Dox's Final Leap: Victory - Part 4 of 12
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse, the USS Victory
Timeline: 2397, 2286
Taking a moment to glance at the small countdown timer that Siivas had given her in the Victory’s sickbay, the Redheaded Romulan dimensional leaper took note. She had approximately fourteen hours left to go in this alternate timeline where a version of herself had become dislodged from time, yet found a home.
Taking some time to relax and refresh herself had been a proverbial godsend. It had felt great to have a clean uniform and have been able to take a sonic shower in the crew quarters of the young Andorian Communications officer that was now her escort to the Captain’s table of the U.S.S. Victory for dinner.
Most of her leaps thus far had come with no small amount of danger, and her last led her deep into the sewers beneath the streets of the Romulan city of Iuruth. So the shower had been extremely welcome.
Arriving on C Deck, Dox was familiar enough with the layout of this era of ship, but there was a world of difference from a holodeck recreation and walking through the real thing. The holodeck didn’t vibrate the deckplates the way the real thing did, and she could feel the hum of the warp drive in her bones, literally. It made you feel more connected to the ship, somehow, than the more efficient and smooth operations of the starships of the late 24th century. Distracted by the line of thought as she was, Dox was actually happy that Lieutenant Tivri was there to help her through the ship.
As the doors opened, the room looked somewhat similar to the layout of the conference room of the Hera, with a series of tall, curved windows facing off into the streaking lights of warp space. The room itself was similarly shaped with a narrow, curved table in the center. There were a number of crewmembers from the ship’s galley laying out dishes in the center, as Tivri and Dox entered.
“This is where I drop you off. Invitation only tonight, and if my chief’s in here, I need to be on the bridge. That’s him over there- the handsome Kolari with the doctor. Okay, have fun, and oh, you have a temporary quarters assignment, so you actually have somewhere to go tonight. Just call me on a comm panel and I’ll get you there, okay?” The bright and cheerful little Andorian girl waved, then scooted off, bound for bridge duty to cover the comms station.
"Thank you, Tivri." The Hera's Dox said politely as she nodded to the departing Andorian before turning back to the room.
Glancing about, Dox put the timer back into her pocket and tugged down on her freshly laundered uniform, then stood at parade rest at the doorway. Her doppleganger wasn’t present, but Captain Charybdis MacGregor was.
The tall and very pregnant Romulan woman was standing near the other end of the table, leaning some of her prodigious weight on the bulkhead as she talked with the ship's chief medical officer, Siivas Mackenzie. Also milling beside him, eyes flicking over to appraise and assess the newcomer, was a striking emerald-skinned officer with hair and eyes black as night. About his neck, above his red turtleneck, appeared to be a necklace of some sort... until it moved, and she recognized the coils of a serpent. A delicately tapered pointing of the ears, not as severe as her own, but reminiscent of some degree of Vulcanoid infusion into the bloodline somewhere along the line seemed logical. Particularly given the sharply angled jet black eyebrows, one of which raised slightly in curiosity, his appraisal apparently complete.
Reaching over subtly, he touched the back of his hand to that of the Deltan physician, who turned with a smile.
Which was when from behind her the door opened, and suddenly someone was grabbing her.
Turning with a start, Dox pivoted on her feet to put a small bit of distance between herself and whoever was behind her, but not enough by far as she looked up and met the eyes of Qurka Qurg. The towering Klingon had that same hungry smile on her face, and the clearly jumpy dimensional traveler relaxed her hands slightly, which had begun to raise defensively.
Realizing she was likely overreacting, Dox did her level best to calm down, though the Klingon woman's pheromones were as thick as ever. "Pardon me, Miss Qurg."
“I would pardon you for unspeakable crimes, Mnhey’sahe Dox. If only you would let me...” The Klingon vixen traced a long and surprisingly sturdy fingernail beneath the chin of the extradimensional explorer before withdrawing from her space. Her body was clad in a golden scaled emerald dress with peekaboo panels at the hips. While the woman’s figure was feminine, on display, it was all muscle covered by a fine layer of softening fat, to disguise her true strength. So in motion, she was both eye-catching and impressive. She raised her eyebrows, and the well-formed and mostly even ridges of her forehead move as she did so. For Qurka Qurg was nothing if not expressive. With the grace of royalty, she gently struck her chest and executed a Klingon bow, somehow making it look elegant and ladylike. Then she made puppydog eyes, peeking out from beneath those great flowing lashes.
