Dox's Final Leap: Victory - Part 7 of 12
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: The Multiverse, the USS Victory
Timeline: 2397, 2286
On Deck 8 of the Refit Constitution Class Starship, the U.S.S. Victory, Lieutenant Commander Mnhei’sahe Dox of the U.S.S. Hera couldn’t sleep for very long. The glass of Bloodwine combined with the exhaustion of her dimensional leaps made it easy enough to fall asleep, but after a few hours, she had found herself awake and staring at the chamber she had been assigned.
Sitting up on the edge of the bed in her VIP quarters, the redheaded Romulan woman couldn’t help but compare it to her quarters back on the Hera, which had to be easily three or four times larger. Honestly, the chamber seemed to be only about the same size as her junior officer quarters from when she first arrived on the Hera.
“Computer, Lights…” She called out purely out of habit before she remembered that it was the year 2286 and the Constitution Class refit wasn’t quite that advanced as she tapped the control pad next to the bed, turning the lights up. On the small readout next to that same button, she saw that it was 0530. Even in a different universe, one hundred and eleven years in the past, her internal clock worked just fine.
She had been sitting in the bed, awake, for a solid hour and a half thinking about where she was and what she was going to do with the time left before the Bulukiya particles inside of her pulled her away, either to home or another timeline. Even now, the whale probe headed to Earth as Kirk and the Enterprise crew hurtled to the past to kidnap George and Gracie, who would save mankind.
But for now, she was here on the Victory, and according to the small monitor that Siivas had given her, she would be here still for the better part of another day. Another day on the ship where a version of her that had become lost in time had found a new home and a purpose.
Cleaning herself up in the small refresher, a quick sonic shower felt good but the isolation was starting to get heavy as she looked over the changes of clothes that had been made available to her. Captain Charybdis MacGregor knew her version of Dox well, and knew both women had taken to jogging at 0600 hours, semi-religiously. Next to the freshly re-laundered uniform that was neatly folded on the small dresser, was a pair of white running shoes, Black workout pants and a black T-Shirt. In the center of the shirt, in gold letters was the word ’VICTORY’.
Under her uniform, was the small, folded photograph she had been given by an alternate version of her father that she had met.
With a slight smile, she slipped the outfit on and began to stretch. She knew full well it might be awkward to be running around the deck of the Victory looking very much like her counterpart, who was the ship’s second officer, but also knew that the idea had been Char’s. A good way to talk to her other self and clear the air, and Dox couldn’t help but agree.
There had been a palpable tension between the two women since Dox appeared on the bridge of the Victory, and the Romulan pilot wanted it to end before she left. As she finished tying her running sneakers, she went to reach for her commbadge. Then she remembered she had given it to another version of herself. The battered and damaged terrorist that she had met on Romulus.
Sighing, she ran her fingers through her hair and walked over to the door, turning off the room lights as the door wooshed open. Much to her surprise, standing outside with her hand an inch away from pressing the door chime, was Lieutenant Commander Mnhei’sahe Dox. Helmsman and Second officer of the U.S.S Victory.
“Heh.” The Victory’s Dox chuckled as she shook her head slightly and smiled. “I suppose it figures. I never stopped running after I found myself here, and you obviously still do as well. Perhaps you’d care for a partner this morning.”
“In truth, I was hoping to run into you. Char said you run every morning on the outer ring. F Deck?”
“I thought on the manifest they list-”
“Deck Six. Sickbay. The only unbroken ring all the way round the saucer section. Numbered decks, not the alphabetical. Figured you’d want to know,” the Victory’s Dox nodded, the high ponytail bobbing as she spoke.
“Ahh, thanks. I was hoping we could talk, while you were off duty. No… formal dinners or pressure.” The Hera’s Dox said as she stepped out into the corridor. Standing there, she smiled as her counterpart was wearing the exact same outfit, but in that it was easier to see that in just over a year, both women had changed ever so slightly.
It wasn’t just that the Victory’s Dox kept her curly, auburn hair long, which this morning, was up in a high ponytail. There were other little differences as they stretched, beginning to walk down the corridor to the turbolift. The Victory’s Second Officer was just a little thicker overall. A little softer. She still clearly worked out, but it was also clear that she didn’t look to put nearly the same amount of intensity in that the Hera’s Dox did.
