Dox's Leap 10: Okhala t'Rul - Part 1 of 2
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse, the Rul house. Romulus
If there was any dizziness this time, Mnhei’sahe Dox didn’t feel it. Instead, with her hands now free, she flailed a bit instinctively, doing her best to stifle the scream as the pressure in her head completely faded away. An instant after she appears, she felt a slight rush and slapped hard against the ground below her. Feeling around her, she was laying on her back looking up at what appeared to be an ornate, green dome two or three stories above her. Under her hands, she felt warm wood.
Feeling the sides of her head, there was a minor moment of panic as she checked to make sure she wasn’t still wired into Dalia Rendal’s insidious machine, strapped to that table. The pain and pressure she had felt as the neural extraction converter activated was now completely gone, but there was still a dull pressure not unlike a hangover from the experience. Concentrating, she tried to center herself as much as possible, trying to make sure she wasn’t still in that reality. Still in that machine that had threatened to rewrite her mind twice now. After a moment, she took a breath. She was still herself.
At least, she hoped she was. After all, that was the nature of mental manipulation, she thought. She wouldn’t necessarily know if her thinking had been changed. But that was the kind of train of thought that would lead her down a proverbial rabbit hole of self-doubt, and she couldn’t afford that, considering that she was still leaping from dimension to dimension.
Slowly standing up and shaking off the disorientation, she was in a long corridor of an old, but ornately beautiful house. Antique lighting fixtures lined walls with old paintings on them down a hall with floors of dark, polished maithe wood. She knew this room. She had seen images of it many months ago. She had seen it in a Mind Meld. This was the grand hall of the home of her grandmother, Verelan t’Rul. Mnhei’sahe’s own ancestral home on Romulus. Looking around a moment, she took it all in. The old wooden doors and hand-made architecture. The high, domed ceiling three stories up as staircases lined the sides of the walls heading up to the bedchambers. The home that could have been hers but for a different choice.
Okay, what’s THIS going to be? I’ve seen the life I would have led had I went with my Grandmother? How else could I end up here of all places? Mnhei’shae thought to herself as she looked down and remembered from her Grandmother’s stories of home that this house had a full staff of servants, and she was still very much wearing her Starfleet uniform.
Listening, she could hear shuffling at the room near the end of the hall that she was fairly sure was the kitchen, but little else. At least until the sound of a mag-lev flitter came down behind her, outside the main doors. Suddenly, she could hear much more activity in that kitchen and voices behind her outside. Looking around, she slipped through the large wooden door to her left as quietly as possible and listened at the door as footsteps came down the hall walking to the main entrance. She appeared to be in a fairly large study. There was a large, ornate wooden desk with a computer on it and a shelf of books to one side and behind the desk itself, and large windows looking over the grounds to the other side.
Outside the windows, the light was streaming in with a stunning, golden twinge indicating that it was very likely afternoon here. She could see the long, soft red leaves of sserayl trees swaying outside in the breeze, and she couldn’t help but feel all of those feelings she had been struggling with all of her life. That desire to be here, on the home she had been denied all of her life.
“Mistress t’Rul, you’re being ridiculous. It’s bad enough you choose to spend half your free days making a mess of yourself out in the garage or in the kitchen fussing with me, but if your father learns of where you’ve been, it will be both of our hides. Or worse, if your Department Commander found out...” Came an older woman’s voice as two sets of steps could be heard. Confused, Mnhei’sahe kept listening.
Then came the other voice. At first, Mnhei’sahe was almost expecting her Grandmother’s voice as she could not imagine anyone else being called ‘Mistress t’Rul’, but instead she heard, again, her own. Raspy and slightly lower than not, but all too familiar... as her own. “Oh, hru’hfe Firahne, you’re worrying for nothing. It was a simple rally in the city, not an illegal protest. And all I did was help organize things, very behind the scenes. And my Commander is a self-absorbed fool that barely pays attention to his own business, much less how I spend my time on holiday leave.”
“I am a model officer. I file my paperwork and polish my unit crests and sigils and am a good little drone.” she said, a hint of contempt in her voice. “There is no problem. Father would understand.”
Father? Mnhei’sahe thought from behind the door. She couldn’t see out but someone was coming up the steps to the door. A few other sets of feet, for sure. My… my father? Could it... be?
Listening, she heard the great doors open slowly with a creek and listened to a not-so-heated argument already in process between two voices. One she was familiar with, and the other one she had only heard once as an adult… moments before his death. “Really, Mother. Do you honestly believe that the Praetors will realistically allow that motion to even be considered? It’s madness.”