“I promise, I’m all bark and no bite. Just being playful with the accidental visitor was how the Captain said it. Relax, It’s only flirting. Your wife won’t blame you if you escort me to the party.” With that, Qurka offered her arm. Seeing hesitation, her friendly expression hardened a bit showing the flint of the warrior beneath it.
“There are men of the Empire who would slaughter their best friends for the offer I’m presenting.” The Klingon glamazon grinned at that, which left doubt as to whether she was joking or serious.
Regardless, Dox wasn't pleased feeling challenged by almost everything about the Victory, and in particular, Qurka Qurg's charms. Charms the generally anxious pilot was in no way oblivious or immune to.
The time-displaced woman didn't like that her pulse was racing as much as it was as she took on a more professional posture and took the Klingon's offered arm. But her attention was turned back towards the woman who, in her own time, had become an unlikely friend and unexpected mentor of sorts. "Be playful with the unexpected visitor, Captain MacGregor?"
“Unexpected tourist were my exact words, Miss Dox. Mrs. Dox, I suppose?” Charybdis cocked her head in curiosity even as Siivas turned to do a wide-eyed take at Dox’s emotional reaction to being referred to as ‘Mrs. Dox’.
"That… is generally an honorific reserved for my Mother." The Hera's Flight Chief said as she led Qurka Qurg the fairly short walk from the doors to the table. "Which… hearing it for the first time, I think I prefer to leave for her. Miss Dox will be just fine."
A smile, albeit a nervous one, almost cracked her stern facade before she realized that the towering Klingon hadn't quite given her back her arm yet. She looked over, frustrated at not quite knowing how to defuse the situation and feeling very uncomfortable with every eye in the room seemingly on her.
Nodding slightly, Dox addressed the unexpectedly ravishing Klingon woman, "I thank you for the honor of escorting you."
“I am honored by your escort. Now go pull out the Captain’s chair for her-” Qurka began, even as Charybdis, in a rather impressive display, picked her own chair up and set it back down in place for her to sit... which was a bit of a ways from the table. Which, as she settled smoothly onto the chair with as much grace as her distended protruding belly would allow. At least her maternity uniform looked to be comfortable and functional, leading Dox to believe it was likely a local invention as she shot a somewhat incredulous glare at the Klingon and slipped her arm free to step a bit to the side.
“Please, be seated, everyone. Let us not stand on ceremony, for this is not such a night. This is a visit from another time, another place, another Dox. Tonight it is about toasting our guest, and perhaps even discovering why she looks at me with such melancholy. Miss T’vyn has the conn, Chief Weaver has mumbled that he will certainly try to make it. Selune, I am assuming, is napping in a lounge somewhere and will make an entrance later at a comedically appropriate moment, as is her wont. And of course our Miss Dox and Miss Valin will be along.”
“Unlike them to be late,” the emerald-skinned communications chief observed dryly as he inclined his head to the newcomer. “You move with a fluid grace. You are a student of Llaekh-ae'rl, but you have studied Suus Mahna and Mok'bara as well. I am Andurean Velth.” The serpent round his neck turned to eye her, and she could see dim lights in the serpent’s eyes as it regarded her.
Looking down and cocking his chin a bit, Andurean hmfed. “Well of course she can see you. She shares an empathic bond, which means she has potential. Which means you are indeed visible. But it’s all right, Hishraath. I don’t believe she means any harm here.”
Still standing as the others began to sit, one by on, following the Captain’s lead, Dox looked at the Orion man with the serpent about his neck with regard. Having grown up a smuggler and been in more than her share of dangerous situations in her life even before joining Starfleet, the short-haired Romulan woman knew the word ‘Velth’ wasn’t a surname, it meant ‘assassin.’
