Dox's Leap 10: Okhala t'Rul - Part 2 of 2
Posted on Tue Aug 11th, 2020 @ 11:01am by Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse, the Rul house. Romulus
As the light of Eisn began to dip in the far window, Senator Dralath tr’Rul closed down his computer, shut off the lights and stepped to the door of his study. Out of her sight, Mnhei’sahe listened to the sound as the door opened and then shut again. And after a minute of silence, she slowly stepped out of the closet she had been hiding in for a few hours now, being as quiet as she could.
The sunset light streamed in still and the room was just light enough to see everything. She stepped over to the desk, running her fingers across the surface, feeling the wood of the desk and sighing. Then she saw, on the desk something that made her gasp. A small gold-rimmed frame. And in the frame, a 2-D photograph of Dralath, Verelan, Jaeih and a much younger Okhala. The family that she had lost almost completely. The family that could have been in a life she found herself coveting in that moment. But as she picked up the picture and sniffled, she heard something else.
What she heard was the cold metal clank of the door locking from inside followed by a click and hum from the shadows behind the main door to the room. Stepping silently out, Dralath tr’Rul stood with a furious expression and a disruptor held high as he whispered with venom on his lips. “To my HOME. They would send a spy or an assassin to my HOME.”
Putting the frame down slowly, Mnhei’sahe’s heart sank and her stomach twisted. She lifted her arms and bit her own bottom lip nervously. She had been praying to Al’thindor and the Elements both that she would shift realities again without being discovered for fear of contaminating this reality with her presence. “I’m not a spy or an assassin, sir.” She said quietly.
But it was not quiet enough to mask so familiar a voice. Dralath’s furious expression shifted to one of confusion. “Who are you? Step slowly to the side of the table towards the window. Step into the light… now.”
Sighing, Mnhei’sahe stepped slowly where she was instructed. “My… my name is... Mnhei’sahe.” she said as the light illuminated her golden Starfleet badge and shined golden rays of the sunset across her face and red curls.
“Mnh…” Dralath was confused as he stepped to his desk to put his hand over his comm panel, ready to press it and call security. But he hesitated as he kept speaking. “You’re Starfleet? But… Mnhei’sahe? Your name is… Mnhei’sahe?” The man was making mental connections quickly. He knew her voice, and though leaner and freckled, he knew her face as well as he knew his own. “That was what she wanted to name… what kind of trick is this? Tell me now or I’ll simply call for security and they will pry the answers from you, and you will not like how they do so.”
“It’s… It’s not a trick. I’m… it’s extremely hard to explain. I’m… Yes, I am a Starfleet officer, but I’m not here with Starfleet or in any capacity in that regard. I’m… It’s... “ Mnhei’sahe struggled with the impossible truth and how to either get around it or try and explain it. As she did, she nervously bit her lip again, which made his eyes go wide with realization.
“O… Okhala? This is impossible?” He muttered.
“Yes and no.” Mnhei’sahe said. “I know how difficult to believe this will sound, but… I… I am your daughter. But… but your daughter from… from another time and place. Another… another reality. I’m... Mnhei’sahe.” She tilted her head slightly and smiled awkwardly. “M… Mother won the name argument in my reality.”
Stepping back slightly, Dralath kept the disruptor aimed but pulled his hand away from the panel. “This… this… this can’t be real. This can’t be… you can’t be her? She was… she’s here. She’s in the house with her grandmother.”
“I know. I saw. I… she… she looks… happy.” Mnhei’sahe said, a tear breaking out and running down her cheek. In spite of everything, in THIS reality, she was having quite possibly the hardest time containing her emotions.
“If you are a spy, you’re a horrible one. I would inform the Tal’Shiar that their training is extremely lax from my days in service. If I was half deaf I could have heard you in that closet trying not to be heard.” Dralath said, still confused as his face softened almost imperceptibly at the errant tear running down the mystery woman’s face. “Step over to the chair and sit. Keep your hands out and then place them on the arms of the chair.”
At the desk, Dralath tapped the comm panel and spoke. “Hru’hfe Firahne. I need to take a call from the Senate. I am not to be disturbed. Thank you.”