“It is only madness because too many fear to be considered mad, so don’t say it. You are far too timid on the floor, Dralath. You need to show a stronger presence and not look so ready to compromise so often. It is seen as weakness and will lead you to a knife in the back before too long if you are not careful, my son.” It was the voice of Verelan t’Rul, her grandmother. She knew the voice well and she found that, in spite of the circumstances of their relationship in her reality or having interacted with her in another reality earlier, she liked hearing it.
Especially here, where she sounded somehow different in a way Mnhei’sahe couldn’t quite put a finger on.
“But enough business for the day… Okhala! How is my light this day?” Verelan said, a smile in her voice.
Leaning a bit closer to the door, Mnhei’sahe recognized the name. Okhala was the name her mother told her that her father wanted to give her. The name for the Element of fire in the Romulan belief system. The name that was almost hers once upon a time. “I’m well, Grandmother. How was the session? Were you able to get the needed votes in the council to move forward with your initiative or did they table it again?”
Clearly, it was also her name here.
Through the door, Mnhei’sahe listened to another life. A life on Romulus where she was clearly part of a happier family. She didn’t know what divergence created this world, but she couldn’t help but smile a little as she heard her own voice talking with the family that fate had denied her.
“Your father’s work and my own is not something you need concern yourself with, my dear. At least until you have completed your service to our grand military. Still, your passion for it warms my heart as always. When your time comes, you will be great.” Verelan said. Her voice was so different here. Warmer and less hardened. And it was almost a shock to hear her trying to discourage this granddaughter from an interest in the senate, all things considered. After all, in her own reality, Verelan had kidnapped Mnhei’sahe to try and get her to accept her place in Romulan politics.
“Mother…” The voice of Dralath tr’Rul said, somewhat sternly, “You coddle the girl. She is no longer a child. She is an officer in the Imperial Navy… believe it or not… and she and I are due to have words. Go, wait for me in my study, Okhala. I will be in presently.”
“Hnaev…” Mnhei’sahe whispered from the other side of the door to that same study she was currently hiding in. She looked around, trying to find a different place to hide. She didn’t want to be seen in this reality if she could avoid it. There was a small closet in one corner that would have to do, and the red-headed Romulan Starfleet officer moved as quickly and quietly as she could. As she slipped in, leaving the door open a crack, she heard the main door open and close again, and a set of shuffling footsteps come into the room. In the study, she could hear slightly muffled voices that sounded tense.
Peering through the ever so slight crack, Mnhei’sahe saw herself. She was wearing a pair of what looked like stained riding pants and a dark green blouse. She had long, shoulder-length hair that was a little wavy and black. The girl was the same height and the same age, of course, though a good bit heavier. A rounder face and middle, but no red curls or freckles. Clearly, Okhala t’Rul was born and raised here. No human DNA overlay given to her when she was four that gave Mnhei’sahe her current hair or freckles: the genetic affectations Mnhei’sahe had asked Doctor Asa Dael to keep in her genetic structure when her DNA had been repaired almost two years ago now.
Watching, the more portly version of her other self paced in a circle in the room, her eyes looking down at the floor with an irritated expression. Her mannerisms were much more... immature, which when she thought about it wasn’t at all uncommon for Romulans, really.
Thinking of her experience with the version of her born and raised on Mol Krunchi who also had never had human DNA overlaid into her genetic code and who had lived a more idyllic life, she too seemed somewhat more immature. It was something she thought about for a moment as she was reminded that, as a general rule due to their extended lifespans, Romulans tended to develop emotionally a bit slower than humans. In spite of cultural pressure to serve in adult roles early, her people tended to retain the emotional maturity of teenagers and young twenty-somethings well into their thirties. At least compared to humans. It was a factor that was clearly evident here.
In her own life, Dox had been forced to grow up VERY fast as a smuggler in her own reality, making adult decisions and dealing with adult responsibilities as early as 10, and it forced her to develop emotionally a bit faster than not.
That was clearly not the case here as the just 33 year old woman was moping like someone barely out of their teenage years. As the door to the chamber opened again and she heard her father’s voice. “Have a seat, Okhala. I would be heard, and you shall listen.”
He sounded stern and serious and the other version of herself snapped to attention nervously and sat down, biting her lower lip. From inside the closet, Mnhei’sahe couldn’t help but smile slightly to watch. In both realities, it was clear that she was a troublemaker, but this version clearly got caught more than she ever did during her more rebellious years on Earth. Then she saw as he stepped into the center of the room and sat down, not behind the desk but in the large, plush chair opposite Okhala. It was an action she had clearly had to take many times and she flumped slightly as a result. This “Okhala” didn’t act at all like an officer.
