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Dox's Leap 8: The Senator's Granddaughter

Posted on Sun Aug 9th, 2020 @ 4:51pm by Arrain (Lieutenant) Pajom tr’Sahe & Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox & Deihu (Senator) Verelan t'Rul
Edited on on Wed Aug 19th, 2020 @ 9:50pm

Mission: The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse - The Senate Chambers, Romulus
Timeline: 2397

The vista for Mnhei’sahe Dox had shifted from a dark, smoky bar somewhere upon the Worldship where the God of Stories dweled, to a decidedly sunny day as the beleaguered pilot squinted against the dramatic change in light between leaps. Her eye was still sore from where the version of herself there had knocked her out cold with a particularly fast and strong sucker punch.

Any disorientation she had felt in past leaps was brief as she shielded herself from the light of the sun, wishing the inner eyelids Vulcans possessed weren’t vestigial in Romulans. After a second, her eyes adjusted and she looked out what she now realized was a window. An ornate, wood-framed window that stretched up to the ceiling showing her the teal-tinted sky she immediately recognized as Romulus.

As she took in the view, she was apparently in the center of a large city, though the buildings looked fairly old, with old stonework, columns and streets of smooth cobblestone that radiated from wherever she was outward, intersected by concentric rows of elevated archways. This wasn’t just any city. This was Ra'tleihfi. This was the Capital of Romulus. Which meant that she was in one of the offices of the Senate of the Star Empire.

Jerking around, she realized she was alone in the chamber, but she recognized it immediately. She had seen small sections of this room before. It was the Senatorial officer that she had seen in many of the holographic messages she had received from her Grandmother, Verelan t’Rul.

With her back to the great window, she saw that same, ornate wooden desk to her left with the shelves upon shelves of books running up to the ceiling. Old books with worn spines showing that Verelan clearly was well-read, and preferred the experience of feeling the paper to the cold light of a PaDD. For a moment, she considered that back on the Hera, even before Mona had moved in, of the few items she had put on display in her quarters, many of them were old books. Perhaps it was something the two women had in common.

There were two large, leather-bound chairs in front of the desk, and across the room on the far wall, a series of paintings of old Romulans Dox recognized from her time with Verelan on the Warbird all those months ago. When the noble Romulan senator had worked to educate her granddaughter not simply on the politics of the Star Empire, but on her own family lineage.

Three paintings in total lined the wall, with an image of the pudgy but stern face of Verelan’s now deceased husband, Gorath tr’Rul. With the thick but high-boned cheeks, she could see the ever so slight resemblance. His face looked old and thickly lined with very little gray hair left lining only the sides of his proud face.

The next was her great grandmother, and Verelan’s own mother who held this seat in the senate before her, Kalena t’Rul. There, the resemblance to Verelan herself was undeniable, with severe, high cheekbones and the same intense eyes and regal countenance.

Then, was a portrait, not of family, but of literal royalty. The next painting was of the First Empress of Romulus. The woman who once stole the sword of S’Task from the Senate floor and declared war on the Star Empire to set it right and, for a time, succeeded. Empress Ael i-Mhiessan t'Rllaillieu. Great Aunt to Charybdis MacGregor. A woman Dox had been hearing the stories of since she was an infant.

On the right wall, was the door to the chamber in the corner, and above that a closed over viewscreen just below the sigil of the Imperium, seeming carved of a jade stone that glistened slightly in the sunlight. The floor below was a brilliant black and gold marble that was polished to a high shine.

Looking around, Dox didn’t notice if there was a secondary door anywhere to a closet or private refresher, though she suspected there was a hidden panel obscured by that aggressive amount of moulding in the woodwork on every wall. For the life of her, however, she couldn’t easily see where any of it might be as she considered that, since the window was 7 stories off the street, if anyone entered the room she was trapped. Trapped and in a VERY obvious Starfleet uniform where the local authorities would have an hour to do with her as they pleased before the Bulukiya particles would decay enough again to pull her away from this reality.

