Location: Deck 8, Crew Quarters
The corridors of the U.S.S. Hera were empty as Lieutenant Mnhei'sahe Dox ran through them in a panic. Empty but for the skittering sounds behind her in the darkening corridors. The lights flickered as she ran, but she knew that it was right behind her, just out of view. Behind her, echoing down the corridor towards her, a man's voice came, singing a soft acapello.
"Stars shining bright above you... Night breezes seem to whisper "I love you"..." She knew the song and remembered the voice. Anansi, the self-proclaimed God of stories. The creature that had invaded her mind months ago, revealing the lost memories that led her to the truth of her Romulan heritage. As she ran, a cold sweat began to form as the voice continued.
"Birds singing in the sycamore trees..." Suddenly, she ran face-first into something invisible. As she struggled, shimmering threads appeared in the darkness. It was a web. A massive spider's web that she was now stuck in. She felt warm breath on the back of her neck as the voice sang into her ear, softly. "Dream a little dream of me, Mnhei'sahe."
Around her waist, from behind, she felt Anansi's long, spider-like arms wrap around her as he pulled her close to him, breathing hot now on the back of her neck as she screamed.
The scream pierced the silence in the crew quarters of the U.S.S. Hera, as Dox began to flail wildly in the nest that was the bed she now shared with Ensign Mona Gonadie. Around her waist was Mona's softly feathered arms, holding her lovingly while the couple had slept. The breath on the back of her neck, that of her Miradonian love. But in that moment, Dox didn't know any of that as she screamed and flailed wildly, desperate to escape the grasp of the nightmare she still had one foot in.
"Please wake up, Minay! Please wake up!" Mona was scared that Dox's nightmare had her so deep. What could have happened to her that could cause such a dream? "I'm here for you! I've got you!"
But Dox could only hear the singing in her dream. She could only feel the grip of the dark god that once tormented her as she continued to flail.
NO!!! NOOOOOOO!!! EEEEAAAAGHH!!!! Dox screamed wildly as she wrenched out of Mona's arms and scrambled away, unaware she was in her own bed. Instead, she rolled forward falling from the bed to fall face first onto the floor with a loud smack.
"GYAAGH!" She yelled as she grabbed her face, scrambling to right herself as the impact shocked her awake. Schooching back against the wall, her eye darted around the dimmly lit room as she struggled to get her bearings.
Now crying as she grabbed her face where she fell, her nose bleeding. "M... Mona?"
"Computer! Lights!" Mona yelled out the order in a bit of a panic, freaking out more when they came on and she clearly saw the blood on her love's face. "You're bleeding!" She hopped out of bed and kneeled in front of Dox, waving one hand next to her face, her mind locked up on what to do. "You need a doctor!"
Still confused and slightly paniced, Dox pulled her hand away from her freshly re-broken nose with a wince of pain. She knitted her eyebrows as she looked at the green blood on her hands. "Hnave..." She cursed in Rihan. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I can't... I didn't mean to scare you, I'm sorry..." She was rambling in a panic, trying to calm down
The door to the room opened, Asa charging in wearing bright pink sleep shorts with an equally eye-jarring blue and yellow tank top. Their hair was managing to stick up in at least four different directions, no small feat considering how short it was, and they were holding a medical tricorder in one hand and a phaser in the other. There was the doctor’s usual away-mission “go bag” slung partway around their neck, obviously grabbed at the last possible moment.
Taking in the scene before them, Asa lowered the phaser and ran over to Mnhei’sahe’s side. Seeing the blood on her forehead, Asa was already scanning before they reached the wall and sat down facing Mnhei’sahe.
Seeing the concerned expression on Mona’s face, Asa said, “It’s going to be ok, she just hit her head, and head wounds bleed like crazy. Can you please go get a wet washcloth so we can clean her up in just a sec?”
Without waiting for a reply, Asa immediately had their tissue knitter out and was healing the wound on Mnhei’sahe’s head, looking with satisfaction as the green blood ceased flowing. The immediate crisis averted, Asa reached out and gently clasped Mnhei’sahe’s hands, moving to place a firm, calming grasp on the pulse points on the red-haired woman’s wrist.
