Dox's Leap 9: The Commander's Apprentice
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse, Riov Rendal's Warbird
That now-familiar moment of dizziness that overcame Lieutenant Commander Mnhei’sahe Dox as she reached out for purchase as the world swirled around her. Finding a cold metal surface to her side, the redheaded Romulan slowly righted herself and waited for everything to stop spinning, and after a few seconds, it finally did.
Blinking to clear her head. Mnhei’sahe looked around slowly as her stomach began to settle itself. The walls were a cold, gray metal with gold chevrons on the panels and white strips of light on the columns along them. There was a ring of green light near the ceiling of the room and a long, angled desk behind her with a tray of bottles and glasses on the end. Kali-Fal, from the looks of it. And a small window looking out into space to her left. The room itself wasn’t specifically familiar, but the architecture certainly was. She was on a Romulan ship somewhere.
Wonderful. She thought to herself, First the offices of the Senate ON Romulus, and now this.
It didn’t look like the People’s Will, the d’Deridex class Warbird she had spent a month on over half a year ago. It was definitely a different ship, as this looked like a commander’s ready room. Possibly a SubCommander’s office. She had been in the Command Office of the People’s Will and it was a little different and a bit larger.
Thankfully, she was alone in the room, at least for the moment. But there was only one way in or out, and that door was likely guarded and Mnhei’sahe was wearing a VERY red Starfleet uniform. Moving behind the desk, she pressed a button on the edge and a small screen slid up from the desk and a panel opened with a biometric security padd. The kind you press your hand on to activate.
There’s no way that it could work. No way… Mnhei’sahe thought to herself, biting her bottom lip nervously as she considered her options. In all the other realities she had lept to, she had encountered an alternate version of herself. Why would this be any different?
Slowly, she lowered her hand onto the PaDD and held her breath, half expecting security klaxons to start going off. Instead, she heard a chirp and the screen came to life. Immediately, her stomach started to twist as she had half been hoping that she was going to be wrong. But whatever ship this was, the version of her from this reality belonged there. On a Romulan ship.
Rather than just wonder, Mnhei’sahe sat down quickly and started looking through the available data on the screen. The ship was a Leosa Class warbird called the IRW Iurret.
“Imirrhlhhse…” Mnhei’sahe whispered a curse under her breath. The Iurret was the ship commanded by Riov Dalia Rendal, and the name on the screen read Erei’Riov Mnhei’sahe t’Rul’ This was probably still Rendal’s ship, but this was Mnhei’sahe’s office… as the ship's SubCommander. The Second in Command. Second in Command of a Romulan Warbird.
“How did this happen?” Mnhei’sahe whispered as she tried to navigate the computer. There were multiple files each organized in folders on the side of the screen, and one marked for logs.
Clicking on the icon for logs, there appeared to be months worth of logs. Counting back on the Romulan stardates she was less familiar with, Mnhei’sahe determined that this realities version of her had been making logs as Erei’Riov for months. Nervously, she clicked on the first file, which opened a separate video file simply marked “Statement.”
Glancing up at the door, she hoped there were no suspicious ears on the other side as she clicked the video and on the screen appeared an image of herself she immediately recognized from back then. From when she was a captive. She was wearing a simple black turtleneck and her expression had a forced blankness to it. The trained, practiced face she had learned to use during her month of captivity that masked the mounting depression within her.
=^=”My name is Mnhei’sahe t'Sendatu-onay Dox. A Lieutenant in Starfleet. United Federation of Planets. Service Number, SC414339-797064.
I am also the Granddaughter of the honorable Deihu, Verelan t’Rul, and as such, heir to the house and holding of the Rul family of Romulus. I am recording this message to dispel the rumor that I have been taken by force by representatives of the Romulan Star Empire and am a prisoner. I am not.
I am, and have been, a guest of the Imperium, here under my own free will. I have chosen, after much consideration, to retire my commission to Starfleet in order to return to the Hearthworld and take up the responsibilities and station that is mine as a member of a noble house of the Imperium.
I apologize for the confusion surrounding my leaving and wish to make it clear that I hold no ill will toward Starfleet or the Federation, nor does this action represent a threat to Starfleet security. I shall remain loyal to the oaths I have taken, but must now embrace the path I was meant to. I am Romulan, and a loyal daughter of the Imperium and I belong with my own people in service to my home. And that is the path I have chosen and have been embraced by this world and my people, whom I will endeavor to serve with honor, as I once served Starfleet.