This was a Dralath tr’Rul far closer to the scant few memories she carried from her own childhood. Tall and a little thick, but with a strong face and short, black hair. He wore a well-groomed beard and moustache and had the same deep, piercing dark brown eyes she had seen before. He looked more like the faint vision she had seen of his spirit in the moment after Dalia Rendal had killed him, but Dox put that horrible thought out of her head. HERE, that had clearly never happened. HERE, he was the man he could have been. HERE, he was a noble senator. A leader. Her father. “Do you know why I’m cross, Okhala?” He asked seriously.
“No, Father.” The other version of Mnhei’sahe replied, clearly lying. It was almost funny to the Romulan Starfleet officer how badly this version of herself was at lying, moreso even than herself.
“Really? So… you were in your chambers last evening gently sleeping? You hadn’t gone into the city with agitators? You didn’t help organize a political rally to speak out against the ban on reunificationists?” His tone never wavered or shifted. This was very much a man that took his mother’s seat in the senate as he was supposed to and knew how to talk.
“What? How did…” Okhala’s eyes went wide and her jaw dropped as she hemmed and hawed, fidgeting in her seat as Dralath leaned forward, hands tented under his chin with elbows on his knees. “Did hru’hfe…”
“Enough, Okhala!” he snapped sharply, shutting down the protest, mid-sentence. “And no, hru’hfe Firahne said nothing, though I suspected she’s been covering for you. She and I will have words as well, but you should know I’m disappointed in you, not her. HER loyalty will be honored. That woman has served this family loyally for years. Especially since your Mother returned to service when you were still young. That you would ask her to cover for you is dishonorable, Okhala, and I expect better of you.”
In the time she had been here, the absence of Mnhei’sahe’s mother had been noticeable, but she hadn’t given it thought until now. She knew that in her own reality, her mother bristled at the idea of being a political wife and it led to her and Dralath’s relationship faltering for some time. But here, it seemed, things went differently. Here, it seemed, that Jaeih had accepted the role, at least for a time.
“I don’t suppose I need to tell you how dangerous what you did is? You’re a brilliant young woman, so clearly you know. I don’t need to mention what would have happened had that rally became a protest? I don’t need to mention the scandal that you could have put upon the steps of the house, had you been picked up by the security forces? It would have led to your expulsion from service, which would have ended your career before it had barely begun. You know the backlash that could have been caused to your Grandmother and myself in the Senate. And you know it would have effectively ended any and all chances of you following in public service yourself. You know all of that, and yet you chose to do so anyway.” Then, he leaned forward and his tone softened. “Why, Okhala? Why would you risk yourself so?”
“Because it is important, Father.” Okhala said, trying to muster the strength to speak up to her stern Father. “You say that it is important to have passion. To follow that passion. And… mother believes in it as well.”
Leaning back, Dralath ran a finger across his temple and sighed. “Again, it comes back to her. She filled your head with stories of our distant cousins who… I remind you… abolished those passions you so cherish. I wish she were here to help me explain that what you are seeking must be pursued with the greatest of cautions, but she chose to return to service in the military. It is a… noble calling and she serves our people with mnhei’sahe.”
The statement shot through Dox like a phaser blast. It was the first time here that she had heard her father say her name, and even used in its true context, it made her eyes water slightly. But she also heard a hint of pain in the man’s voice as he spoke. Clearly, Jaeih’s absence was felt here and was having an impact on the family.
There was a moment of silence between the two as the young woman in the chair hung her head slightly. “I want… her to be proud of me, Father. I want her…” Then she paused again and Dox knew the body language well, as Okhala struggled against her own emotions and that anger Dox fought against every day.
“She chose to leave, Father! She chose to… to…” The other version of the woman Dox might have been, shuddered slightly in the chair and sank. “Why… why did she leave us? Why… why wasn’t I good e…”
“No!” Dralath said as he reached across, putting his hands on his daughter’s knees. “NO, I will not hear you finish that thought. And if I could, I would pluck it from your mind so it would never trouble you again, Okhala. Your mother loves you. Your mother loves this family. And your mother IS immensely proud of you, as am I. But your mother is as she was named. As you are my fire, she is as the wind. The element that must be free and she needed to be. She will be home again for the Eitreih'hveinn festival come the harvesttimes, and I know she misses you. But she had a call to her duty to our people that she needed to answer as well.”