“Mhei’sahe Dox, come back to me, ok? You are on the USS Hera, in your quarters. Mona Gonadie Is coming back into the room right now and she’s going to wash your forehead off. I’m Doctor Asa Dael, your friend, and I’m holding your wrists so I can monitor your pulse while still grounding you. You are becoming awake, aware, and in control. You have had a bad dream, but now you are remembering what you discussed with Doctor Dael in therapy and you can feel the air flowing in through your nostrils and out of your mouth. Your breathing is becoming steadier as you think about it. You can feel the cool air on your skin, the wall against your bath, the wash cloth on your forehead. You are in your body. You are in control of your body, your mind, your soul. You are not alone, you are cared for, you are loved. When you are ready, you are going to look up and talk to us, but until then, we are waiting here. No harm will come to you.” Asa said in a semi-hypnotic tone. The doctor and Mnhei’sahe had been working through some issues with both sleep and disassociation, and Asa was hoping against hope that the skills they had practiced would help with whatever crisis was occurring tonight.
Having gotten a warm, damp washcloth and returned, Mona was still a bit panicked but calming down thanks to Asa being here. Rather than say anything, she let the Doctor do their thing and offered up the washcloth when needed.
The panicked breathing had begun to slow as Mnhei'sahe calmed down and woke up. Slowly, she reoriented herself. This was her quarters. The nest she shared with Mona was there. The green and yellow curtains and new furniture was all there. Mona was there and Asa was there. And Anansi wasn't.
"I'm... I'm okay." Panic had subsided, replaced by disgust and embarrassment. "Hnave... I'm so sorry. It... It was just a nightmare. Another stupid nightmare." Dox hung her head, mumbling under her breath as she wiped away tear. "I'm so sorry. I thought I was getting... getting better."
“Recovery isn’t linear, Min, Sometimes we fall down a few times. Doesn’t mean you aren’t getting better” Asa said, scooching to the side to allow Mona access to her mate, but still holding one hand firm.
With a moment of hesitation, Dox looked up towards Mona, ashamed of her display. She wanted to reach out but was afraid that her actions might have scared the Miradonian pilot too much. "I'm... Sorry, Mona. I... need to be better... I... you shouldn't have to have seen that. It..."
"It's not your fault," Mona replied, taking her Minay's hands gently into her own and doing her best to hold it together. "I have nightmares too. It's part of who we are. These aren't disasters in our souls but cracks for someone to pour love into. I'm here for you and something like this isn't going to drive me away. You know that." As if to prove her point, she leaned in and snuggled softly, making gentle cooing and thrumming sounds, Dox's hands pressed to her bosom.
Closing her eyes, Dox slowed her breathing. She listened to the gentle thrumming from Mona as she focused on that. She felt Mona's heartbeat through her breast and pictured that heart as a red light pulsing in the darkness. She was using the meditation techniques Sonak had been teaching her but replacing the image of the pulsing flame of a Vulcan brazier with Mona's heartbeat. She began to calm down as she sunk her head onto Mona's shoulder.
After a moment, she slowly raised her head. "The dream. It was of Anansi again. It's been a while... but it felt so real. When he didn't get what he wanted from me before, he just left."
Looking directly at Asa as she talked, Dox had an almost angry look on her face. "Asa... I need to know if it was just a nightmare... or if it was real. I need to know if he's still in my head."
Smiling at the open display of love between their two friends, Asa thought for a moment.
Then, cocking their head to one side contemplatively, Asa said, "I am 99 percent certain these are nightmares, but lets be sure. If you arent sure a god is messing with you, who better to ask than another god. Or goddess as the case may be...lets visit Hera. She should be able to shed some light."
"Hera... yeah." Dox muttered slightly, exhausted physically and mentally. "That's a good idea."
The young Romulan woman held Mona just a little bit tighter. She was still scared. Still trying to hold on to what was real as her mind raced from the nightmare that had shaken her so. "I'll... I'll call first thing in the morning. I can... I can reschedule some of my morning work and see if she'll see me. It's probably just me being paranoid."
But she couldn't shake the fear in the moment. Dox was still sitting on the floor where she had been since she fell out of bed, as a tear escaped down her cheek. With Mona still cooing on her left, Dox held out a hand to Asa. "I'm sorry. I just... I need to be as not alone as possible right now."