To those, I have served with… to my friends, family, and to my wife, I can only hope that one day the tensions that exist between our peoples will become unnecessary and we may see each other again. But until that day, it is a goal I must now work for from my true home.
My name is Mnhei’sahe t’Rul. And I am where I am meant to be. I ask that no efforts be spent to remove me from my home as the Imperium would consider any such attempts to remove me from my home an act of aggression which will threaten the tenuous peace between our peoples.”=^=
Leaning back in shock, Mnhei’sahe cupped a hand over her mouth as the video ended. This was the message Rendal wanted her to make that never happened. The message she would have been forced to make from the Tal’Shiar complex on Romulus she never made it inside of in her reality. The final message to Starfleet, the Hera and Mona. A curated, practiced, and scripted defection letter that the other her had read with just a hint of bleakness around the edges.
Turning off the video, Mnhei’sahe felt sick. She hoped that at least that version of her had been compromised by the Ju’rot device to make that video, but she had no way of knowing. She did see a bit of the desperation behind the eyes of a woman fighting to get out that Mnhei’sahe had seen in her Grandmother’s eyes after her first ‘treatment’. She saw herself, but broken. She realized that this version must have been subjected to the Ju’rot device again. Enough times to finally break her defenses. Enough times to remake her however Rendal saw fit.
Remake her as the apprentice of noble blood Rendal had wanted and could use to fuel her own desires.
Hanging her head for a moment, the Romulan Starfleet lieutenant Commander heard bootsteps coming down the corridor towards the door. As they got closer, she stiffened up in the seat and simply waited. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, and no weapons in sight. Nothing to do but wait. And she didn’t have to wait long.
The door wooshed open, and in walked a somewhat leaner, short-cropped, red haired Romulan woman in a checkered, black and gray uniform. On the belts crossing her shoulder, the silver sigil of Al’thindor with the Hearthworlds in its claws. The symbol of the Star Empire. On her collar, the rank of Erei’Riov. On her belted waist, a disruptor on one side in a holser. On the other side, a black sheathed, curved sword so very much like the one Rendal wore on hers. She had a stern expression as her head was buried in a PaDD for just an instant. But in that same, split instant, she glanced up, dropped the PaDD and drew the disruptor at her hip towards the intruder sitting in her chair.
With wide eyes, the woman identified by her computer as Erei’Riov t’Rul stepped quickly up as the door shut behind her, whispering with barely contained rage in Romulan, “What ARE you!? How did you get in here?”
“Hello, Mnhei’sahe.” The Crimson Clad version said, speaking in Federation Standard as calmly as possible with a disruptor hovering only inches from her face. “I think you know what I am. Who I am.”
The other woman’s eyes narrowed as she looked her doppelganger over. “Stand up and step around the desk to the front.” She said flatly, still speaking in Rihan with a hiss of venom in her voice.
“And if I don’t? Will you call security on me, Mnhei’sahe? Send me to the brig? Shackle me to a chair to make me talk?” The Starfleet officer said with an edge of sarcasm as she recalled her experience in the brig of the People’s Will to fish for a reaction. To see what experiences they shared. And a reaction was exactly what she got.
Moving faster than Dox would have expected, the furious Erei’Riov’s eyes widened as she swung the butt of the disruptor which smacked against the side of Mnhei’sahe’s face, hard. Letting out a restrained grunt at the impact, Mnhei’sahe’s head whipped back quickly before snapping forward. As it did, she found the SubCommander’s free hand clamped tight against her neck and felt herself being shoved out of the chair, up to her feet by the effort and slammed against the wall, the disruptor now dug deep into her cheek.
“Do NOT play with me!” t’Rul hissed as Mnhei’sahe realized that this version of her had likely been fighting and training hard under Rendal and she wasn’t quite as strong as her enraged counterpart. Shaking her head, t’Rul leaned in closer and all but whispered, still in Romulan, “How did you get here? Hera? Gaia? Rei? Tell me what I want to know or I WILL call security, have you dragged back to the brig, beaten within an inch of your life and then I WILL have them start over every day until you talk. You think that was hard before? That was shore leave, little girl. Am I understood?”