“It shall be, Master tr’Rul.” Came the gentle voice over the comm. As she spoke, he pressed a few more buttons on the control panel and there was a light hum that the young Starfleet officer recognized as a shield being activated in the room. They would clearly not be interrupted or eavesdropped on.
With the disruptor, he pointed to the same chair Okhala had been in. As she slowly walked towards it, her eyes on him the whole time, Dox made her way to the chair and sat down. As she did, he turned on the lamp on the desk and she could see him clearly again as he sat down opposite her, weapon at his side but still at the ready. It was a surreal experience, mirroring what she had watched just hours ago. There was a long moment of silence as he just looked at her, taking in every detail with a mix of confusion and understanding.
“I have seen… evidence of dimensional incursions before. More than a few, really. But how do I know you’re not lying? And if you’re not, how did you get here? And why?” He asked after a long pause.
“I don’t know that I can say anything to prove who I am to you, or that I truly mean no harm.” Mnhei’sahe replied, her eyes still watery and her jaw clenched. “I was exposed to some kind of… particles… and I’ve been being moved from one reality to another for some time now. Each one, a different version of my own life, had things gone differently. But I have no control over how I got here, nor do I know exactly when I’ll leap out again. I’ve spent a twice as long in each reality. Also, if there’s a reason I'm here, I don’t know it.”
“But… I was hoping I would have lept without anyone knowing I was here this time. I am sorry.” She said, trying not to fidget in her seat, feeling very much like a child.
“Why?” he asked pointedly.
“This… as you can probably tell… my own life went very differently. But this… seeing this… is difficult.” Mnhei’sahe said, a crack in her voice as she had to say what she was feeling. “This reality… is something I once dreamed of. A life I would have killed for once. I didn’t… I didn’t want to ruin it.”
Listening, his face softened more as he began to inexplicably believe the bizarre, alternate reality version of his daughter. “You… you’re telling the truth, aren’t you? Somehow… you’re really… really another her. My daughter.”
Hearing him call her ‘daughter’, Mnhei’sahe fliched and her jaw locked up tight as tears welled up again and she nodded. As she did, he tilted his head and relaxed his grip on the disruptor. There was disbelief in his eyes. Disbelief not in Mnhei’sahe, but in himself for believing her as he asked simply, “What… what happened to you there?”
“I… I was watching you from the closet for so long, I… I lost track of how much time I have. The details are long and… well. Mother ran. She ran… hard. She didn’t want to be a politician’s wife and she pushed herself hard to be the perfect Tal’Shiar operative, taking assignments further and further away from here.” As Dox spoke, Dralath listened and lightly shook his head.
“That sounds… very much like her. Continue.” He said, still working to maintain some degree of emotional distance in spite of how familiar the story felt to the woman he knew and loved.
“Eventually… she…” Dox paused, not wanting to press the issue of her Mother’s act of betraying the Star Empire when she realized it’s inequities, realizing it would derail the conversation. “She… bristled under Grandmother’s command. Because she had not married you, they… did not get along. She tried to leave the Imperium and… ended up in hiding on the run. Verelan… Grandmother… you and her had a vicious falling out over her… over Mother. You eventually found her and together and reconciled. You both had me… in secret. But things were… different.”
“There is… much you are omitting in this telling.” Dralath said, his eyes narrowing. “You know I was a Tal’Shiar investigator. So, I assume you know that means I do not like gaps in a story.”
Looking down for an instant, Mnhei’sahe took a breath. She didn’t think she was going to get away with that but wanted to nonetheless. While she had a disruptor trained on her, she didn’t feel threatened. Instead, what she was feeling was an experience that was much more alien to her. She didn’t want to disappoint her father, and in that she realized that she and Okhala were much more the same woman than she had thought.
“Mother…” Mnhei’sahe said, lifting her head back up to meet her father’s stern gaze. “She threw herself so hard into her task that she… eventually began to notice that she was disregarding her own morality. She was doing things she was beginning to find… reprehensible. And when she was asked to forcibly recondition a small colony of reunificationists, she refused. She committed mutiny.”