From outside the old looking wooden door, she heard footsteps and faint voices coming down the corridor as she scrambled for a place to hide, but there was nothing that would do for any length of time, so she tried ducking down behind the furthest chair as the wooden door slid into the wall with a woosh. Clearly, the ornate detail was for show over more modern accommodations her in an official building within the capitol.

Doing her best to hide, she heard two people stopping in the doorway. The first to speak was a slightly familiar, male voice obviously speaking Romulan. “Mistress t’Rul, your schedule for the day. You have two meetings set. The first for an hour and half from now with Senator ir-Rahhn and another with the council after that. Once complete, I shall escort you to the academy after midday meal.”

There was a brief pause as Dox realized, when she heard the man say the word ‘mistress’, that it was Pajom tr’Sahe. The young Centurion on the warbird where Dox had been held prisoner, who remained loyal to Verelan, and had helped her while she was there. In her own time, tr’Sahe remained Verelan’s loyal aide and bodyguard, and it seemed he held the same place here. Until Dox heard the voice that responded.

“Yes, Thank you, Centurion tr’Sahe. That will be all for now. I will… call for you when I am ready.” Came her own voice as the door closed and Dox heard the feet step closer to the desk. But instead of walking behind them, the counterpart sat in the other leather chair across from the desk, fixed for a moment on the PaDD in her hand. She knew that versions of herself were the focal point she was drawn to in each reality she was visiting, but it was still a bit of a surprise each time.

As she knew it wouldn’t, her hiding place didn’t stay that way for more than a few seconds as the other Mnhei’sahe quickly spotted her trying to compress herself behind the large, leather chair. With a start, she shot up from her chair and quickly assumed a defensive stance with wide, shocked eyed. In that instant, each woman was clearly taking in the other with quickly darting eyes. The shocked looking woman’s mouth was clenched tight. Her hair was in a standard military cut, and appeared to have been straightened and dyed black, and she was wearing a gray, high necked tunic with long sleeves and a series of overly large buttons down the right breast, black pants and boots.

Standing up, Dox held her hands up and tried to not make the moment worse. “Uh… I know this looks strange, but I can explain.”

Speaking in Federation Standard, however, might not have been the best call as the counterpart sidestepped over to the desk, slapped her hand on the top and with a beep, a drawer slid open and she pulled a disruptor out and trained it on Dox, hissing in Romulan. “Then do so… now.

While the woman scowled, her eyebrows knitted showing just how much this bizarre encounter had her shaken. But it was the eyes that Dox noticed the most, as they were tightly fixed on the Starfleet Delta on her chest.

“I know it’s going to seem… impossible. Trust me, this is not my first attempt at explaining myself today… but… I… I am you. Another version of you from a different timeline. A different reality.” Dox said, switching over to her native tongue to try and de-escalate the situation as best as possible. “Like RITA.”

Watching the counterpart’s eyes, Dox saw what she was looking for as there was that quick flash of clear recognition of the name. The other woman tensed up even further as she took in a sharp breath at the name. As she did, Dox continued, “I was… exposed to these particles that have been… moving me across different timelines where I keep encountering alternate versions of… myself. Well… just like you. Different versions of me that had lives that went in different directions. I have no control over it, and double my time in each reality. This is… I think my 8th leap and I’m not quite sure how long until I vanish again.”

No matter how many different ways she tried to explain it, it always seemed impossible to believe even as she said it and hoped that she was at least mildly sincere. Meanwhile, the counterpart began sidestepping a bit closer to the door as she narrowed her eyes looking at Dox. “If I believed you… and it doesn’t matter if I do or not… what are your intentions here? I have to report this.”

Holding her hands out towards the counterpart that the Centurion called by her house name of t’Rul, Dox called out a bit. “Please, don’t! Wait! I… I’m not here to do anything. I’m not here for secrets or infiltration. I just… appear in each timeline, near some alternate version of myself, and once the time is up, I leap out. In the meantime, I am just trying to not get killed and find out… how each version of me ended up where they are.”

