Dox's Final Leap: Victory - Part 2 of 12
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse, the USS Victory
Timeline: 2397, 2286
Continuing the tour with a much clearer idea of just how long she would be on the Victory, the other version of herself continued leading the way through the Starship corridors, doing what seemed to be her level best to avoid looking at ‘herself’.
The Victory’s Captain had warned Dox to not unduly upset her other self with information about her own life back on the Hera, and she was sticking to that request, even though it appeared that she truly didn’t have to say much to distress her other self. Her mere existence was clearly enough. Still, with the three officers largely alone in the corridor, the silence was somewhat deafening.
Breaking it, the Dox of the future sighed slightly and spoke. “So… you told me how you ended up here, but not... why you stayed.”
The Victory’s Dox tensed up slightly and narrowed her gaze as she turned to look at her other self. “Meaning what? I need to justify myself to you?”
The question clearly struck a nerve that even T'Vyn noticed as all three stopped in their tracks. “Perhaps this is a discussion that should pass in private. When one is judging oneself, a third party tends to be unnecessary. I have duties to attend to- I will leave you.”
“My apologies, Lieutenant Commander. But, thank you. I’ll complete the rest of the tour and speak again later.” The Victory’s Dox said as the two officers exchanged their farewells and the Vulcan officer went on their way.
Taking a breath, The Hera’s Dox realized she was stepping in it, but her curiosity had gotten the better of her. She needed to know. “No, you don’t feel like you need to justify yourself, but I need to know. After all, we both are very well aware that traveling forward in time only really requires going to sleep for a long time. If Starfleet was willing to station you on a ship, I can’t imagine that wasn’t an option. The technology has been around for centuries.”
“Yes, that was an option.” The Victory’s Dox hissed, stepping up to look herself in the eyes and sounding remarkably like their mother in the moment. “If you ‘must’ know, after I passed out on the landing pad, I woke up at Starfleet Medical. I was patched up just fine, but under restraint and guard. After all, my only identification was a Starfleet Commbadge that didn’t yet exist and we are still very Romulan.”
The tension was thick in the corridor as the Victory’s Dox continued, clearly angry at having to tell the story. “Standing at the foot of my bed was a Starfleet Admiral. He talked to me for two days straight. I told him everything I felt I safely could. I told him who I was, and where I came from. I told him who MUDD was and how dangerous he was. I even told him about the implants and technology in Mudd’s body that they had to disable to hold him safely. I knew it was dangerous, but I had to trust that Starfleet would know not to do anything to disrupt history. But it turned out that... I already DID.”
“What happened?” The Dox from the Hera asked directly, her eyes meeting the glare of her other self.
“When I crashed Mudd’s ship, I was as careful as possible. We came down clean. Nobody was hurt. But when those security officers came running, it was along with a crisis management team, there to secure the crash so nobody got hurt. I passed out. I was unconscious. So, I couldn’t stop Mudd from activating the self-destruct device on his ship.” She said, grimly. “SIX Starfleet officers were killed, too close to the explosion. SIX lives that otherwise would have kept going.”
“When the Admiral that came to see me spoke, I asked their names. I… I needed to know WHO had died because of me. So... he told me.” She continued, her eyes narrowing even more. “Five of the names, I had never heard before. But one… one of the medics on the scene, I recognized. Her name was Ensign Marla McCafferty.”
Listening, the Hera’s Dox went white for a second as she recognized the name.
“You know that name, correct? You’re just now realizing what I realized when the Admiral told me, right? You remember him?” The Victory’s Dox said as her counterpart stepped back in shock.
As the Hera’s Dox’s mind raced, the Victory’s Dox continued. “So tell me. You took the SAME Temporal Mechanics Classes I did. You know the implications and the scope of what it means. So you tell me, Lieutenant Commander. WHY did I stay?”
There was the beginnings of tears in the Victory’s Dox’s eyes that she quelched as she waited. After a moment, the Hera’s Dox replied weakly. “Richard McCafferty. The academy student that we… slept with. The one who… bragged about being a Starfleet legacy kid. The one… the one we fought with when we found out he was just sleeping through every alien woman he could trick into it. We… put him in the infirmary when he tried hitting us.”