If anyone understood that request, it was Asa. Squeezing Mnhei'sahe's hand, they directed her to lean forward, then went to sit directly behind her, drew Mnhei'sahe to lean back into the doctors chest, and ran their fingers softly ina scrunching motion across her scalp for a moment before wrapping both arms around Mnhei'sahe, stroking arms and sides in a slow, sure motion.
In that moment, being held by both her chosen life mate and her best friend, Dox felt herself calm down a little. The nightmare was past and this was reality.
With that thought, she held on just a little tighter to that reality.
It was 0:700 hours and Mnhei'sahe Dox had not been back to sleep since the violent nightmare of the earlier evening. And in spite of Mona's best efforts to help her relax, the anxious Romulan woman simply couldn't. She had a question that few on board were qualified to answer. And on the recommendation of Doctor Asa Dael, Dox was on her way to talk to her.
While both Asa and Mona wanted to accompany her, Dox had asked to see Hera by herself. For whatever reason, she had always felt a little nervous aroud the goddess, which she knew was ridiculous. After all, she was on a first name basis with Death, so she had decided if she was going to face the fears of her nightmares, she might as well also get over her nervousness around Hera.
A few hours ago, Asa had suggested that since her was by the god Anansi, and another god might be able to determine if the nightmare was just that or a renewed psychic attack as such, Dox had called to ask to speak with the Goddess Hera in her quarters and was granted an audience. As she walked up to the door, she nodded to the two thickly built Amazonian security guards stationed outside. "Good morning, ladies."
As she had called ahead, they were expecting her and nodded their approval as the stepped slightly aside. Dox spoke to the computer as she stood in front of the door. "Computer, unseal hatch of VIP quarters. Authorization Dox, M. Lieutenant. Access code 795-X9E."
With a chirp, the computer responded. =^=What is your current weight?=^=
Sighing as she had put on a little weight, she rolled her eyes as she replied, "126 kilograms."
With another chirp, the doors unlocked and wooshed open. Irritated, as Dox stepped in, she commented to the two guards. "That goes to your graves, ladies."
As she entered, the doors slid shut as she stood waiting. "Lady Hera, it's Lieutenant Dox."
The matronly goddess looked up from her current book and studied the Romulan woman for a moment before setting her book aside and motioning to a seat near where she was sitting. "It's good to see you again. You don't look like you've slept well. Can I get you some ah... Coffee is it?"
"Actually, I would not mind a cup, thank you." Dox nodded slightly as her somewhat stiff posture relaxed slightly as she stepped over to the seat Hera gestured to. "And thank you for seeing me especially at such an early hour."
Hera shrugged on her way to the replicator. "I only sleep every few years so whenever is fine by me." She punched in an order for a pair of mugs of hot, steaming, arabic coffee and brought them back, handing one off to Dox before sitting back down. "I didn't find a roast I liked, so I programmed an old favorite from yesteryear. I hope you don't mind my selecting it for you. The Turks made it during the crusades and I've never found a brew quite like it since."
"Thank you." Dox replied, as she took the offered cup and took a sip. Her eyebrows raised as she savored the taste. "Mmmm. It's quite good, thanks."
"Thank you. I did my best to capture the elegance of the brewing method as well as the flavor." Hera savored her own mug's contents for a moment before eyeing Dox. "So tell me about this dream weaver that bothers you."
Sighing slightly, Dox took a breath before responding. "It began a few months ago, during the ships mission to the worldship. I had been using an experimental sensory helmet that enabled me to navigate us through the spatial anomaly that surrounded the worldship. However, Doctor Dael noticed a dangerous spike in my blood pressure that corresponded with the first psychic reach out to the ship that ended for me as soon as I deactivated the helmet. We logged it as a curiousity to be looked into later."
Taking another sip of coffee, Dox continued. "Shortly afterwards, I was targeted... attacked on the ship by a being that described itself as the God of Stories, Anansi. He wanted the helmet and offered to reveal memories that I'd forgotten. He told me that when I was wearing the helmet, he could see me like a beacon from something her called the astral plain. That it made me visible to him psychically."