In its own way, the Victory’s crew was even more interesting that the crew of the Hera, it seemed as she replied to the implied question that apparently originated with the serpent around the Orion man’s neck, nodding. “No, I don’t mean any harm. I… don’t have a clue as to what mechanics might be behind my various destinations, my different experiences seem to indicate that there’s some… purpose to each. Something I need to learn about… myself. Learn, or change.”
As she spoke, the doors hissed open and in stepped her own counterpart. With a fresh, crisp maroon duty jacket, the Victory’s Dox’s much longer hair was worn back into a series of artfully woven braids pinned up higher on her head with an emerald-colored broach that was decidedly not standard-issue. “I remember my first few months here well, as does everyone else here. The first thing I needed to learn was how to exhale, to which Qurka can well attest.”
Entering immediately to her back right was Lieutenant Jessica Valin, and while the two weren’t hand in hand and were maintaining a professional appearance, everything about their body language projected that they were there as the couple they were.
As they entered the dining chamber, the Victory’s Dox gave a respectful bow that was basically identical to the one her counterpart had upon entering, though the smile was a bit more unguarded. “Maybe that’s a lesson we can impart to you before you leave. Good evening Captain. Siivas. Andurean. Qurka. My… apologies that we are a bit late.”
The last comment came with just the slightest touches of playfulness on the raspy Romulan’s voice as she smirked just a bit more broadly and Jessica Valin blushed ever so slightly.
“I hope your pre-game margarita was satisfying,” the Captain said cryptically as both Valin and Dox blushed rather furiously, and once again the local Dox had to remind her that the woman was brilliant, prescient and could simply make assumptions that were likely correct. It did not mean she was prowling around in their heads- although she couldn’t help but pick up on surface thoughts.
Which was likely Jessica’s thoughts betraying them, as it were. After all, as it was green on the inside, carried a scent not unlike limes, and was... salty. With the added benefit of being far and away her favorite after work treat.
At the comment, the Victory's Dox chuckled nervously for a moment and replied sheepishly. "Um… indeed. Yes."
For her part, the Hera’s Dox was completely lost at the reference for a moment before really looking at both women and putting it all together in her head as she realized that even the considerably more relaxed version of herself was mildly morftified.
As everyone finally took seats, so too did the the temporally time tossed flight chief, across from her counterpart and Jessica Valin, but also unfortunately in the only free seat which was next to Qurka Qurg, who patted it with a mildly predatory smile.
Taking her seat, Dox’s mind couldn’t help but run through the stories that Char had told her back in her own timeline of her crew on the Victory. Of how she herself had jumped forward in time, and how Siivas had been waiting for her. Of Siivas’ relationship with the Andurean. Of the windserpent that had bit her and enhanced her psionic potential, and how that would eventually be ripped from her. And again, Dox remembered the story of how the entire medical staff, including the gentle and kind Siivas, would die.
Looking around, she remembered how Liviana had taken them all to the past where they stood as phantoms on the bridge of Eilean Donan and she first saw Qurka, daughter of Qurg and second heir to House Jort. And where, in another timeline,THAT Siivas had seen and heard her in what was then a distant past, but here likely not that long ago.
Realizing she was dipping deeply into her memories, if only for an instant, Dox wondered just how much of it was evident on her face. She hadn’t felt any minds touch her own directly, though most every eye in the room was on her with the exception of Jessica, who was fixated on the table in front of her.
Sitting up a bit straighter, the woman from 2397 looked across at the younger version of the face she knew well. “Thank you for your hospitality. Under the circumstances, it is extremely appreciated.”
There was an upraised eyebrow from the Captain, while Siivas looked concerned, and it was patently obvious from Charybdis’ face that they two were communicating telepathically, racing through a conversation. Smiling, a somewhat mirthless affair, the starship captain nodded. “We welcomed Miss Dox aboard nearly a year ago. To have another version visit us from another timeline... well. It certainly is unexpected, given the number of potential realities out there. But I suppose that is the nature of the Bulukiya particle- it will most certainly show you paths untrodden.”