“And how different is this for you? You’re in Starfleet, after all. This is not a good place for you to be.” the counterpart said, a bit of sarcasm in her voice.

“Well… this is actually the…” Dox thought for a moment, her eyes glancing up as she did. “THIRD timeline where the other me had a disruptor trained on me, so… that’s getting tiresome, I’ll admit.” Pointing at her slightly green, bruised eye, Dox chuckled awkwardly. “And look. You’re not the only one that hasn’t liked me. So… in comparison… we’re off to a somewhat better start.” Across the room, there was no reaction whatsoever.

“Get used to it, your circumstance isn’t changing until it’s decided what we’re going to do with you.” The other woman in gray said with a bit of coldness in her voice.

"And right now, I am disinclined to believe your explanation as plausible.” The woman who had clearly claimed the family name of t’Rul replied, standing firm and giving up nothing in her voice or body language. “It’s far more likely that you are another Starfleet operative here to try and extract me against my will. Surgically altered to attempt to manipulate me or simply assassinate and replace me as Starfleet likely refuses to believe I can serve here and maintain my oaths to not betray them. I’ve seen and heard nothing else to convince me otherwise and I doubt the Centurions will either.”

There was a long pause as Dox considered the implications of what her counterpart was saying as she tried to form a proper response. “What do I need to do to convince you, Mnhei’sahe? Do you want me to tell you things we both know? About the time we… merged with the shard of a goddess and were beamed into space? Maybe tell you about the time Asa found us in our quarters with our hands broken because we were taking out our anger on our old practice dummy after the security team on Castillo de Muerta was executed by their supervisor under our watch?”

If any of the tidbits of personal information was having any effect on the counterpart, it hadn’t shown on her face. The earlier surprise and uncertainty was either completely gone or being concealed with professional skill. Looking at the scenario and working things out, this was clearly still her Grandmother’s office, but the other her seemed comfortable enough here and had some degree of official duties, which raised a host of questions.

“How did you end up here? On Romulus? In the Senate offices?” Dox asked, her hands still held out.

“We have not yet entered the phase of this interaction where you ask me questions.” The counterpart said, tipping her disruptor slightly, a not that subtle reminder that she had it very well trained on Dox. “Nothing you’ve said is particularly difficult information to have acquired from the officers that I know for a fact you spoke of these incidents with.”

It was a telling reply that gave up a bit more information to Dox about her counterpart. This version of her had clearly been in Starfleet as well, and wasn’t some version that had been on Romulus for years. This version served on the Hera and this indicated that it was possible that she had been kidnapped as well to have ended up here.

“Fine…” Dox replied. “You want something specific? Something we never told anyone?” For a moment, the young Romulan pilot thought deeply on everything. On the secrets that she told Rita or Asa in their more quiet moments. Of things only ever shared with Mona. Of every dark or embarrassing thought she had ever harbored during her life, both on the Hera and before joining Starfleet. And as she did, a bit of frustration began to show as she began rambling off a litany of details for her counterpart.

“I can tell you that we used to… sell Kali’Fal we got from old smuggling contacts to the human’s when we were in high school on Earth. I can tell you that after our Exobiology teacher at the Academy outed us as Romulan, we hacked into his personal files and found out he was having an affair on his wife. So we sent the travel records of his little trysts to display on his comm screen at home for her to see.” Dox stepped forward just a little as she rattled off random bits of information. “We tried to buy charter on a smuggling ship to run away to HERE when we were nineteen and couldn’t. Or maybe that every now and again, when we’re sparring with S’Rina on the Hera, we get turned on because sometimes we secretly wish Mona was more… aggressive in bed? How’s that?”

This time, the counterpart couldn’t conceal her feelings as the capillary response of a slight flush of green to her cheeks revealed just a bit of embarrassment, as she slowly loosened her stance. She didn’t quite lower the disruptor, but the tension had let up just a bit in the room.