While it was clear that Dox was beginning to become stressed recounting the tale, she pressed forward for the goddess who seemed genuinely concerned. "So, he... forced his way into my brain. He showed me what he promised to anyway, but now he was doing it to torment me into giving the helmet up. I couldn't do anything to keep him out of my mind. If not for the nanobots Doctor Dael was using on my to help me operate the helmet that eventually blocked his abilities, I don't know what would have happened. Eventually he left when I was able.to get the helmet away from him on lockdown. He left."
Taking another sip, it was clear Dox's hands were trembling as she helm her coffee cup now. "The nanobots had to be removed as they ended up causing mini-strokes trying to fight against the outside influence in my mind, but it was them that pushed him out before. They're gone now, and... and I keep seeing him at night. I keep reliving the attack in my dreams and... and I have no idea if they are just nightmares or not."
Looking directly at Hera now, Dox had a desperate look on her face. "I don't know if it was just a nightmare or if Anansi is still in here waiting for me. Asa... Asa suggested that... well... that you might be able to tell. I'm sorry to ask, but... Well... I'm sorry. I just didn't know where else to go."
Hera had listened intently, nodding and sipping her coffee along the way and letting Dox finish. "Well, I see traces of the psychic energy causing the dreams, but i think that's just from what you call... What was it... Potato? Petey... Something... Sorry, I'm still trying to learn all the current psychological standards your Federation uses."
Knitting her eyebrows slightly, Dox tried to suss out what Hera meant. "Petey? Oh, PTSD. Okay, yeah. That... That makes sense."
"Anyway, the good news is that I don't sense any other deity class energies on you and last night was definitely just a nightmare. The bad news is that your psychic barriers are letting stray energy flow like water. While you told your tale, I waltzed right into your mind to get a feel for it and felt no resistance at all. It was like I was being invited in."
The statement hit Dox like a gut punch as she felt all the air leave her. Hera had just been in her mind and she wasn't even aware if it. She put her cup down somewhat quickly to avoid dropping it outright as her face went white.
"Invited... I don't... Nouhha." Dox was muttering under her breath, going in and out of Rihan without thinking.
"So, he was right. The helmet did do something to me. Ever since then it's felt like... like..." Dox tried to center herself and think straight. "After Anansi, I let Sonak mind meld with me and I retained so much from it and I was told I'd forget it all but I didn't. Then the piece of the entity in the Holodeck... It could talk to me directly when it couldn't to Rita or Asa. No wonder it was able to merge with me so easily."
Thinking her way through the events of the last few months, pieces began falling into place. "Then Death's energy influence... Then your energy influence. You we're aiming that at Thor and the Baroness but it knocked me off of my feet. Ever since the word ship It's felt like I had a big, glowing 'welcome' sign on my head. Are you saying I basically do?"
"That's not a bad analogy," Hera replied, sipping at her coffee. "The question now is what to do about it. Do you learn to harness it and use it to your advantage or do you try to close an unclosable door?"
"Unclosable? Hnave." Dox cursed, as she flumped slightly back. "So there's nothing I can do to close my mind. What do you mean, 'harness it'? I don't understand? I mean, I'm not Vulcan, I don't have any of that... whatever."
Then Dox sat back up realizing she was letting her frustration out too much. "Sorry. It's... It's just a lot to take in. So... what can I do about it?"
"Vulcan, Romulan, Human... Where it counts it's all the same. you all have the same potential. How did you open this door in the first place? You'll need to go back to it to help build up defenses." Hera thought it over a moment. "It was some sort of helmet, right? That you used to pilot with?"
"Huh... yeah. Mona... um... Ensign Gonadie designed it to increase a pilots perception. It made it so that I not only didn't see the ship, but I could also see energy flows through space that we're otherwise invisible." Dox knitted her eyebrows as she thought. "But we still don't know how it put me on the astral plain. Plus, if I put it back on... will it... will it attract him again? Him or something worse?"
"Then the first step is to overcome that fear. The second step will be for me to ascertain how it linked you to the astral plane, of which I believe I have an idea." Hera picked up a pad of paper and a pen that was sitting on the table next to her and started drawing a diagram of a cloud mind. "This helmet expanded your perceptions in ways it was not prepared for and unlocked astral gates within you. Normally, mortals can only access seven gates but there are two divine gates that aren't linked to the mortal form and are almost impossible to open. From the description, it sounds like your eighth gate has been forced open. The Astral Dream gate."