“For which we were put on academic suspension for SIX MONTHS.” The other Dox snapped back, “We were eventually cleared, and finished the academy at the end of what was now our FIFTH year. We graduated a year late because of someone who now wasn’t going to be BORN. We undid our own very specific future.”
Stepping away, the Victory’s Dox started walking back down the corridor as she continued, the Hera’s Dox walking faster to catch up as she kept talking. “Graduating early, without an academic black mark, would have changed the trajectory of my career in ways I couldn’t have predicted. Yes, the Admiral offered to put me into Cryosleep, but I would have woken up in a future where I was… who knows… dead, maybe? Or alive on a completely different ship from the Hera? A smuggler again? And that’s just accounting for McCafferty. Who knew what effect the loss of the other five officers would have on my future.”
“All I knew was that I was now in a timeline… this timeline… where the chances that I would wake up to… a wife waiting for me… for those friends glad to see me… were virtually zero.” The Victory’s Dox said.
Cutting herself short of saying the name ‘Mona’, the other Dox changed course slightly. “There was no way to know, and the idea of sleeping for over a century to wake up with even LESS of a claim to my own life than I had here… was terrifying.”
“Then, the Admiral introduced me to Captain MacGregor. We... talked for a long time, and as a fellow… ‘V'tosh ka'tur’ in Starfleet… she offered me something I couldn’t guarantee was ever going to happen if I’d gone to sleep: a purpose.” The Victory’s Dox said, dropping the term for what was known as a ‘Vulcan without Logic’. The cover that was used to allow Charybdis to function in Starfleet, at a time when hostilities with the Romulans would have made either of them serving openly impossible. It was something she had learned from her own version of Char, and Dox was taken aback at the realization that at that very moment, her counterpart had to lie about her heritage just to serve on the Victory.
“The Admiral made certain… accommodations. Like the Hera, the Victory is an Intel ship, and my status here is as top-secret as what we did back on the Hera. After I proved my qualifications by passing every Starfleet exam they could throw at me, I was assigned here to the Victory, and given a field ranking of what I was at the time, a Lieutenant.” Dox explained as they made their way to the Victory’s Main Engineering. “Does that answer your questions?”
The tension was still there, but a bit reduced as they kept walking. “Yes. Thank you.”
“Look… I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how difficult of a decision it was for you to make. And… I apologize for putting that on you.” The Hera’s Dox said, a conciliatory tone in her voice as she walked next to her counterpart. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I just had to know.”
After a moment, the other Dox just chuckled slightly with a wry grin. “It’s alright. I suppose I know for a fact, now, that I would have done the same in your position.”
Coming to the end of the corridor, they stopped at the entrance to a turbolift as the Victory’s Dox tapped the control pad. While the wait wasn’t long, the Hera’s Dox pursed her lips slightly as she considered her next words. “Well… then along those lines… I do have another question. The officer at tactical who…”
Now it was the Victory’s Dox’s turn to turn a bit green in the cheeks as she closed her eyes and finished her counterpart’s thought out loud. “Who called me ‘Rruieh’... ‘My Desire’? Yes… I didn’t think we were going to avoid that particular topic, though I was hoping.”
“Look, I’ve been here on the Victory for a year. Longer now than I had even been on the Hera before getting lost in time. Things… happened. I’ve made… some very good friends here.” She said, nervously fingering her ear. “Her name is….”
As she spoke, the door to the lift slid open and inside stood the nearly two meter tall Tactical officer in question, with a surprised expression on her pretty face with the strong jawline, framed by dark hair worn down, but regulation.
“Uh… Jessica. Lieutenant... Jessica Valin” The Victory’s Dox said, stammering slightly. “Uh… meet… me.”
Those brown eyes went from one Dox to the other, then back again a few times as the titanic tactician looked between the two women, then took the Maroon Monster uniformed Dox by the arm to pull her off to one side.
“Excuse us for a moment,” she fairly growled as the local Dox was firmly and insistently pulled away by a somewhat unsettled Titan native.
As the Hera’s Dox turned away, stepping into the lift to give them their privacy, she pushed the button to hold the lift while they waited. Outside, just a bit down the corridor, the Victory’s Dox was biting her bottom lip, while being lead away to a distance both women were comfortable that even Vulcanoid hearing wasn’t going to pick up.