“That will do.” She replied flatly as an eyebrow went up and another question came from the woman in gray as her eyes went to the slight bulge of a Romulan wedding bracelet on her Starfleet counterpart’s wrist. “You said “wish’, present tense? You and Mona?”

Suddenly, pieces began to fall into place as Dox slowly reached with one arm to pull the sleeve down slightly on the other to show the pearlescent black band. “Yes. We’re married. Did… you never?”

“We tried, but it didn’t last, no.” The counterpart replied, a hint of anger tinged with sadness evident in her voice. Now it began to make sense and Dox could try and put together the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that had left a version of her here studying under Verelan. Her bond with Mona and the Miradonian having been discovered to be pregnant just prior to the kidnapping had been the main thing that had kept Dox focused on returning to the Hera. It had been the one thing that kept her from fully accepting what her grandmother had been offering.

Without that relationship, it was now easier to imagine how there could be a version of her standing here like this. During those weeks under Verelan’s tutelage, she had come dangerously close to accepting the Elder Romulan Senator’s offers of family and a chance to rejoin the world she had been denied as a child. It was knowing Mona was waiting… pregnant with her future… that had kept her from conceding and it was her bond with Mona that gave her the strength needed to resist Rendal’s Neural Extraction Converter.

The machine also called the Ju’Rot that had been used to begin rewriting her Grandmother’s mind when the renegade Tal’Shiar Commaner, Dalia Rendal, took over the ship. The same machine that almost broke Dox herself. Remembering what had happened, it began to occur to the dimensional traveler that she could very well be talking to a victim of that horrible machine.

“So, now what? Can I ask you a question or are you just going to call security to come in and take me away?”

“I have already answered many of your questions, haven’t I?” The other Dox said, the slightest hint of satisfaction on her face. “I confirmed my own memory of your stories in my reactions. I let you know that other Starfleet infiltrators before you HAVE been discovered. I have given you a wealth of information.”

“As for security, it isn’t coming. At least not yet. Not until we’ve decided what to do about you, as I’ve decided that, as implausible as it still sounds, I believe you are telling the truth.” The other Mnhei’sahe said, straightening up slightly as Dox parsed out her words a bit and raised her eyebrow slightly.

“That’s the second time you’ve said “we”.” Dox said quizzically.

“This room is monitored. Security would have already been alerted to your presence and taken you if that was what the Senator wanted. Since they are not in here… it means that they have not been alerted to your presence. Which means that the Senator is still deciding what she wishes to do about you.” The other Dox said flatly as, behind the desk, a wall panel to the side of the bookshelf to Dox’s left opened.

Stepping out, with all the nobility she remembered, was her grandmother. Hands folded behind her back and dressed in regal, greenish black robes, out she walked out as the secret door hidden in the wall panel slid closed behind her.

“Well well well, my adventurous granddaughter. You do turn up in the most surprising of places,” The elder stateswoman remarked, looking over the newcomer as she walked about her in a wide circle, given plenty of berth. She knew better than to get within grabbing range, after all.

“I have been watching your little exchange from my sanctum, and it has been quite interesting. So we have two of you for an indeterminate amount of time, after which one of you will vanish without a trace. An intriguing concept,” the silver-haired egalitarian exclaimed. “So, granddaughter, explain to me how this could be turned to our advantage. I’ll start- we can very convincingly fake your death right now. Next?”

“An ideal decoy to lure out your enemies.” The dark haired doppelganger said without missing a beat. “There have been six assassination attempts on you and I since your motion towards decriminalizing the reunification movement. Put her out in public with a sufficient gap in security and we may very well see just who it is on the Senate who has plans against you.”

“Excellent. Demand that she be held by the Tal’Shiar for questioning, then we have political leverage when she disappears from their custody,” the quick-witted old politico tossed back, gesturing for her aide de camp to take a turn.