Turning the pad around, Hera showed off the diagram of the seven zen chi spots and a cloud mind with the two zen chi gates. "You'll have to meditate and master the first seven to keep the eighth in check."
Looking at the drawing, Dox put her elbows on her knees and rested her chin on her hands. "Sonak showed me some meditation techniques, but that was largely just to help me calm myself down... clear my head. Nothing like this."
The emotionally drained young Romulan looked up at the literal Goddess as she spoke, somewhat plaintively. "What are these seven gates? What do I have to do?"
"Meditation for calming is a good start, but opening these gates is basically mental exercises to strengthen the mind and fortitude so that you're better able to handle the eighth gate's rigors. I'll need to pull up a few books to begin training... Or we could do an awakening like I did with Asa and we can go from there." Hera finished off her coffee and set both her mug and paper aside and awaited Dox's reply.
With concern now overwhelming her earlier confusion, Dox replied. "Awakening? What does that mean? And didn't that almost kill the both of you? I mean... I can't put you at risk just because of me."
The matronly goddess chuckled softly. "No, for you it would take far less energy. It took that much for Asa because they're El Aurian and a literal sponge for that sort of thing."
With her coffee empty, Dox couldn't stall with another drink. Instead she began looking around the room. Her fear was written across her face. "I'm... I won't lie to you. I'm terrified. I don't know what any of this means. I don't know what it means for me. What would you be Awakening?"
Hera leaned forward and spoke softly, trying her best to soothe and comfort her new scared friend. "I'm sorry, I should have explained this all better from the start. Thousands of years ago, your people had mental powers that were often used for attack and offensive abilities. Over the generations, they've mostly lost them, but the psionic defensive potential remains if the right forces and training is applied. What I'm offering is a way to open senses your people have let atrophy over the generations and help you hone them so that your mind isn't defenseless. I won't say it will be pleasant, because it may not be. But in the end, it will give you a measure of security from the likes of this Anansi and similar beings."
Hanging her head slightly, Dox thought for a moment. "If I don't... If I do nothing... It makes me a liability, doesn't it? To the ship and the crew. If anything can get into my mind, it means anything can get to the ship through me. To you or Rita or Asa or... Mona." Then she looked back up. "To myself."
"There's a chance I could close the gate... But now that it's been opened, just about anything could reopen it by accident." Hera left that and scooched closer so she could take Dox's hands into her own in an effort to comfort her. "Whatever you decide, I'll be here for you and help you."
The intended effect worked a little as Dox relaxed a bit. "I'm still scared. I mean... I don't know what it will mean for me beyond just a defense. And I'll have to talk to Commander Paris before I make any decisions. At least about... being awoken. And Mona. I mean, I can't not ask her what she thinks, ya' know?"
Nervously, Dox stammered a bit. "Sorry, yeah. Mona. Ensign Gonadie. Her and I are... um... together. So, I can't do this without her knowing. But... thank you. I mean, You don't have any reason to put yourself out for me. It's... I appreciate it... your help. So, thank you."
Hera smiled as kindly as she could and patted Dox's hands. "You are very welcome. You have a lot of friends that care about you and plenty of people to support you. Take your time to think this over and do some research on the seven chakras for now. When you've made a decision, please let me know, ok? I'll be here."
"Thank you. I will." Dox replied, somewhat sheepishly. "I'll... I don't... you don't have to do this for me. You didn't even have to see me today. Why are you doing this for me?"
"Because I live a life of service now and If you need help, I can do no less." Hera genuinely wanted to help, whatever the cost to herself. Since her turnaround, it pained her to see people hurting like this.
Smiling awkwardly as she often did, Dox nodded. "I appreciate your help here. Thank you. Now I just need to figure out how to take the next step. But it's good to know there's a possible option."
She sat for a second wondering what this all meant. Having her DNA repaired was a necessity. Having her ears restored was a difficult choice. Re-embracing her given Romulan name was even harder to do than that. But this would be beyond any of that. This could change who she was on a level she couldn't understand. And she would need help making this decision.