“A capital offense. As was supporting the reunification movement to that degree.” Dralath said flatly, giving up nothing of his own feelings. “Hence my concern in the conversation you were not-so-stealthily eavesdropping upon. So, this is why she ran? And this is why my Mother and I came to oppose each other?”
Looking across at her father, Mnhei’sahe took a breath and told him everything she could. Of her mother’s betrayal to protect the colonists. Of Jaeih’s imprisonment for 6 years before escaping and becoming a smuggler. Of she and his reunion when Dralath learned Jaeih was still alive and tracked her down in the infinite reaches of space and how together, they had her. Then, reluctantly, Mnhei’sahe told him of how they chose to hide her. Of the overlay of human DNA and of how he had been discovered and eventually punished for not giving them up to the Tal’Shiar.
There was a long moment of silence as Dralath considered the detailed story of Mnhei’sahe’s very different life. Mnhei’sahe sat as still as she could but felt very much like a child in spite of herself. Her emotions were a whirlwind, wondering what her father was thinking.
After a moment, he leaned back slightly in his seat and nodded. “I am… under no delusions regarding the shortcomings of our government. The flaws that have become systemic that continue to harm the Romulan people…”
As she spoke, Mnhei’sahe’s heart swelled ever so slightly as the man that was also a Senator was now speaking. “Much of this is why I serve. Why my Mother… your Grandmother… has worked to teach our Okhala in the hope that over time, we can all bring back at least some small measure of what has been lost over the centuries.”
“How… why are you in a Starfleet uniform?” Dralath asked, genuinely interested now.
“I found out about everything… only about two years ago. Found out my real name… found out about you. I didn’t know almost anything until… really… not too long ago. Mother and I were… well… smugglers for years. It was the only way to get by and… it was not an easy childhood. When I was sixteen, we got caught and because my DNA read as half-human because of… this is even more complicated.”
What followed for the next half hour was a detailed description of a painful childhood, as Mnhei’sahe went through the bizarre steps that lead to her joining Starfleet. From the genetic modifications and surgery her parents had performed upon her as a toddler that were designed to hide her as half-human, to the trials and tribulations of a childhood raised as a soldier, pilot and criminal. To her own betrayal of her mother to protect her own sanity and her eventual years spent on Earth with the kind and loving couple that never knew that she was not their blood. Then, the topic went to her admission to the academy and her troubles there, eventually coming to the service she was proud of on the ship she considered her home, and the family she found there.
No names were spoken, but the details were too outlandish to be invented and too convoluted to be anything resembling a spies cover story. When the long tale ended, there was silence again as Dralath took it all in. If he felt anything in the telling, it was invisible upon his stoic facade, but when he finally did react, it spoke volumes.
Taking the disruptor in his hand, he turned off the weapon and placed it delicately on his desk. “The life you describe… should never have been.”
Watching, Mnhei’sahe smiled. “It’s okay. It’s been… it’s been difficult. The family that believed I was a part of theirs on Earth. They were good people. Honorable. They did their best to do right by me. And since then, I’ve managed to make a good life for myself. I know who I am now… I know where I’ve come from. I… I met grandmother finally and we speak on occasion. I have a wife and we have children now. Three little girls that are more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. I’m… I’m happier than I've ever been… father.”
Listening, she might not have been his Okhala, but Dralath tr’Rul still knew when that face and voice weren’t telling the whole truth. “That may be true… but there’s more, isn’t there? You mentioned your grandmother… but not me.”
“And… and I’d rather not… but.” Mnhei’sahe raised a hand to wipe her face and Dralath made no motions to stop her. “You were… taken from me not too long ago. Executed in an attempt to break me by a Tal’Shiar agent named Dalia Rendal.”
“Yet here you sit, unbroken. As for Dalia Rendal, I know that name. A power hungry woman with delusions of royalty, as if such a thing existed here. This is good to know.” Dralath said, as always absorbing anything that might be of use to him and cataloging it as such. And in truth, on some level, Mnhei’sahe had been thinking of just that. She remembered her Grandmother’s words about turning things to your own advantage a few leaps prior, and they stuck in her head. If Rendal were a threat here, her family would know of it from her, and if this Rendal suffered for the crimes of her version, so be it.