Pausing for a moment to think, the counterpart tilted her head and her eyes fixed on her redhead counterpart, but listening to what they were saying, Dox cricked an eyebrow and dropped her hands as she interrupted her counterpart.

The back and forth between the two seemed designed to rattle her and show a clear and united front, but it had told Dox a bit more of the story that she hadn’t known. “Wait. A motion to decriminalize the reunification movement? Political leverage against the Tal’Shiar?”

Both were things that Dox’s own grandmother were working towards in the Senate in her own reality. A reality where, with Sonak’s help, Dox was able to break the Tal’Shiar’s control over the silver-haired Senator.

Looking deep into Verelan’s dark eyes, Dox saw none of the conflict she had seen after Rendal had subjected the elder Senator to the Ju’Rot device. Whatever had happened, her mind was her own and Dox decided to show one of her cards. “In my reality… Commander Dalia Rendal took over your ship. Mutinied and subjected you to her Neural Extraction Converter. You were bent to the will of the Tal’Shiar.”

“How unpleasant. Then obviously she should have been more wary- dealing with the Tal’Shiar always comes at a price,” the elderly Senator breezily dismissed the topic.” As for what we’re working on, assuming you are what and whom you say you are for a moment- which I don’t believe but are willing to entertain for the now- you’ll pardon me if I am not overly inclined to share Homeworld’s political situation with an supposed extradimensional doppelganger.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to, really.” Dox replied to her alternate grandmother. “Nor is it my concern, really. But it caught my attention. My version of you was freed from Rendal’s control and has been involved in similar actions in the Senate.”

“In my reality, your interest in reunification was only truly ignited after you were freed from Rendal’s grip.” Dox added, leaving out her own role in helping to free the elder Senator’s mind, “It tells me that this… whatever your relationship with each other here is… is not a wholly one-sided one.”

As Dox spoke, she was doing her level best to tap into the same observational disciplines that her own version of Verelan had drilled into her during their interactions.

“Well, she’s not unintelligent at least,” Verelan remarked, tapping a forefinger thoughtfully against her lips as she paced. “Alright Granddaughter, what can you tell me about her? Cold read, size her up. Go.”

Taking a step back and looking Dox up and down for just a second, the dark haired double raised an eyebrow. Her face remained largely impassive and blank. “She had been avoiding eye contact with me ever since you came into the room. Her shoulders dropped and her arms relaxed just a bit, the more you’ve spoken. She’s still on guard, but slightly less so. She’s showing deference to you. She has a strong, emotional need for familial approval, and clearly holds considerable respect for you.”

“She has my same combat training. She’s shifted her stance in regards to my own movements regularly, keeping her left shoulder more towards me to favor her stronger arm in the event she feels the need to strike.” The alternate Mnhei’sahe continued. “She is a poor liar. She said she had lost track of how long she had before she… lept… from here earlier, but when she said that, her eyes darted slightly and she paused for a beat. She knows how long she has here and wanted to keep that information to herself.”

“She spends the majority of her time speaking Federation Standard as her accent is still slightly muddy, and…” The doppelganger leaned slightly in, “She does not like me. No… she’s… jealous.”

“Fascinating. Now what are the differences? If she is an alternate of you, what differences aside from the physical do you note?” Leave it to the canny old senator to turn the extradimensional intrusion into a lesson for her eager protege. After all, this was a supremely Romulan exercise- reading a person in the room, objectifying them as if they were neither present nor sentient, and making observations freely to read the reactions.

“Her impulse control now is better than mine was when you and I first met, but is still largely unrestrained comparably.” The counterpart replied, keeping her eyes on Dox and clearly taking in every non-verbal reaction the red headed visitor made to each observation. “She has not yet been broken of that unearned sense of self-righteous superiority that comes with the uniform.”

Narrowing her eyes slightly, Dox’s jaw tightened with each slight dig from her other self. In spite of herself she couldn’t quite keep those internal reactions as internal as she would have liked which only proved to buttress the dark-haired woman’s points.