“I’m just an experiment gone wrong. A cross-dimensional accident that’s left me moving through different realities. Realities where, clearly, things went badly for me.” Mnhei’sahe answered through a compressed throat, hoarsely, but still speaking English. As she did, she slowly tried to reach for the hilt of the sword on her double’s hip. Seeing the attempt, the other her simply tilted her head as her eyes went into a half lidded expression.
“Really? Was I ever this slow?” the irritated looking erei’Riov sneared as she kneed Mnhei’sahe in the stomach and stepped back. Hunched over, gasping, Mnhei’sahe heard the sound of that very sword slipping loose of its sheath and an instant later, the flat edge of the tip tucked up under her chin and began to steadily but firmly press up.
With sword in hand, the erei’Riov stood straight, forcing Mnhei’sahe back up and against the wall as the tip began to press in. Not enough yet to break the skin, but enough to demand attention. “You wanted my sword? You know full well you’ll have to take it. And judging from what I’m seeing, you have zero chance of doing that anytime soon.”
“So… an experiment gone wrong. A cross-dimensional traveler. I assume from your uniform and expression, you are disapproving of where you find yourself?” She said, with just a hint of bitterness in her voice. Her counterpart may have been living amongst her own people for months now, but as always, Mnhei’sahe knew her own tells when she saw them on her own face.
“That implies that you do approve, Erei’Riov. Would that be true? Are you enjoying life here? Alone? No Mona. No Children?” Mnhei’sahe said, careful to not move her jaw too much or risk puncturing her throat. She was trying to goad her other self into anger, and from the narrowing of her eyes, it would seem that she had succeeded.
“What a child I was.” The erei’Riov hissed, and as she spoke, she brought a boot around and connected hard with Mnhei’sahe’s cheek, whipping her head hard to the side.
In an instant, the world went dark.
Slowly, the darkness began to fade to a sickly, green light as blurry shapes began to form in Mnhei’sahe’s vision. Two voices spoke from what felt like a light year away. But after a few moments, reality began to coalesce once more. Unfortunately, it was the same reality she had been knocked unconscious in.
She was laying on her back on a table, and felt her arms and legs strapped down. Above her a light of some kind that looked as if she might be in the ship’s Medical Bay. Then, a face stepped over her. A face she knew entirely too well and hated with a passion.
The face of Riov Dalia Rendal.
“Good morning, Mnhei’sahe. I understand that you’re the version of my apprentice who was actually rescued or some such.” The grin on Rendal’s face was not one of friendliness, but one of a predator with fresh prey in her sights. “And you’re going to tell me all about it.”
Looking around the room as much as she could, she saw her counterpart standing behind Rendal, watching with that same anger in her eyes. Then, looking back at the woman who killed her father, tortured her and her grandmother and, back in her own reality, was still trying to get her hands on Dox, the redheaded Starfleet officer’s eyes narrowed. “No. No, I’m not.”
“Well, I could guess aimlessly rather than make you tell me. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at reading you, after all.” Rendal stepped back and nodded to SubCommander t’Rul. “Perhaps instead of being stopped from mounting a rescue by Starfleet, your pirate captain was able to mount that rescue, fly straight to Romulus, and somehow board the People’s Will, and get you back.”
“Or perhaps they waited until you were being transferred to the ground facilities,” the royal Riov mused thoughtfully as she watched Dox closely. “After all, that’s how I would have done it.”
“Why do you care how I got away? You got your little slave.” Dox replied, venom and sarcasm in her voice as she looked for any reactions from her own counterpart in the Romulan military uniform. But rather than anger, the SubCommander simply sneered slightly, an ugly thing on her face.
“Because safety and security is important to me. Every life is precious and we need to strive to protect every member of the Empire, loyal or not. You yourself taught me that lesson.” With an almost caring look, Rendal turned and placed a hand on the shoulder of Dox’s counterpart. “Isn’t that right, Apprentice?”
“Ie, my Riov.” The counterpart said, nodding as she met the glare of her Starfleet doppelganger. “I assume you believe I have no mind of my own. That I am just some puppet. But that lack of understanding is your loss. You wanted to affect change within the Star Empire. I have.”
“You have enacted no less than seven major policy changes within the Tal’Shiar alone with my guidance and for that, you have bettered the Empire and strengthened our people as a whole.” Rendal then turned back to the crimson clad Starfleet version. “You see, my apprentice isn’t just the learner, but the teacher as well.”