“I’m sorry, Jessica. The Captain asked me to give… her… a tour of the ship. Believe me, I know how uncomfortable this all is. I’m not happy about any of it, myself.” The Victory’s Dox said in a low whisper.
“Okay, look, the Captain vouches for her, so- whatever,” Jessica Valin grumbled. She was not overly fond of the Captain’s casual use of telepathy, often in place of actual evidence the rest of the crew could perceive. Chain of command meant they took her word for things, but it sure would have made it easier to do it the ‘mortal’ way. “But Charybdis said, on the bridge- about her hurting you? Look, why don’t you just stay away from her, okay? She isn’t you, YOU’RE you, and I don’t... want anything to happen to you.”
Generally, expressing her feelings was difficult for the recovered alcoholic who had instead become a workaholic, which was part of what made the two a good match. But when she felt strongly about a subject, she would find a way to communicate it to her lover. Particularly when concerned for her safety.
“I don’t want to be doing this, Jessica.” Dox said, putting her hand up on her lover’s face softly. “I don’t want to be… reminded of everything I’ve worked so hard to move on from. But orders are orders, and it’s clear that this version of me KNOWS the Captain too… She called her “Char”? How? Imirrhlhhse, she went white as a ghost in sickbay. More than just me is familiar to her, and I want to know why.”
“I need to know why.” Dox said looking deep in those deep, brown eyes that were there to comfort the time-lost Romulan woman in ways she never thought she would feel again. “Because if what she knows is something that can hurt us here… ANY of us… then I have to know. I’m not losing you if I can help it, Jessica. I promise.”
There was a clear war of indecision on the part of the tall tactician, as her 6’3” frame shifted, her shoulders rolling as she did when she was stressed, and she rolled her neck to try to keep the stress from locking it up. Drawing in a long breath, she closed her eyes and tried to quell the anger that such situations tended to bring to the surface for her, and act in a calm, professional manner, instead of hitting something.
“Alright... alright. I trust you, Minnie. I know you’ll do the right thing, for yourself and the Victory, but...” A glance at the ‘other’ Dox from under her brows could not restrain some hostility, however, and Valin’s brow furrowed as she whispered. “I just… I remember what you were like when you got here, how remote and cold you were because you were afraid to get close to anyone, and... I see it, all over her face. We’re all ghosts to her, because we’re history. She doesn’t see the hurt she can cause... just like you didn’t, wildcat.”
While the weight of what Jessica was saying hit Dox right between the eye, she couldn’t help but smile whenever the towering tactician called her ‘wildcat’. She was fortunate to have found the Victory and those on it, at a time when she had given up on ever living a life again. “Trust me, I remember. That… wasn’t exactly a time I’m proud of. It’s not someplace I ever want to go to again. But you saved me then. You pulled me out of that pit I was in. Helped me out of that bottle. I swear to you I won’t let her hurt you, or bring me back to that place.”
“She’s got the better part of a full day before she’s gone, so if I keep her occupied and away from the rest of the crew as much as possible, she can’t do any real damage.” Dox said, trying to build herself up as much as Jessica, “You helped show me how to beat my demons, Jessica. So I can deal with one more.”
The smile that spread across the broad woman’s face was a shy and hesitant one, particularly on duty. For all her professionalism and size, Jessica Valin had one soft spot, and it was the cute little redheaded Romulan who had made her feel strong, confident, and like she had all the answers, when she herself was just starting to figure it all out. But here and now, Minnie Dox meant the world to her, and in that shy smile, it could be seen as plain as day.
Even to the Dox of the USS Hera, who had literally just met the woman. But in that smile, she saw a glimpse of the emotionally vulnerable yet physically imposing woman, who was so concerned for her counterpart here.
With a warm smile, the Victory’s Dox reached up and gently pulled the dark-haired human woman down slightly for a kiss. On duty, they were always professional and kept their relationship where it belonged. But here, in the corridor where they were alone, and considering the situation, it seemed perfectly appropriate. And on some level, she wanted her counterpart to see. To reinforce that in spite of appearances, they weren’t the same person anymore. “I’ll see you soon, e'lev.”