“What can you tell me about her personal life?” the Senator asked. Clearly she was enjoying this- a rare opportunity, and her star pupil was making her proud, even if her visitor was less than appreciative.

“Well…” The other Mnhei’sahe said, taking on a slightly haughty, half lidded expression that seemed to mirror her Grandmother’s a bit, “ previously observed, she is pair bonded. She overworks, as evidenced by how she keeps her hair and her general… twitchy posture which shows she doesn’t sleep well. And, from her general level of defensiveness, I would say that she’s drinking as an emotional panacea again. Or… at least over inflating the ‘struggle’ for herself.”

“The clinging to that need for familial approval tells me she likely still doesn’t socialize well on that ship either.” She finished, seeming to be more actively trying to get under Dox’s skin by picking at what she knew were scabs for the Romulan pilot.

It was an effective strategy as Dox clearly took a bit of a breath to center herself and push back against the anger that was starting to get a bit more intense.

“Still got an anger management issue I see, still unchecked, still violent,” the silver-haired senator observed, making sure to keep her desk between the simmering Romulan refugee from another dimension and herself. Wisely, given her words.” Now, what’s the difference between you? If this is indeed a variant of you from another reality, where did your lives diverge?”

This time, the answer came from the crimson-clad Starfleet officer, as Dox spoke up, cutting off her counterpart before she could speak. “She never committed to her life in Starfleet by forming the stronger bonds that I made with my crew. She never ended up in the brig of your Warbird, suffering Dalia Rendal’s tender mercies. Meaning she didn’t have to trust that her crew would come for her…”

“To help me rescue you.” Dox said, turning to Verelan slightly. “My time on your ship was split down the middle. Two weeks under your aegis. Two weeks under Rendal. And…”

Pausing, Dox worked through the sequence of events that happened ten months ago now as she realized what had to have been a key difference. “And she didn’t watch Rendal execute her father right in front of her. She didn’t have his blood dry on the deck at her feet.”

Across the room, this time the counterpart's facade loosened for just an instant, her eyes going just a bit wide for a fraction of a second before they locked back up.

“Mmmmm, yet clearly my tutelage was not wasted. Well, as interesting as that has been, we are still left with the problem of what to do with you for the.... How long did you say you had left here?” It was obvious, but again, it was a Romulan tactic- asking the question you were certain the other party could answer although it had already been denied.

Replying with a slightly raised eyebrow and the lightest of smiles that she allowed to show, Dox turned back towards Verelan. “Long enough to talk, not quite long enough to use me in any elaborate schemes with the Senate that would require any kind of set up.”

“Mmmm, an indeterminate answer in order to theoretically prevent us from putting you forth in any scheme we might enact in the short term. Well, I suppose there’s no help for it then,” the aged Romulan stateswoman, tapped a few buttons on her desk tablet, then looked up with a smile. “I’ve taken the liberty of ordering us some lunch. I heard your stomach growl a few minutes ago, and there’s no benefit to poisoning you if your corpse is just going to vanish. So you may as well share a meal with us.”

As always, there was little actual question to the statement, more of an assumption of compliance which was so very Romulan authoritarian and elite that it actually brought a half-smile to Dox’s face.


A few moments later, Verelan’s personal Centurion and loyal guard, Pajom tr’Sahe entered the chamber pushing a large, rolling tray with three plates, a pitcher of water and what appeared to be a bottle of Lehe'jhme wine, which was a common mid-meal staple within the culture.

Wordlessly, the young Romulan man with the severe military haircut placed each plate down on the desk, looking like he had done so countless times before, indicating to Dox that the two women likely ate while working quite a bit. What was more intriguing, however, to the redheaded Romulan, was that the Centurion she had a measure for from her own encounters with him during her captivity in her own timeline seemed to be completely nonplussed by the presence of two Mnhei’sahe’s.