There was a shadow that passed over the Vulcanoid vixen’s face at that, but whatever painful memory had been dredged up, she kept it to herself.
“So, I understand you’ve met some of us before?” Siivas asked candidly as Char glared at him.
“Yes.” Dox replied as she glanced across at her counterpart, whose eyes narrowed slightly. Beside her, Lieutenant Valin stiffened a bit, and began subtly glaring at the Dox who didn’t belong here, who was upsetting the one that did. “About… half a year ago for me, after… I had been back to Starfleet to meet with the Admiralty about a recent mission… I received an invitation.”
The awkward pauses, designed to fulfill Char’s earlier request to not go too far into the details of her own life so as to not add emotional toil to her counterpart, made it a little trickier. But the Hera’s Dox tented her fingers as she continued. “So I made a visit with… well… with you, Captain. With… retired Starfleet Admiral Charybdis MacGregor, at your home.”
“Where?” Charybdis asked calmly.
Thinking for a second, Dox was partially still trying to suss out what was and wasn’t appropriate to say, but at this point, her counterpart was already a fairly massive rock thrown in the river of time, so she replied directly with a nod. “Scotland. Glenlochy. A lovely house actually.”
“MacGregor Manor?” she raised an eyebrow, surprised that she would keep the home of her husband so long after he would clearly have passed away.
“Yes. You had a garden that you tended and the cabin was filled with memories and mementos.” Dox added as the slightest of smiles graced her cheeks from the memory of a difficult but good day that changed the course of her own life.
“Cabin? MacGregor Manse is four stories tall. Are you talking about the servant’s quarters...?” the curious captain sought clarification.
That was what Liviana McCray called the smaller building that the Elder Charybdis had lived in when Char’s time-traveling granddaughter had come to visit her grandmother the night the elder Romulan had passed away. When the temperamental time traveler had described it to Dox angrily that day, she had hissed out the words with contempt, doing her level best to make Dox feel as terrible as possible. But when Dox had been given the chance to talk with Char again, visited by the passed woman’s spirit, she told her how happy she had been there the last few years of her life.
In the moment, however, Dox struggled with how to express all of that without directly opening her mind up to the Captain of the Victory. It was something she was still reluctant to do, particularly here in the room with everyone watching. But she had to say something, so she replied as best as she could. “I suppose, yes. You had taken it and made it very much your own. It was cozy and warm, and you told me that you were happy there. And I took you at your word.”
“I see. Proceed,” the curious captain sat back and moved as if intending to cross her legs, rolled her eyes and readjusted in her chair.
“You wanted to meet me. You… had been… watching me. Following my career since I’d entered the Academy. We talked for hours. You… told me stories of your life. Of the Victory. Of your… personal history, both the known and the hidden. You showed me pictures and mementos of your life, including images of everyone here.” Dox said, visible emotion in her face as she spoke.
At that moment, Dox’s head dipped a little as she glanced across at her counterpart, wondering for the first time if her Char’s interest might have been based on this version of Dox existing in her own past. But she put the thought into the back of her mind as she looked back at Char and Siivas.
“There’s more to it,” the sharply-angled brows came together, and the fingers came together in a manner not unlike a supervillain contemplating their next move. “Alright, Miss Dox. You’ve carried equal parts wonder and gloom about this visitation, so clearly you are in possession of knowledge that would be better known than unknown. If the Bulukiya is indeed guided by some sort of sentience as has been proposed, that means that you were sent here for a reason. Not only to educate yourself about yourself, but to potentially affect changes in the realities in which you visit. The longer the visit, the greater the potential impact, after all.”
While Char talked, Dox looked down to where her comm badge would have been had she not given it away to another version of herself she had met. A version in dire straits both literally and emotionally, that needed that little compass, and the weight of Captain MacGregor’s words sunk in.
“So-” Charybdis was just preparing to deliver her final statement when the wall comm panel whistled oooWEEEooo.
