the room again. “Any idea where she went, then?”
“That one? Who knows? Could be Iceland or the Philippines or Hastings or...or this place!” The bartender smiled, revealing a dazzling array of white even teeth, which seemed somewhat out of place on his face. Although the smile somehow looked familiar to Mnhei’sahe as warning alarms started going off in her head, even as he poured her drink.
Watching him pour, she didn’t know what specifically was bothering her, but nothing about where she was felt quite right. “Those are all on Earth. I doubt she’s going there if she can avoid it. So… ‘this place’? What exactly IS this place. Where are we?”
“This? Worldship Bar and Grill,” the bartender gestured about grandly, his arms wide as if to encompass his description. “Best burger this side of Vega, best liquor without tariffs in the galaxy. Truck stop, intergalactic hookup hotel and smuggler’s paradise. I guess you ain’t from these parts, neh?”
“You could.... Say that.” Dox said, freezing mid sentence as she took in what the bizarre bartender was saying. The beleaguered Romulan knew the term ‘Worldship’ very well. Flying the Hera to and from the massive, planet sized realm of the extradimensional being known as Log’yerm/// was one of Dox’s first assignments as the mighty starship’s pilot. And it had also been her first encounter with the truly fantastic.
Looking at the unusually nondescript, seemingly human bartender that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up, she began to form a frightening suspicion in her mind. His rhythmic speech pattern and turn of phrase. Those oddly perfect teeth. The vague way he answered questions. It all felt far too familiar, reminding Dox of the first so-called ‘cosmic entity’ she had encountered in the corridors of the Hera.
The entity she still, in spite of herself and her wealth of experiences since, feared to speak the name of.
Doing her best to conceal her mounting anxiety, Dox continued, though the color leaving her cheeks betrayed her. “So… about that drink.”
“Here ya go. Top shelf for the out of towner,” the bartender set down a tumbler, then his eyes met hers as he poured the kali-fal flawlessly. “So... what’s your story, morning glory?”
Talking the tumbler, Dox held it up as if to drink it, but didn’t just yet as she glanced around the bar again. The faces of the crowd all seemed somehow familiar, but never specific. The hodge podge of architecture. The mercurial mannerisms of the bartender. And that both the bartender and her other self both used the same word, which was ringing in her mind: ‘Story’.
“My story... is that I’m just passing through from somewhere extremely far away. Other than that, it’s likely not all that interesting to hear…” Dox paused with the drink at her lips as she met his eyes, resolve replacing the momentary fear. “... unless one was the type to collect such things? Stories.”
“Awwww, now you know I doan collect stories. I AM stories.” As he said the words, the bartender spun once in place, on his heel, and when he stopped, he was no longer the drab and boring bartender, but the dapper-dressed, long limbed and brightly smiling god of stories, Anansi.
“Thanks to you, the one I know at least, I’m the god of dreams and stories now. So her story got real interesting, and she got everything she ever wanted. Happily ever after, as it were,” the mahogany-skinned trickster god smiled benevolently, fluttering his lashes.
“That didn’t exactly look ‘happy’ to me.” Dox replied, putting the glass back on the bar as she frowned. As she looked at him, she took a breath and thought about their encounter. How he appeared to her and Yeoman Dedjoy in the corridors of the Hera, offering to dig up all of her long forgotten secrets and give her all the answers she had wanted about her own past in exchange for the neural sensory expansion helmet that Mona Gonadie had invented. The device designed to help her navigate the swirling nebula that surrounded the original Worldship almost two years ago now. The helmet that somehow opened up her mind’s perceptions, drawing him to her.
He wanted the helmet, and offered a reward for her if she gave it to him. And when she said no, he forced his way into her mind and pulled out that reward anyway. The childhood memories that she had repressed of the surgeries that had been performed to hide her as half-human. The memories of her true name that had been taken away.