Either he too had been monitoring everything in the room, or he was simply so well trained that he knew not to ask such questions. But there was something in his posture and expression when he set down each plate of what appeared to be wild roast Hlai bird served over a bed of a dark brown ricegrain in sauce. The aroma immediately caused Dox’s stomach to betray itself slightly with another audible groan as she watched the centurion’s face.

The man was as professional as always as he stepped back to full attention. “Noble Deihu. Mistress. At your order, I shall return to my duties and collect the trays when you are complete.”

There was the most infinitesimal shifts in tone on the word ‘mistress’, which was aimed at this realities version of Mnhei’sahe that made Dox wonder if he harbored feelings for her counterpart beyond loyalty. If it was reciprocated, it did not show on the dark-haired double’s face, which remained impassive and professional as they all sat around Verelan’s desk.

“Most appreciated, Centurion. We will summon you when we require your service once more,” Verelan offered, then watched the newcomer before snapping out, “Analysis?”

As tr’Sahe left and the door wooshed closed behind him, Dox considered the question. She realized that, just like on the Warbird and even now in their relationship across holographic communications back in her own reality, most everything was a test of some kind. An opportunity for a lesson to be imparted.

Looking back at her grandmother, Dox found that unusual familiarity oddly comforting as she replied. “He likes her. Your Mnhei’sahe.”

“During the period in which I had been held in the brig by Rendal in my reality… after you had been taken as well...he secretly remained loyal to you. Assisted me by ensuring that I was properly fed. Without him, it’s likely Rendal would have succeeded in re-writing my mind as well.” Dox added, giving a bit of context to the moment by elaborating on the man’s immense loyalty for Verelan’s benefit. “But here, I think he might be… more than loyal to you.

That last comment was aimed at the dark haired double in the plush leather chair to Dox’s right, as the counterpart actually allowed a bit of emotion to show on her face. In this case, a very mild bit of irritation that Dox had picked up on it.

“I think you may be right, much to your own consternation in a bizarre sort of way,” Verelan admitted, praising one Dox while commenting on the irritation of the other. In that moment both of them could see her subtly convincing them to compete with one another. Yet both knew themselves well enough to know that they would continue to do so, because both sought that maternal approval denied them in their childhood, even after all these years. As one, both inhaled and sighed in unison at the realization.

“He’s a good man. Brave. Loyal beyond a fault. Selfless. Even in my reality, he is your most trusted protector.” Dox said, replying first as Verelan picked up her napkin and placed it on her lap with practiced precision. To her right, her counterpart did the same, taking her cues from their grandmother as the elder stateswoman nodded, indicating that they could begin eating.

Picking up her utensils, Dox looked at the dish which Verelan clearly knew was one of her favorite Romulan meals. “When I was a prisoner, he laced our meals with nano trackers so, in an emergency, we could be beamed away.”

It was more a basic statement of tr’Sahe’s character than any kind of accusation as, without hesitating, she took a bite of the tender Hlai. A particular delicacy she had been denying herself since mating with a woman from an avian species.

It was, as expected, exquisite and she made no attempt to conceal her enjoyment of that first bite, before swallowing and continuing her thought. “Though… one would think… not particularly our type.

And then, Dox scored her first solid hit on her counterpart by hinting at the fact that both women were lesbians. Sitting next to her, the dark-haired Mnhei’sahe’s face remained perfectly neutral, as if she had heard nothing. But her capillary response betrayed her in the moment as her cheeks flushed green ever so slightly.

The silence from the local Dox made the point, and Verelan, shook her head. “Irrelevant. When are arranged marriages ever arranged with the tastes of the arrangées in mind?”

The silence that followed was palpable, and the eyebrows of the silver-haired Senator rose. “A sticking point, I see. Well, it seems one of you won’t have to worry about such things while the other will have plenty of time to consider it before any such thing comes to pass.”

For a moment, Dox sank ever so slightly as she glanced over to her counterpart, who looked fairly calm and neutral, but who had been reminded of something she didn’t want to think about. One of what had to be one of many such concessions this version of her was forced to adapt, in order to live on Romulus and serve house Rul. A pang of guilt crept into the red-headed pilot’s stomach at prodding this reality’s Dox in such a fashion.