Using the Romulan word for one’s beloved, the Victory’s Dox adjusted her uniform and pulled her much longer red curls out of her face. The smile that was beamed to her was one of blushing cheeks and awkward bashfulness from the biker girl from Titan, but in that expression, the visiting Dox could see just what her local counterpart meant to the woman.
Why that bothered her as much as it did, she didn’t know. But she watched from the turbolift as the two whispered something else to each other and her counterpart walked back over to the lift. Stepping in, the Victory’s Dox looked down where her counterpart was pressing the hold button and then pressed the override on her own panel, and the door closed and the lift began to move.
“I apologize if that was… uncomfortable for you.” the Victory’s Dox said, somewhat flatly.
“In truth, pretty much everything happening here is…. uncomfortable to some degree.” The Hera’s Dox said as she adjusted her own uniform tunic. “I’m simply trying to not be too disruptive to things. I’m not here to ruin anything for you.”
“I know you aren’t.” The Maroon-clad counterpart said as she hit the hold button on the lift again, putting her hand up to the bridge of her nose. “Look. I know I don’t owe you anything. But I can’t help but feel more than a little judgment off of you. I don’t think I’m entirely off base, considering that you and I were very much the same person a year ago.”
“We still are, in essence.” Was the reply, but it was a reply that the longer-haired woman seemed to be prepared for as she snapped back, still keeping her distance on the lift.
“No, we’re not. I don’t know what you’ve been through in your life back on the Hera since the Mudd Incident, and I don’t truthfully want to. Clearly, you and Mona are together, and I’m happy for that. I truly am. I’m happy that at least one reality has a Mona that got what mine didn’t and had you return to her. But that wasn’t an option for me. There was no going to sleep and waking up like nothing had ever happened. So I stayed. I stayed and I worked my ass off to make a LIFE for myself here. And yes, that meant eventually moving on.”
“It wasn’t easy. As you can gather from what you’ve been oh-so-subtly observing, I made all the basic mistakes you are so familiar with. I was cold and withdrawn. I was angry and I didn’t care who I hurt for a while, because it took the edge off my own pain. And there’s no kreldanni synthohol here, so I fell off that particular wagon pretty damn hard.” the Victory's Dox said with flush green cheeks as she glared across at the mirror of a life not lived.
“So no, we are not the same person. Not anymore. So, you can judge me from my choices all you want, but they’re my choices. This is my life and my career now. I am Second Officer on this ship. I have people that helped me up when I was at the lowest place in my life, when they could have easily just told me to f--- off. I have a career when Starfleet could have just locked me up as a spy. I have friends here. And yes, I found very unlikely love here. In spite of everything that I lost… I am happy. Maybe you can be happy too, if you stop judging me and realize that me being happy means you can be, too.”
As the Victory’s Dox ended her rant, she re-adjusted her duty jacket and re-fixed her frazzled, loose hair and hit the button, to instruct the lift to resume its course to the Victory’s Engineering section in the secondary hull. As she did, a bit of silence fell between the two women before the Hera’s Dox smirked slightly.
The Hera’s Dox considered everything her counterpart had just said, and realized where the angry words had come from. She also noted that her other self’s Romulan accent didn’t leak out when she got upset in the same way it did for her. “I realize that my being here represents something you’ve tried to move past. I’m a walking, talking reminder of the life you lost, and I am sorry that this is so upsetting for you. But maybe you’re not as angry at me for judging you for your decisions as you are at yourself for those same choices.”
“You are right. You don’t need to be.” Dox said, looking over and nodding slightly. “I’ll be honest. I’ve seen ten other versions of my life, and you’re the only one that was as close to the me that I am. So,I’m glad you’re happy. I’m glad it appears you pulled the… stick out of your ass. You don’t have to beat yourself up because you’re happy.”
There was no reply for a long moment other than the Victory’s Dox rolling her eyes slightly as she let out a breath. “Yeah, I don’t miss being read like a book. On that note, how’s Rita?”
But, before the Hera’s Dox could reply, the lift stopped and the door hissed open.
"Who's been holding up the damned elevator? Oh.” The dishevelled human chief engineer of the Victory, Commander Maur Weaver, shuffled onto the elevator before waiting for the twin Romulan woman to get off. If he noticed the similarity, he said nothing.