“Well, then it’s fortunate that we both still have the same morning rituals… more or less.” The Victory’s Dox said as they stepped into the lift. Turning the handle, the lift moved the single level before they arrived at the widest level of the ship where they could run. Stepping out, the corridor was empty as far as they could see, and the Victory’s Dox took the moment to look her dimensional hopping counterpart over for a moment.
Her middle was a bit thinner. Her hips just a bit narrower. Even her face was a bit thinner in the cheeks. But the biggest difference was the arms. Looking at her double who wasn’t quite identical anymore, the Victory’s pilot raised an eyebrow. Her arms were much tighter. Much more defined and her shoulders were a bit broader. “It looks like we have a… somewhat different routine these days, though. Do you still spar with… V’Nus and S’Rina?”
As they started to jog, a light pace at first, clockwise in the ship’s saucer, the Hera’s Dox was slightly taken aback that her counterpart had to pause for a second to think of the names of the Klingon Security sisters. “Every Wednesday and Friday, yes. I also sword train with Enalia three times a week, on top of still working with the security team. Do you spar here? Keep up with your Llaekh-ae'rl?”
It was the name of a particularly lethal form of Romulan Martial Arts that both women began learning in their early childhoods. “Yes. Usually once a week. Sometimes not that often if we’re busy. Now I have plenty of other concerns that keep me busy.”
“Such as?” The Hera’s Dox asked pointedly.
“You know the specs of a Refit Constitution class. You’ve flown the sims. You’ve studied the consoles. But to be in the position I’m in, means forgetting what you know about isolinear chips and LCARS interfaces and more about duotronics and more manual wiring. I work with the Engineering teams to keep sharp and pick up on what I’ve missed.” she replied as they picked up their pace.
“The Flight Deck is a fraction of the size. Really, it's just the shuttlebay, not the 'flight deck'. 6 Gallileo-Type shuttles. 5 Workbees. Runabouts don’t exist yet, but I’ve got a requisition in for some… innovations. The job of flight chief here is a bit more focused on flying the ship. That job required more math and less ‘feeling’ than the Hera. So I work on my job.”
“Well, you may not have V’Nus and S’Rina to spar with, but it seems like you have at least one Klingon to wrestle with.” The Hera’s Dox said with a grin, changing the subject ever so slightly. “I have to ask. Did you and Qurka Qurg ever…”
Rolling her eyes, the Victory’s Dox chuckled as they passed a very confused looking ensign who almost ran into a partition watching them run by. “Did we have carnal relations? Yes, Mnhei’sahe, we had SEX.” The cheeky redhead waggled her fingers at her uptight counterpart.
“When I first joined the crew, I had my rank of Lieutenant reinstated by Admiral Jones… classified of course. But I was… not in a particularly good headspace, as you can well imagine. Char had reached out to me and offered me a lot of trust. She offered me a PLACE here and while I TOOK it, I didn’t accept it right away. Qurka saw me and saw my personal shields and took it upon herself to crack them.”
“She poked at me. Needled me. Pushed my buttons, because she knew the one thing I needed that Starfleet couldn’t give me. She got me in the gym and she pissed me off one time too many, and I cracked.” The Victory’s Dox said with a bit of a smile. “So, we went at it. We fought. We fought as hard as I ever did with the Security sisters back on the Hera. We fought until we were both bloody and that blood was running… very hot in that moment.”
“You can pretend that she didn’t turn you on all you want, but I know you better than that. She turns me on too, and fighting turned into something… very different but not unwelcome.”
Chuckling slightly, the Hera’s Dox listened as they continued to run, pacing up a bit faster again. “So, did she… how did she put it… break you?”
“Heh. She broke my nose. She broke my collarbone and a rib. But I gave as good as I got. Cracked her jaw, two ribs and dislocated her shoulder. But that was… the fun kind of breaking. Siivas patched us up and we went at it a couple more times in those first few weeks.” She replied as they continued.
“I learned a lot about myself in those first few weeks. I learned how to relax a bit, for a start.” She said, looking at her counterpart with a raised eyebrow. “I made a good friend in the strangest way possible. It was passion and lust and fun, but it wasn’t romantic. It wasn’t love in that way, but that was okay. THAT was a very hard lesson to wrap my head around, but she helped me with that and we both moved on.”