“She has taught me that you don’t have to fight Federation superweapons or the Borg with superweapons. You find counters to them.” Riov Rendal explained in a calm tone. ”Simple, ingenious, mass-producible, counters. One in which anyone is able to use for defense and salvation rather than only a few ships in the fleet to gain retaliation.”
“That’s why we’ve shifted focus to studying the effects of our enemies’ superweapons as they seem to be keen on using them and finding ways of preventing or stopping them with minimal loss of life to the Empire,” she concluded.
“So… even turned on that machine… she told you much the same things I did in that cell on the People’s Will. That there were other ways. And to think, all it took was a leash locked on her to make you listen.” Dox said, the anger gone from her voice as she spoke flatly now.
With a slight scoff, the redheaded SubCommander shook her head. “Does it make you feel better to assume that I am a victim, Lieutenant Commander? That I was broken under the Neural Extraction Converter? Have you ever considered that I am here because it is what I chose. For the betterment of my home. For the betterment of those I left behind to save from themselves. For the Romulan people that I know you care about.”
“I tried quite a few times to no avail,” Rendal added, shaking her head remorsefully. “Eventually, I gave up and found that you were already the perfect apprentice. Your mental strength proved far too great for the device, your physical strength was almost on par with my own, and you only lacked in stealth and guile in the political front, which I am proud to say you have taken to admirably.”
Listening, Rendal’s words cut deeper than Dox would have liked, mirroring sentiments that the young officer’s Senator Grandmother had made in the intervening months where Dox found herself embroiled in Romulan politics in spite of her escape. Words that, from Verelan t’Rul, inspired pride, gave her only revulsion now coming from Dalia Rendal.
“So, that’s all? You just… decided to betray your oaths to Starfleet? To your FAMILY? To your CHILDREN!?” Dox hissed through gritted teeth, realizing she was likely giving Rendal the exact kind of reaction she wanted. But in the moment, she didn’t care.
At the words ‘children’, the Romulan SubCommander had anger behind her eyes again as her lip curled derisively for just an instant. But as quickly as it had swelled in her, it was quashed. And with a controlled, steady voice, she replied flatly. “My Children will one day be able to return to their home, when we have made it a better place.”
“And you will help that happen, but answering my Riov’s questions.” She finished, turning back to Rendal. Dox could read the emotion behind the cold facade of her twisted double. There was still rage and anger in those eyes. Emotions that she was struggling to control.
“And the first question is still… How were you rescued?” Rendal pressed, leaning in closer, her demeanor growing more serious.
“Nothing I tell you will be relevant. Different timeline. Different reality.” Dox said plainly, her face as impassioned and neutral as she learned to make it when she was Rendal’s prisoner once before.
“Perhaps… Or perhaps now I have two perfect apprentices One in this universe… one in yours.” With a grin, Rendal motioned towards a rather familiar control system. “Shall we see if you’re as resilient as my apprentice?”
Immediately, Dox felt her pulse race just a bit more as her counterpart reached behind her and pulled a series of wires out. It was a set up she knew all too well. She was already strapped in to a Neural Extraction Converter and hadn’t realized it.
Before she had lept out of the last reality, she felt the process begin. She felt the energies begin to build as she disconnected from that reality to move to where she was, but she wasn’t feeling that yet, so she knew she had to stall. Having been knocked out, she had no idea how long she still had left. “I thought you weren’t turned with this thing, Mnhei’sahe?”
Referring to her counterpart by name, Dox kept talking as Rendal’s SubCommander began hooking the small nodules up to the base of her neck and temples, one by one. “I thought you were here by choice? So why try and turn me with the machine if it didn’t work on you? Or did she just make you forget that this is what happened? That THIS is what broke you?”
With no response from the black and gray clad SubCommander, Dox’s pulse was racing. The last time she had been in this chair, she had been as prepared as possible. She had spent days meditating and practicing her techniques of mental defense. Now, she was tired and completely unprepared. Her mental defenses were strained and weak from her confrontation with the version of herself who had had her own mental abilities cosmically augmented, so she tried to stall them as long as she could. “A pity you turned your back on MONA. She could tell you with a TOUCH if you were really still YOU!”