“Sorry, Chief Weaver. Hope we didn’t keep you waiting too long.” The Victory’s Dox said with a wry grin at the ornery human, who muttered something incomprehensible to himself as he grasped the handle, and the doors closed behind them.
The history books showed vids and holos of the engineering sections of starships of the day. But never did they show warp cores- ‘dilithium chambers’ as they were known in the parlance of the time, as they were laid fore top stern in the ‘main body’ of the starship.
Not the Victory.
Before them stood a core, pulsing with crimson light, the energy of the release of antimatter and deuterium gas in a perpetually controlled fusion reaction, delicately controlled by dilithium crystals to convert the fusion into the energy driving the power needs of the entire starship, through electricity, plasma and matter conversion. Which would be impressive- erect vertical cores had only been around for a decade or so at this point, so it made sense that as a Refit Constitution, Victory would have one.
As she stepped around it, admiring the antique, she was unprepared for the sight of the second core, pulsing in blue not twenty meters from the first.
“The Victory has two hearts,” the local Dox explained as her counterpart stared up at the twin cores, in legitimate awe.
“This is… astounding.” The Hera’s Dox said. “I… knew that Victory was an Intel ship of a sort. I knew she had as many secrets, if not more, than the Hera. But I never knew about THIS. How fast…”
But before she could finish that thought, the Victory’s Dox cut her counterpart off, mid-sentence. “Fast. Faster than you would think possible. Not quite like the Hera’s Quantum leaping, but faster than anything else out here. Even on the revised warp scale, she’s still impressive for her day. But that’s not important. What I want to know is how you know anything about the Victory. I studied this period VERY well, especially after meeting Rita. The Victory is classified. Captain Charybdis MacGregor doesn’t exist on paper. So how do you know about this ship? How did you recognize Char on the bridge?”
“Ask her. I’m sure she got all of it out of my head when she broke in.” the Hera’s Dox said defensively, before her tone shifted to a bit more of disappointment. “Here I thought I had solid defenses. I knew she had been a powerful telepath, but she just got in there like it was nothing.”
“Is that what you think? Really?” The Victory’s Dox said, a smirk growing slightly on her face. “Mnhei’sahe… she KNOWS your defenses inside and out because she’s seen them from my mind. It’s easy to get through a vault door if you know the code. I’ll have you know, all she confirmed is that you’re really me, that you aren’t a direct threat and when you’re from. She wasn’t in there long enough for much more.”
“You know that because?” The Hera’s Dox replied.
“Because she told me so. Silently. Telepathically. When she tasked me with giving you this tour. Yes, she’s direct. She gets what she feels she needs, and worries about consequences later.” The Victory’s Dox continued, leaning casually against the railing as she changed the direction of the narrative for a moment. “I know how it feels. You feel violated. Invaded. It made you feel weak and vulnerable. It reminded you of him. I know.”
Both women knew exactly who ’him’ was. The entity known as Anansi, who had forced his way into both of their minds during their first few weeks on the Hera. The self-described God of Stories that clearly, both women still feared enough to avoid saying its name aloud. But at the simple evocation of the memory, the Hera’s Dox locked up just a little physically.
“I know this because when I first met the Captain, when I was still a… guest of Starfleet Security on Earth, and Admiral Jones needed to confirm my story to decide how I would be allowed to move forward, she was as blunt as ever.” There was a chuckle and a smile on the Victory Dox’s face as she recalled the moment.
“Think about it. I… we had never known of any other Romulans in Starfleet, especially this far back. Much less a Captain. So she had every reason to believe I WAS a Tal’Shiar spy. So our introduction was a rather forecful attempt to breach my mental defenses. And… in all reality… Sonak had trained me VERY well to keep him out of my head but… Charybdis is… a good measure stronger than he is... well, like the difference between a rock hammer and a sledgehammer, if you will. But my training was good. So good that when I told her it came from a Kolinarh master, she was inclined to believe me enough stop pushing, sit down and talk.”
“So we talked. We talked, in total, for roughly a day and a half straight.” The Victory’s Dox said with a much more serious expression. “I told her literally everything she could want to know about who I was. How I got there. My… heh… OUR time as a smuggler. What Mother did to us and how it was reversed. The lineage of my family that I could trace back on Romulus. Everything that wasn’t information sensitive to the timeline. But I even told her when I wasn’t telling her that. Which was not all one way- she told me about what she did in Starfleet. And… eventually… a bit about what she was. After a time, she told me what I could be with trust. That I could have a career and a purpose again. That here… I could matter.”