“And… Lieutenant Valin?” The Hera’s Dox asked. But as she did, her counterpart stopped short and glared at her.
“What do you want to know? You want to know that I found someone in her that understood me here. Someone who needed me as much as I needed her? Say what you want to say!” She asked, pointedly with a bit of defensive anger in her eyes.
“I’m sorry. I’m not trying to push your buttons. And I’m not judging you. I can see that you’re happy. I can see how she looks at you and how defensively she looks at me, which tells me how she feels about you, and I’m glad. I really am.” The Hera’s Dox said as she reached across the corridor to put her hand on the other Dox’s shoulder. But before she could, her counterpart jerked back hard to avoid it.
“I’m… what’s wrong?” Was the reply, with a look of concern on her face. “This… is not my first leap and I’ve touched a couple of my counterparts. Hell, a few punched me. There's not going to be any paradoxes or anything.”
“Have any of them spent the better part of a year training with a Delatan Telepath more skilled than Sonak?” Was the reply as she held up her hands in a mock surrender gesture. “I’ve been able to open up a mild degree of ability that I didn’t have when we went in different paths. Nothing even close to Char or Siivas. But they can talk to me directly from pretty much anywhere on the ship as needed. I can call them if I try. I can initiate something of a… mild form of a mind-meld with touch.”
“Most people, it takes a massive amount of effort. Serious concentration and a headache that rivals the worst hangover’s we’ve ever had afterwards. But I… don’t want to chance it with you. For all intents and purposes, we’re the same person on a neurological level. I doubt that I would have to even try to get in if we touched since, as it is, I've been getting flashes of emotion whenever we're this close off of you. So please… just don’t.” The Victory’s Dox said, looking her counterpart in the eye.
“Believe me, I’ve wanted to since we first talked. I see you. I see that bracelet that means you and Mona are still… still together. I… I wanted to touch that and… FEEL that again. I just wanted a taste. A TASTE of what I lost.” She continued, pain in her eyes. “I KNOW you KNOW that feeling. Where you will do almost anything for one more taste. It… it felt the same to me when I look at you. Like taking that drink to make myself not care about hating myself just for that moment. And I CAN’T. I CAN’T do that to myself anymore!”
“That’s how Jessica and I found each other. We both have that… that same weakness. That same need to numb the world and to not feel guilty for our pain. We both went to the same places to satisfy that need. So, together, we helped each other. We fight it and some days are harder than others, but it’s been good for a while. Neither of us have slipped in months. But then you show up, and show me EVERYTHING I lost. I could feel it again with just a touch. But then, all those scars would just slide open and… I don’t want to ruin this. What I’m building here. Not for a Kreldanni memory, no matter how good.”
The exchange was exactly the opposite of what the Hera’s Dox was hoping for. She didn’t want to make her counterpart more upset, but she was beginning to fear that she was making things far worse. “Look… I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t mean much, but I am.”
“When… when I say that I’m happy for what you found… I mean it. I…” The Hera’s Dox looked across, eyebrows knitted. “I’m… honestly... jealous.”
“What in Areinnye are you talking about?” The Victory’s Dox shot back across the corridor.
“I… look at what you have here. All of it… and I… can’t help myself. It’s envy. You… you just seem to FIT here.” The Hera’s Dox said, hesitantly. “I think about it and… back on the Hera, for everything I DO have, all I can think about is what I don’t. I don’t have the entire ship worrying about how I feel. I have… Thex having assigned Gavarus to work the flight deck so she didn’t have to deal with me directly. I have… half the flight crew either annoyed with how I run things or still just... scared of me.”
As her counterpart looked across the corridor with a confused expression, the Hera’s Dox continued. “You have friends here. I… think I just have co-workers. I have some people who respect my abilities. Or who see things they want to make of me. But really… very few people who seem to care beyond that. And… I’ve been… being dismissive of you because of that. Because… I find myself wishing that I had what you have here. You… found a real home. A real family.”
“And you still have Mona. You still have Rita and Enalia. You still have our Mother.” The Victory’s Dox said, trying to understand her counterpart. “Don’t discount those things. There are days where I’d… where I’d kill to have that all back. And I hate myself for feeling like that, but it’s true. But… for me, that’s all gone. Those are just memories and I needed to at least try and come to grips with that to find any happiness. But I at least can really understand how Rita felt, removed from everything she knew. With everyone she knew long dead.”