At that, the simmering anger in the counterpart finally began to boil over as she reached down and slammed her strong hand over Dox’s mouth. “There are other ways to break someone, Lieutenant Commander. And right now, I would dearly like to employ one of those, so be silent. And obey.”
Readjusting the leads to Dox’s head, the scowling counterpart stepped away, composing herself and adjusting her uniform. “She is prepared, my Riov.”
Feeling panic set in even further, Dox bit her lip and tried to calm herself down. She had escaped this fate once before, and now she was looking directly at what she feared almost more than anything else. Worse than the loss of life, the loss of self. Met by those cold, angry eyes where she could no longer see anything of herself, she knew that she could well become exactly that if she couldn’t defend herself this time.
But as she began to brace herself for the worst, she felt it. The tingling of what she hoped was the Bulukiya particles within her began to flare up again. That feeling she had felt at the end of her last leap that let her know it was about to happen again as Rendal began to speak.
“As an enemy and proven rebel element of the Empire, you are hereby sentenced to corrective actions to be carried out immediately. You will then answer all of our questions, including how you escaped and how you got here from your other dimension.” Rendal then nodded to her apprentice, SubCommander t’Rul. “I feel it is only fitting that you carry out the procedure, don’t you? You have more than proven your loyalty, however this will silence any doubters in both the Senate and in the Federation.”
“You honor me, my Riov.” The counterpart said as she stepped over to the control panel, Rendal stepping over to the side of the Table to look over Dox. On that table, Dox began to control her breathing as best as was possible, not 100% sure if what she was feeling was the Bulukiya particles or the Ju’Rot device itself.
Then, at the control panel, without hesitation, the woman called SubCommander t’Rul finished her adjustments and began to turn the knob slowly. As she did, from the table, the sensation was both familiar and immediate. Unlike before, Dox had not relaxed enough to focus on the image of Mount Selaya on Vulcan. There was no calming image in her mind to focus on, just the sight of Rendal’s face over her and the dark reflection at the controls as a wave of blackness slammed into her mind.
It felt like going to warp on the outside of a starship, as if the weight of the gravity of all things began pressing in around her from all sides. And in that pressure, she felt what seemed like fingers pushing steadily into her mind, pressing hard up against what mental defenses she could muster. It was like being drown by an impossible wind, but through that wind, she heard a voice cutting into her like a blade. Dalia Rendal’s voice.
“Soon I will have two perfect apprentices at my beck and call…”
In her mind, Dox began to scream as she felt the pressure continue to build. In the darkness of her mind, she tried with all of her might to keep her mental defenses up as Rendal’s words echoed into her mind like a million tiny blades. Then, like a wave crashing, she felt the energy of the Neural Extraction Converter begin to no longer press against her, but through her.
As her defenses shattered against the power of the machined, Dox’s head snapped back on the table and she let out an ear piercing scream in the chamber, “EEEAAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!”
Opening her tear streaked eyes, she could see Rendal and her counterpart looking confused and, while they appeared to be shouting, she couldn’t hear them anymore. And as the light of the room began to blue-shift around her, they and her were gone.
One the warbird, the table where Dox had been strapped was now empty as the crimson clad officer had vanished away. Looking at the console, t’Rul flipped switches frantically, but the expression was one not of anger, but of concentration. Then, after a few seconds, she looked up and nodded. “Riov. While we were unable to penetrate very far past her mental defenses, the leads were able to collect a significant amount of data as she vanished. Including readings of an energy signature… unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. You will want to see this.”
As the royal Riov looked over the data, she mused over the implications of what she was looking at. They hadn’t gotten the data they wanted, but instead gathered data they may have needed nonetheless. “Send this to the researchers for extrapolation. We need to know if this is a threat that needs to be countered or if it’s a way to counter existing threats.”
Rendal then turned to her Apprentice, a sympathetic look on her face as she reached up and gently squeezed the redhead’s shoulder. “Also, since we didn’t get the data we specifically needed, unfortunately you’re going to have to continue the scans. We need the complete Gaia data buried in your mind in order to understand it and counter the Federation’s use of it. I’m sorry.”
If there was any hesitation in the heart or mind of the woman now named Mnhei’sahe t’Rul, it was invisible as she nodded matter of factly to Rendal. “I understand, my Mistress. However deep we must go, we will find whatever we can that was hidden in my mind.”
“For the Imperium and her people.”
To Be Continued…