Watching, he stood up with before her and raised an eyebrow. “I believe you… Mnhei’sahe.”
Hearing him say her name again, to her this time for real, broke the damn she had been trying to maintain. She took the tissue as she began to cry for a moment, trying to keep her voice down so as to not call any more attention to them in the locked room. “I’m… I’m sorry.”
Standing by the table, he didn’t respond. Instead, he looked down at the woman he now understood was also his daughter and had the same stern, critical gaze he gave Okhala earlier. Changing the subject, he looked at the rank pips on her unfamiliar uniform, that he clearly understood as a Romulan Senator. “A Lieutenant Commander. Hopefully, when you do return to your... Starfleet… you will work to improve that.”
A smile cracked her face as she looked up at him and nodded. “Yes, sir.” She said, like a daughter replying to a father for the first time in her life. “I will.”
“Then stand up. I want to see you.” he said, that same authority in his voice. “What are you in Starfleet? I would hope that they are not wasting your talents.”
“A pilot. Chief Flight Control officer on my ship.” She said, standing up and coming to attention as if spoken to by an Admiral.
Listening, he nodded. “That’s A command position, if not full command. Acceptable, but limited. A pilot is a piece of a machine. You are the granddaughter of a Romulan senator AND a Starfleet officer. You have, in that, the power to do far more than fly a starship. When you return, know I expect you to do better still. Starfleet is… not without its merits... and it is good to see that even removed from the Imperium and your home, you have chosen a life of service to a cause. That is the strength… of our family.” He was maintaining his facade, but in that moment, his words revealed his thoughts to Mnhei’sahe.
“You have given me many things to consider. I have… allowed Okhala to coast through her life, here. In some respects, you have been spoiled here. Seeing you, I see living, breathing proof that my own Okhala can excel once she puts her mind to it. Clearly, my earlier decision is wise, and she will be pushed to excel even further. You have given me a great gift in this, and… I would do the same.” Dralath looked and saw a slight shimmer beginning to slowly collect around Mnhei’sahe, and he suspected that he knew what that meant.
Reaching to the table, he picked up the small framed picture he saw her looking at with awe earlier, pulled the back off and removed the photograph of his family. Stepping over, he held out his hand with the picture in it. Blinking, Mnhei’sahe slowly and hessitatingly brought her own hand up and gently took the image. As he spoke, his voice was strong and everything that she ever imagined it would be, but there was now a softness that smoothed down the edge, revealing her own emotions. “Mnhei’sahe… that is a good name. But it is a name that compels you to a life of great honor. Know that, and wear it well, daughter. Know that wherever your travels take you, that you have a proud father here… and a family... and that can never be taken from you.”
As he spoke, he reached forward and ran his hand through her hair gently. Mnhei’sahe shuddered standing there, the picture in her hand and tears running down her cheeks as she began to realize she was going to leap at any moment. She could feel the energy building within her again, and for the first time during all of this, she didn’t want it to. In that moment, she wanted to stay as long as she could. She wanted to reach out and grab him, but already felt this reality begin to fade. Instead, she did the one thing she was too late to say to her own Dralath tr’Rul, “I… I love you, father.”
And in the split instant, before she vanished, she heard him say with a smile and a tear in his eye, “I love you, too, my daughter.”
Moments later, Mnhei’sahe was gone. Dralath tr’Rul stood, alone in his study, staring at the space where something impossible had just happened. Clearing his throat, the dignified Senator of Romulus straightened himself up and looked down at his hand. In it, a few strands of red hair remained. For a full two minutes, he stood there staring at them. The evidence that what he experienced was real. She was real. Then, he stepped over to the desk, and placed the hairs carefully in the small, gold-rimmed frame and closed it back up.
Putting the frame back where it had always sat… a reminder of a daughter lost… he put the disruptor away in the hidden drawer in his desk that it was kept it, deactivated the security screens, composed himself and went back out into the house.
He had that hug to give to Okhala that somehow seemed a lifetime overdue now.
To Be Continued…