A series of ficlets (about 500 words or less) focusing on the far future, where the dead aren't quite so dead and have a great task before them.
Written for TToT 15, Week 7
Enterprise, Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Expanded Universes Characters:
Archer, Jonathan, Dax, Jadzia
Action/Adventure, Angst, DramaWarnings:
28 Jun 2015 Updated:
04 Jul 2015
1. Wisdom by trekfan
2. Fairness by trekfan
3. Grace by trekfan
4. Melancholy by trekfan
5. Distance by trekfan
6. Generosity by trekfan
7. Perseverance by trekfan
The work done below was at once fascinating for him and horrifying. Watching an entire being be reassembled, from the cellular level up, was never a sight that sat well with him. But he owed this person that, especially since he was about to put them through hell.
"He's cute. In a homey, boyish way." She came up beside him, the spots down her neck seemingly glowing. "Is he the replacement?"
"How do you know it's a he?"
She smirked. "Womanly intuition."
"Maybe you're just too familiar with male anatomy." He glanced at her, catching her withering glare. "Or maybe it's the scientist in you talking."
Her face relaxed as she shook her head, turning her attention back to the person below them. "You sure we even need a replacement?"
Here we go. They'd had this argument before - she was the senior most agent under his command - and she was sure they didn't need anyone else. Her confidence in her team, in their mission, and in what they were tasked to do was always high. "Jadzia, we need a replacement. We work as a team and, right now, we're down a member."
She frowned, her eyes playing across the sight below. The nerves were now being rebuilt, one by one, a tapestry of organic wiring. "Is it the wisest idea?" She made an effort to look at him, her blue eyes drilling into his face. "I read the profile on this one. He killed himself."
"Not exactly and you know that." He jutted one of his dark fingers at her. "He took an action that required sacrificing himself for the greater good. That's a hell of a lot better way to go than some of the things I've seen."
Pain flashed in her eyes. It was a less than gentle reminder of her own "death" but he wasn't here to be gentle. "He's unstable," she countered, playfulness absent from her tone. "He had his life shattered before his eyes a day before he died." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "We're pressed for time, Phillip."
He cracked his knuckles, a bad habit picked up centuries ago that he just couldn't lick. "I know." He took a deep breath. "I know."
"Are we even going to have time to train him?"
She leaned her head back a little at that, surprise playing across her face. "You're going to build him back with the knowledge in him?"
He took another breath. "Yes."
Her eyes lit up. "You can't! That's too risky, far too risky -"
"Our resident Borg has figured out a way to do it."
She stared at him. "And you're going to do it? He's not right all the time, you know."
He smirked. "Not all the time; just when it counts." He looked back at the body below. "We're desperate, Jadzia. No time for half-hearted efforts." He turned back to her, his eyes hard. "Sometimes the wisest course of action is the most radical."
The pendulum swung, back and forth, back and forth, and it was driving her up a wall. Another damned test, she fumed, her anger only tempered by the fact that she knew he was watching. He had to be.
The door to his office opened and Jadzia poked her head in. The Trill flashed her a smirk - one which she didn't return - before stepping aside to let him in; she and Phillip shared a look before he stepped inside the room, the door closing behind him.
"Persis." He sat down behind his desk, his hands weaving together contemplatively. "I suppose you heard."
Heard?! She restrained herself, allowing no part of her body to move: it would be too easy to let herself go here. To express fully her rage and contempt at it all. "I don't need another. I can do it myself."
Phillip's eyes narrowed on her and she could hear his pulse pick up. It was a familiar rhythm, one that signified annoyance. Good, let him be annoyed. "It's not a request," he stated factually, his tone even. "You knew it was going to happen."
Her hands clenched into fists. "I operate better alone. No one works well with me and I work well with no one. Those are facts born of experience."
"A year's worth of experience," he pointed out. "You've been with us only for a short time." His eyes darted to a corner of the room before meeting back with her. "I know it hasn't been easy."
She stared at him. "Easy?" She could hear her own pulse in her ears, her heart thudding in her chest as her mind recalled - with perfect clarity - how long this year had been. "I'm the last of my kind ... of everything and everyone I cared for." She stood from the chair, her entire body one muscle, tensed and ready to strike. "You did it to me."
He tilted his head up to look at her. "You agreed. Like everyone else here, you were given a choice. You chose to survive."
She let out a disgusted snort. "It's what I'm bred for."
"It's what Augments were bred for, yes." He leaned back in his chair, eyes playing across her. "I realize it's been a hard. I don't know what it's like to be you or feel what you feel."
She turned her ahead away, refusing to look at him. Refusing to listen to him and his words. His words were snakes and they slithered into her mind, weakening her. Her weakness had killed her before.
"Give him a chance," he continued.
"It's not fair. You offered me a choice between death and this." She faced him, her mouth twisted into a scowl. "Who would choose death?"
He smirked at her. "Life's not fair. Neither am I."