“It is a duty I know you understand, or else you would not still follow your grandmother about, with all the passion you had as a child. You would not still follow the newsfeeds and lose yourself in her stories of our day’s work. You would not care enough to try and effect change, even if your methods are foolhardy.” Dralath said pointedly. “Do not begrudge your Mother’s passion. You have your own, after all.”
From the closet, Mnhei’sahe could hear the twinges of pride in her father’s voice, along with his obvious pain at not having his wife at his side. In any reality, it seemed, Jaeih had a problem serving more than her own needs and freedoms. And it had put a chink in what was otherwise like something out of a dream for Mnhei’sahe. She put her hand against the door frame, tears building in her eyes as she sniffled.
Immediately, the red headed Starfleet officer cupped her hands over her nose and prayed that her slip had not been heard. Glancing out the crack, she saw no evidence of it and her heart rate started to slow down a bit.
There was another long moment of silence in the chamber as Mnhei’sahe could see her other self try and fail to stifle a cry for a minute. Then as the tears slowed, Dralath got up and handed her a tissue from his desk and kneeled next to the chair, resting his hand on her shoulder. “Now, were it up to me, you would be in much greater trouble, young one. BUT, I have long ago accepted that while this may be my house, I am its master in name only. We talked on the ride home and your Grandmother has agreed to a proposal that will give you far less idle time to pursue your passions in… dangerous ways.”
“I know your bristle in your current service. I know how you feel regarding our military, considering your mother’s passion for it. But you have also served as is required of all among us. You have fulfilled your obligations and… since your little transgression has gone undiscovered… you have done so without any blemishes upon your record. So… I have spoken with your Commander and, if you so chose it, you shall be transferred from your current position in the regional guard, you will be accompanying your Grandmother and I into the senate chambers where you will be serving as a clerk and her aid over the warmer months.”
Regional guard? Dox thought from the closet, realizing that this version of her had clearly used her political connections to perform what was literally the most basic form of military service.
Listening, plump little Okhala’s eyes went wide again, but this time framed by the largest smile her round cheeks could manage. “You… you mean it, Father?”
“Yes. You clearly need to focus your passions, so I will be allowing you to take the position with your Grandmother’s Council you’ve been pestering us about. Military Service is a requirement for service in the senate, and you have fulfilled your requirements… however reluctantly... and Verelan agrees that this is what you need.” Dralath had a blank, judgmental expression on his face as he spoke. “What you believe is commendable, Okhala. But it is dangerous. Your grandmother can teach you how to navigate the great game. How to play the passions and prejudices of those in power to make them believe that what you want is what they want.”
“You are young. You have much to learn, but with the proper teachings, you may yet one day do great things.” Dralath said, looking down with a raised eyebrow. “This will help you along that path. It is your time.”
“Oh father, thank you!” Okhala looked like she was going to reach out and hug him, but he stood up and adjusted his black top and put his arms behind his back. He had that same wry smirk, but wasn’t going to give her the hug that easily. Clearly, he wanted her to know he was still cross, but that it wasn’t a permanent state.
“Oh, you won’t be thanking me when you see how much filing your grandmother will be having you do. She may have passed her Senate seat to me, but she still works harder than any two other senators since she took the position as the head of the Senate Judiciary Council. And if you want to thank someone, go thank her. She’s no doubt listening at the door anyway.”
From the hallway, Mnhei’sahe heard a muffled voice from the other side of the door. “What a slanderous accusation. I am shocked, Nobel Deihu. Shocked.”
In the closet, Mnhei’sahe almost let an audible laugh out at that, as she had never heard Verelan so happy. So much of the grim weight that had seemed an intrinsic part of the woman was absent here and it felt truly wonderful to hear. As Okhala got up and ran out into the corridor, closing the doors behind her, Dralath stepped over and sat behind his desk. He put his head on his hands and let out a long sigh and whispered. “Jaeih… we are doing all we can for her. But the hole you left…”
Trailing off, he composed himself and turned on his desk computer as Mnhei’sahe simply stood there watching him work. She didn’t want to do anything to taint this reality, so much like a fantasy come to life. The life she had always wished for that existed here. Okhala may have had her issues, but she seemed happy overall. And as much as she wanted to step out and speak to him, Dox knew that if they knew she was there, it could only lead to ruin and pain. Unneeded questions. Unwanted reflections. So she simply watched him work. She watched him work for what had to be another two hours, absorbing every detail. Every expression. Every smile and frown and wrinkle of the face of her lost father.
To Be Continued…