=^= Bridge to Captain Charybdis =^=
Rising with some degree of difficulty from her chair, the pregnant captain waddled at high speed to the comm panel, depressing the button. Looking over at her counterpart who still lived in the future, Victory Dox rolled her eyes and nodded in a silent ‘I know’.
“Charybdis here. Status report?”
“We picked up a very faint, low power distress call… from the Saratoga. She’s a patrol cruiser, Miranda-class, on patrol on the other side of the sector,” T’vyn reported, accessing the computer, blowing through the navigation security and accessing the other ship’s flight-plan to triangulate its position, which got fed to navigation and the captain’s chair at the same time, while she made the signal audible to the captain’s mess.
“Starfleet Command, this is Saratoga . Can you hear me...? Come in, please... Come in, please... We have been rendered inoperative by a probe of unknown origin... we have no power, repeat no power... Starfleet Command, do you read me...?”
The current mission was scut work designed to keep the Victory and her crew ‘out of trouble’, running an astronavigation survey in the Celes system to ensure that the previous seventeen surveys had not missed anything and that the binary suns of the system were not behaving erratically. After their recent escapades, it seemed that Starfleet command were trying to decide just where best to place them next as the ship's reputation grew, both as a trouble magnet and as accomplishers of the impossible.
Right now, none of that mattered to the pregnant principal officer of the Victory. A distress signal from one of their own overrode busy work any day of the week.
"Mister Andurean, confirm and verify signal then send receipt and confirmation that we are on our way. Please inform Starfleet Command that our current mission is being... sidelined... to lend aid and assistance to the Saratoga ." She reviewed the navigation data and calculated the time and distance. "Inform Chief Weaver that we're bringing the engines online and putting them to speed today... it's time to live up to our very quiet reputation as the fastest ship in the fleet. “
"I'll need medical, science and engineering to meet me in the main briefing room on Deck Three in two hours with some options for this scenario. And please send a tight-beam transmission to the Saratoga that they can stop transmitting- their distress signal has been received and we are responding- ETA eighteen hours," the captain ordered. In truth, by her calculations they would be onsite no later than just under fifteen hours, but better to offer a more negative than optimistic estimate was her logic, when it came to a tin can floating in the dark that was getting colder by the minute as the air ran out.
“Yes ma’am,” Andurean replied, hands already sliding across his console as he entered the commands for a coded text message. “I suggest we arrive as quickly as possible as a downed capital ship is easy prey and they’ve been broadcasting on wide-band. Also, Medical is asking for an open channel to the Saratoga to discuss resource management until we’re able to lend assistance immediately.”
"Agreed. We'll be crossing eighteen light-years faster than any ship in the fleet is capable of doing so, thus haste will certainly be addressed and why I am politely asking them to stop bleating like a wounded lamb in the darkness. And yes, by all means give Sickbay an open channel if they are asking for it. And now for the fun part- give me a moment then open a channel to Starfleet Command while I explain to them just why we're abandoning our current assignment," the cumbersome captain hauled herself out of her beloved command chair that was becoming more adversarial to her by the day.
"Let's see what the quality of mercy is this morning in the office of the admiralty, or if I will once again be facing an official reprimand for doing the right thing. I do so love these little moral quandaries," she muttered as she headed for her lab to argue with Starfleet Command somewhat in private.
“You could always tell Admiral Jones that the Syndicate recently upped the price on his head to enough currency to buy a small moon,” Andurean quipped in response as she passed. “All orders have been completed and I have a priority channel prepared as soon as my captain is settled in her web.”
~Ah, always giving me gifts. You spoil me, Mister Andurean~ Charybdis laughed as she made her way to her lab to explain the actions that were going to occur, regardless of Starfleet’s orders.
“Uh… Cha… Captain?” The Hera’s Dox asked, standing up from her seat in the middle of the flurry of activity that had clearly interrupted the evening, which at the moment actually felt like something of a relief. “Is there anything I can do?”
The Cheshire Captain lived up to her name as a wide and somewhat unsettling smile made itself at home on her face.
“You’re with me, Miss Dox. Let’s go give Admiral Jones an aneurism.”
To Be Continued…