Then, as she thought on what Verelan had just said, she knew that her own potential, upcoming meeting on Romulus that had been put out there containing an unspoken possibility of getting stuck there herself. That realization brought the feeling back home. She looked over at Verelan, who took a delicate bite of her own lunch, and reminded herself that while she was going to be pulled away from this reality before too long, back home she had her own Verelan t’Rul with very specific intentions for her as well.

“I… apologize for making you uncomfortable.” Dox said lightly to her counterpart. “It was… petty of me.” It was an admission to assuage her own guilt as much as it was for the benefit of the dark-haired doppelganger who Dox realized she was experiencing something she had never felt before in her life. The closest comparison, in truth, would be sibling rivalry, and it was wildly uncomfortable for the young officer as she took a sip of her water.

“I do not require your apology.” The counterpart replied with a hint of a chill in her voice. “Nothing you said was unknown to me.”

The counterpart’s posture returned to normal as her voice became more even and confident sounding again. “As you have said, Pajom is a good man in every capacity. He is noble and loyal. He is also smart, hardworking and has a distinguished service record. Should it be decided that we are to be paired, it would be a strong pairing for us all, and for our House.”

The tone was practiced and a bit formal, even for her, sounding much more like a prepared answer that Verelan might have taught her for use with others. Listening, Dox realized this was something her counterpart had clearly been struggling with for a while, but also a fact of life which the woman was working to resign herself. She suspected that this might be a point that the two women had argued about in the past, from their individual reactions. As she thought for a moment of Mona and their three beautiful girls back on the Hera, Dox at least hoped that on top of his other qualities, Pajom was also understanding and kind. He had seemed as much, and if this was to be her counterpart’s fate, she hoped it was a pleasant one in the long term.

That was when the now-familiar tingle of the Bulukiya effect began, giving her the hint that she had only a few seconds to prepare before departing this reality for another where her life would have taken on different twists, different possibilities.

Immediately, Dox stood up from the seat, as she realized that she had lost track of time in the moment. Looking around at the two women in the room and not quite knowing what to say, but being fairly certain she didn’t want to show up somewhere in a seated position. “It’s happening.”

“Get a scanner and record it, we may be able to use some of the data,” Verelan ordered the local Dox, even as she herself stood and took a step back. Clearly she did not want to be caught up in the effect, however it might manifest.

As the local counterpart got up from the chair, Dox sighed and hooked the leg of the chair with her foot, and pulled it a bit. A second later, her foot had become immaterial, but it had served its purpose to cause her dark-haired doppelganger to stumble out of the chair for a moment.

“I am sorry, Grandmother.” Dox said, as she started to fade, “That wasn’t what I was hoping the last things we said to each other would have been.”

Then, as her voice began to echo, she turned to the women who had accepted her place as the heir to house Rul, “If this was truly your choice… make it count for something. Change things.”

With those words, she was gone.

There was a moment of silence that hung in the room for a moment, as this reality’s Mnhei’sahe straightened herself up and adjusted her top before turning to her grandmother and smirking ever so slightly. “So… you were watching from your ‘sanctum’, Grandmother? You turned having been in the refresher when she arrived into an advantage?”

“There is advantage in every position, my young apprentice,” the elder Romulan woman declared sagely as she smiled. In point of fact, she had expected weirdness to accompany her traveled granddaughter, but not to this magnitude. Internally she wondered what else might make itself known over time. But that was speculation, and inapplicable to the moment. Instead, while their impressions were fresh and their memories of the encounter sharp, she pressed her protege for more, as she always would, to see what wonders the young woman could accomplish when it was but asked of her.

“Now, let us analyze this situation life presented us with today. We shall determine what it means, and how we can apply the knowledge we have gained today to our advantage...”

To Be Continued…


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