The experience had almost killed her, but that wasn’t directly caused by Anansi, but rather by the nanobots in her head that had been put there to help her mind process the input from the helmet that had malfunctioned when Anansi went diving in her brain.
Sitting there, Dox remembered all of this, and also remembered the threats she had faced since him. She had since stepped onto a much larger, cosmic playing field, and refused to hold on to fear or let it control her now.
“She gave you the helmet, didn’t she? You made your deal and she took it?” Dox asked flatly.
“That she did. Unlike your story, I see. Oooooh, you scared a’me? All I ever did was tell your story, give you da trooth. For dat you afraid of me? Hmf,” the gangly god of stories poured himself a shot of the kali-fal, and tossed it back with a wince.
Immediately, Dox wanted to protest and snap back that she wasn’t afraid of him. After all, in the time since then, she had seen and experienced so much that made her memory of what frightened her seem small in comparison. She had been in the mind of a Titan and once held a piece of that being within her. She had traveled through both time and now the multiverse. She had stood beside Goddesses and dined with Death herself. She had ridden on the back of Death’s spectral mount, traveling with her beyond the limits of the known galaxy and back in the process. She had seen the other side. But still, on some level, she hadn’t let go of that fear of the being before her, clinging to it like a child and she didn’t quite understand why. But she also knew lying about it would do her no good.
“I suppose I am. You showed me the truth against my will. Entered my mind without my permission which, while not your direct fault, caused a particularly painful and damaging reaction in my brain. When I continued to deny you your prize, you did not exactly take it well.” Dox said, working a first to maintain her calm before it began to set in for real as she spoke. In finding her calm, she made sure to center herself enough to focus on the mental defenses that she had learned and developed under Sonak’s training. Anything she gave the God of Stories now, would be her own choice. “But that was then, I suppose.”
Picking the glass back up, she took a swig of the shot and nodded at the being that she was considering now with new eyes.
“I ain’t mad. You got your story, and you made your choices. If I hadn’t told you that story, I wonder who you’d be now?” the trickster god replied. “Ain’t you learned yet that no matter what anybody tells you, most people don’t like the truth. It HURTS. The truth is never easy, it ain’t never pleasant and usually it comes in a big dose you got to swallow all at once, or it’ll choke ya. But I think mebbe somewhere along the way, you mighta figured that out fo yoself.”
Polishing the glass he’d taken a shot out of with a rag, Anansi then poured another shot and slid it down the bar to another patron, who downed it without hesitation.
“I did. I learned a lot of truths since then, and I’m learning even more uncomfortable ones now.” Dox replied, nursing her drink and realizing she was now just casually talking to the being she once feared so much. The red-headed Romulan looked down at the now empty barstool where her counterpart had been sitting as she considered what little she did know of the woman, before turning back to Anansi.
“So, she gave you the helmet and that helped you become the God of DREAMS?” She said plainly. “Is that what made it possible to make her dreams happen. I mean… this isn’t a dream, but it isn’t quite real in the traditional sense, either. This is… this came from her mind, didn’t it? It’s why everyone feels familiar, I’m figuring.”
“It is... at least, this place. Part real, part dream, definitely outside of reality, but close enough to cross over when she wishes,” Anamnsi replied with that devilish grin. “That’s why everybody looks familiar- they from yo own mind. Out there, the universe is what it always was. She just likes comin in here to start trouble and complain about her life. Seems gettin everything you ever wanted ain’t quite the same as havin’ it. Leastways to hear her tell it.”
Taking the last swig of her drink, Dox looked at the empty glass and raised a brow slightly. “I didn’t exactly get the chance to ask her about it, but I know what I saw.”
Looking back at Anansi, Dox pondered her own life’s paths and nodded slightly as she considered it all. “I remember where I was in my head when we met. I was a lot angrier and a lot less happy with the path my life was taking. Fvadt… I was a few months away from just quitting Starfleet when I came aboard the Hera. She was wearing an Artan patch, so I have to guess that she picked that easier path. That illusion of freedom.”