“ I just… have a different problem. Most everyone I know hasn’t been born yet. But fate willing, they will. And fate willing, I’ll… still be alive when that happens. I’m… not looking forward to that idea.” The Victory’s Dox admitted as she straightened back up and looked her counterpart over again. “And… I feel beyond guilty for this, but I still miss Mona. I miss her a lot. But I'll be 107 years old when Mona is BORN here. I can't keep holding on to that and pretend to move on. That’s not fair to Jessica.”
“And worse.” The Victory’s Dox said, a tear in her eye. “Because as much as I still miss Mona… I miss her a little less every day. And… and I feel guilty for… for caring about Jessica. I feel guilty for being happy, and that… that just gnaws at me. Especially with you here, now.”
“But I do. I... care Jessica. It’s different. There’s no bond linking us. I don’t… feel her energy inside of me like I did with Mona. But in that difference, there’s… such amazing, beautiful wonder.” She continued, wiping her face clean. “We can’t… make up by touching and letting us just feel our feelings. We have to work things out the old fashioned way.”
A broad smile graced her lips as she nodded. “We fight and we argue. We… don’t ever know what to do about dinner. She complains if I throw my duty jacket on the bed sometimes. And we sometimes spend more time getting angry for each other than we maybe should. But… I love that. I love all of that. I love the messy, painful, difficult... love. I don’t have an out to tell me it’s real. I have to BELIEVE it’s real. And… and that has been important for me in ways that it’s hard to describe. And it took me a while to come to terms with the idea that… ultimately… I can’t believe Mona would have wanted me to pine for her for the rest of my life and deny myself any chance at happiness. That wasn’t who she was.”
“And besides… by the time she’s even BORN here… I’ll be… 107. Holding on to that isn’t fair for either of us. She’ll have every opportunity to find the me that will be born here in 2364.” The Victory’s Dox added with a light, if slightly forced, smile.
“But… I think it’s why I’ve been able to find happiness here. Because… I had to TRY. I had to get past my old insecurities and force myself to be better. Stronger. More open. Jessica Valin did that for me. Qurka Qurg forced me out of my pathetic comfort zone of shutting people out. Charybdis showed me a life where I could make the hard choice to keep both feet in the here and now. Siivas showed me that I’m more than the boundaries other people would keep me in.”
“I know all of this, but….” The Victory’s Dox said, tugging on her t-shirt with a smile. “Thank you for reminding me of it. And of admitting what you did. I know how difficult that had to be. I mean, I know you better than not, after all.”
Stepping across the corridor, the Victory’s Dox looked over to her counterpart still leaning back against the angled wall of the corridor and held out a hand to help her back up. “And thank you for also reminding me that I’M in control of my life here. And that just because I CAN take the easy way out and choose to wallow in self-pity. I can also choose to be strong. I can put the bottle down without taking a drink.”
Hesitating for just a moment, the Hera’s Dox took her counterpart’s hand and pulled herself back up to standing. In that instant, both women felt exactly what the Victory’s Dox has been afraid of. There's was an almost electric connection as the two minds that shared the same, basic neural layout tried to sync up naturally across the physical connection of their hands. But, in that instance, that connection slammed up against a wall of mental defenses that the Hera’s Dox had never seen before.
In her mind’s eye, the visiting Dox saw NOT the image of her defenses. Of the projection of Mount Selaya on Vulcan. Instead she saw, for just an instant, something not unlike a series of interconnected webs of light spreading out and filling in to become solid and impenetrable. Like the shields of a Starship in the Victory Dox’s mind. The connection was real, but she was choosing NOT to succumb to her desire. To her weakness.
She was picking up the bottle to put it away, not to take a drink. And with a smile, as they let go of each other’s hands standing there, she succeeded.
“So… Let’s start over, because no matter how we may have started, we are our own women. We have our own lives and our own problems.” Smiling, the Second officer of the Victory nodded and jutted her face in the direction they had been running. “Jolan’tru. My name is Lieutenant Commander Mnhei’sahe Dox of the Starship Victory. Want to go for a run and get to know each other?”
Returning a smile that looked much the same but just a little different, the counterpart from a different future replied as they started back running. “Mnhei’sahe… I would like that very much.”
To Be Continued…