“Frankly, it was a speech that would have made Rita clap,” she continued, that smirk returning. “So… I made a decision. Hardest decision I had made in a long time. I let her in. I lowered my mental defenses, and let her in completely.”
At that, the Hera’s Dox’s eyes went a little wide. It was a difficult concept to accept, but the truth of it came across. “And?”
“It’s a two way street, that level of openness. I learned who she really was in the process. Which created a trust. An important trust. One that extends to the here and now. I trust her, Mnhei’sahe. Implicitly. In return, she trusts me. Yes, sometimes she rushes in headstrong. That’s where I can help. You see… now SHE has an obnoxious second officer to remind her what’s the right thing to do from time to time, and ask what needs to be asked more delicately. Someone who was taught VERY well what Starfleet is and should always stand for.”
“So, you’re Rita, now?” The Hera’s Dox said with the closest thing to a chuckle she had managed since arriving.
“I suppose you could say that, in a manner of speaking. If the Delta fits. Now, my questions, if you wouldn’t mind?” came the somewhat terse reply. “As I mentioned, it’s a two way street.”
“Short version… a few months ago, she introduced herself to me. My timeline’s version of Charybdis MacGregor. ADMIRAL Charybdis MacGregor. A much older woman. Retired. Who, it turns out, had been paying close attention to my… to our career. Curious about another Romulan woman in Starfleet. We… became friends.”
“What’s the long version?” The Victory’s Dox asked, rather pointedly.
“Maybe we should go sit down for this...” came the reply, before the communicator on the belt of the Second Officer of the Victory chirruped.
Raising it up and tapping the call button, she immediately adopted a more professional posture, “Dox here.”
“Lieutenant Commander Dox. The Captain has asked me to inform you that both you and our guest are requested at the Captain’s table for dinner at Oh Nineteen Thirty Hours.” Came a voice over the comm that the Hera’s Dox immediately noticed seemed to be nearly identical to the Hera’s Chief Engineer, Thex sh’Zoarhi.
“Thank you, Lieutenant Tivri. Please let the Captain know that we will be there.” Then the Victory’s Dox paused for a moment, as it seemed that just a bit of energy had left her and her posture loosened just a hair. “If you’re available, could you please meet us on Deck 5. I need to freshen up and I’m sure our guest does as well, and I would appreciate the assistance there.”
“Absolutely, Lieutenant Commander. On my way.” Came the familiar voice over the comm.
“Thank you again, Lieutenant. Dox out.” She replied, quickly noticing the confused expression on her counterrpart’s face. “Lieutenant Tivri is our Communications Officer. She wasn’t on the bridge when you arrived and… it’s extremely complicated. I... freaked out when I met her because what you’re hearing isn’t half as strange as seeing… her. You’ll... see for yourself. Just keep in mind, I freaked out on her already, so try and be professional. let’s just leave it at that for now.”
Adjusting her maroon duty jacket, the Victory’s Dox led her confused counterpart back to the turbolift entrance and tapped the pad to call the lift. After a few awkward seconds, the door opened and both women stepped in somewhat quietly.
As the Victory’s Dox grabbed the control handle and activated the lift, she turned towards her counterpart, and the empty spot where her commbadge would have been and raised an eyebrow. “Where’s your communicator?”
Without turning back, Dox recalled her last leap where she met a version of herself that had been abandoned of Romulus. Who was forced to endure a very long and painful year, eventually becoming a freedom fighter in the Romulan underground. The woman who Dox had given her communicator to, to give the nearly broken woman back a measure of hope and a means to call for help. As she thought of all that, she lightly touched the empty area where her badge had been and replied. “Very… long story. I… gave it to another version of me who… needed it more. I’ve met a lot of versions of myself, and in truth… most have been… very unsettling. Let’s just leave it at that for now, please.”
“Fair enough.” The Victory’s Dox replied with a nod. “Looks like we will be having some… interesting dinner conversation.”
“If by ‘interesting’ you mean ‘incredibly awkward’, I think you’re right...”
To Be Continued…