“But she keeps coming here… punishing herself for realizing her dream life wasn’t what she really wanted.” Dox finished her train of thought. In truth, much of it was just her working through what the God of Stories had already said, but without her counterpart still being here, she had to process it all second hand.
“So… you’re the God of DREAMS now? What does that mean?” Dox asked, genuinely curious.
“Dreams are just stories that ain’t happened yet is all... it’s all interconnected,” the God of Stories explained, humoring the request as it interested him. “So really not much of a change... old Morpheous is gone, so I didn’t have to change anything, just take over what was there and get it all workin again. Not that big a deal... but dreams are a lot further than stories. Dreams are unlimited, after all... “
Nodding, Dox looked at him with a raised eyebrow, “Then since this is part of her dream that went wrong… can you help her make it right? Get it working again?”
The animated astral entity clapped his hands and did a silly little dance before he spun in place. “THAT, my girl, would indeed be a story to tell. Because she don’t listen to me. She thinks I lie and twist what she wants, ‘perverting her wishes’. But I ain’t no genie, I’m just stories. The character in the story is the one who chooses her adventure. Problem is, she got no compass, no star to guide her. Everything she ever wanted, but it’s hollow, cuz she can’t figure out what to do with it. Even with havin it all, it ain’t happily ever after. Because ‘ever after’ has another page, and another, and another.”
Looking down for a moment, Dox fidgeted with her empty glass a bit as her mind worked its way through what Anansi was saying. Of the idea that while this version of her was given everything she wanted, it rang hollow and false to her. Dox wished that the other her hadn’t rushed off the way she did, but she was gone. So all the displaced officer could do was ponder the problem from a distance. And ponder the unexpected behavior of the being she once feared.
“Back in my reality… I was offered a lot from a lot of people. A lot of directions pulling at me. One was the path it looks like she too. The Artan fleet. Fly for the pirates, save reunificationists, be free.” Dox said as she looked back into the faceless crowd. “But I knew it was a dead end. Sure, I could have my own ship… my own FLEET. I could have it right now and be important and matter. It’s been… tempting.”
“If the story you gave her was anything like that and she took it, then she didn’t learn what I did back on the Hera. That an unearned life would be a life without value.” Dox said plainly. “But that’s my story.”
“Your story long and interesting, girl,” the god of stories intoned. Then seeing the look on her face, he rolled his eyes. “Girl, I ain’t even given you a spot a thought since that day! Doan look at me like dat, I’m just sayin your story ain’t a dull one. Maybe the story here was ‘careful what you wish for- might not be as good as you thought’, no?”
As Anansi spoke, Dox found herself letting out the slightest of actual smiles at his somewhat obvious declaration of disinterest that revealed quite the reverse to the observant Romulan. Not pressing the point with the enigmatic entity, she instead responded to what he said as she began to feel that now familiar build up of energy as the Bulukiya particles began to decay again.
“That’s a good lesson. And… I dearly hope she learns it eventually.” Dox said as she stood up from the barstool, presuming that wherever she ended up next, it was unlikely to also be on top of a chair of any kind. “After all, learning that lesson the hard way and finding a way to move forward? That would be a good story too, right Anansi?”
It was the first time she had said his name aloud since she had to give her official report on the encounter almost two years ago now, but this time there was no fear in her. That was her lesson to learn, here.
“That makes one of my favorite kindsa stories- the ones what teach a lesson... Mnhei’sahe.” It had been the revelation of her true name, buried in the trauma of her childhood mutilation and identity concealment measures taken by her mother to protect her from her grandmother., that Anansi had brought to her, and the coin he had paid in advance for the helmet which he was denied. Idly she wondered, as she spun off into the multiverse once more- was this the same god of stories, or the local version. Or since they were all stories, were they all just one being across multiple dimensions, multiple stories, all occurring concurrently.
A vast spider, seated at the heart of a great web, comprised of the stories that interconnect us all.
To Be Continued…