She glared at him. "I don't need him." She took the pendulum and, with one easy motion, crushed it into sliver of metal. "I'm stronger on my own."
And she left.
"You're a walking wonder." Castillo's face relaxed as he took his seat in the mess hall. He looked around, eyes playing across the layout of the area. "Where is this?"
"Intrepid-class, USS Voyager," he responded with just a tinge of excitement in his voice. It was rare that he had a chance to show anyone this place.
"A Starfleet vessel?" Castillo looked at him questioningly. "I thought you said this place was home."
One stepped out from behind the counter, an apron wrapped around him. Upon seeing him fully, Castillo's face flushed as he tried to suppress a smile. One cocked his head to the side. "This is my home. Where I was born. Where I died."
Castillo's smile turned into a frown. "You died here?"
You have miscalculated. Adjust conversation parameters. "I chose to die here," he corrected, hoping his word choice would make his friend feel better. The word "died" had brought forth a number of unfavorable physical reactions for Castillo.
Castillo stared at him for a long moment, a frown affixed to his face. "Why?"
One stepped back behind the counter and stirred his stew, careful to apply just the right amount of force as to minimize the chance for spillage. "Did I chose to die?"
Visibly uncomfortable, Castillo shifted in his chair, leaning forward, both hands clasped together. "You could have lived. That's what I heard, anyway."
One adjusted the dial of the left burner, turning it down to a simmer as his right hand added in a special ingredient. "I chose to die to protect those I cared for. To protect my family." Unbidden, images of his last moments aboard the real Voyager appeared before him, each second recorded to perfection.
As with every time it happened, he paused the playback before Seven's final words. For as many times as he had seen it and relived it, he could not bring himself to hear her last plea. The anguish on her face was enough.
"You barely knew them."
One stopped his cooking. The stew was done. "Our time together was ... short." He took a ladle and scooped out a serving size of his stew, pouring it slowly into a bowl. His olfactory senses indicated that he he had achieved the proper balance of spices.
Castillo leaned back, shoulders slumped. "And you died for them when you could have survived."
One took the bowl over to his friend, setting it before him. From his apron he pulled out a spoon and a napkin, setting it to the left of the bowl. "Doing so would have increased their odds of death greatly. They were safer without me."
Castillo stared into the soup, his thoughts somewhere - where, One was not sure. "I guess it doesn't matter how long you're with some people; some people just matter from the moment you meet them."
"Yes," One responded simply.
Castillo took his spoon and sipped the soup, a small grin at the corner of his mouth. "Thank you."
One smiled. "You are welcome."
He had never been the brightest or the best. Richard Castillo had no parents - he was given up for adoption as a baby and bounced around foster homes as a kid. It wasn't bad, the people were nice, but he never had much in the way of things. He wasn't the most charming or charismatic, he wasn't ambitious at all, he just got along with everyone and everyone got along with him.
When it came time to decide what to do with his life, he followed his friends right to the Academy. Space was different, full of new and marvelous wonders. Part of him hoped that there he'd find out exactly what he was good for and why he was around in the first place.
His time at the Academy was filled with middling grades and unspectacular accomplishments. He was the "try hard" kid. He did decent, but that was all he could do, and when he graduated he didn't expect an exciting assignment. He guessed he'd get stuck on some space outpost for a year or two.
Instead, by some stroke of mad luck, he was sent to the Enterprise. A spot that was coveted by everyone in his class and, low and behold, he got it. To this day he had no idea why his captain had taken him; he'd never had the nerve to ask. But he went there and it became his home.
He didn't shoot through the ranks; on the contrary, he stayed an ensign for nearly a decade until his eventual promotion to chief helmsman and with it his bump up in rank. He spent four years like that until one battle sent him into a dark future, but it was a future that gave him a reason to fight, a reason to care, and a reason to love.
His thumb lovingly stroked the holo of her, his mind recalling how good her skin felt against his hand.
"I should have never let you stay." He was captain of a starship for only minutes, but it was a precious few minutes that history needed them to be there for. As much as he hated himself for saying it, he wasn't saddened by the deaths of his comrades; they all knew the price and they willingly met it.
But she survived, as did a handful of others.
And she was taken by the Romulans. Abused by them. Made to bear their children.
And murdered by them.
He felt his control slipping and, in the privacy of his own room, he let it.
They brought him back. They wouldn't bring her. But he'd find a way to undo it all. Somewhere out there was one reality where she stayed behind.
And if he could find her, he'd go to her, dark futures be damned. With her, he had a future.
Without her, he just was.
Time. It was a concept to some people, something abstract and ambiguous. This wasn't how she saw time, at least not now. When she was unjoined, when she was much younger, she saw time as something to be studied.
It was only upon her joining that she understood what time was: it was a distance. Something that was measured between points in one's life, a detail to be tracked but not an enemy; time wasn't there to cripple a person or weaken them, it was there to instill appreciation in someone about how far they'd come.
Time was there to show a person all the past versions of themselves and how, through experience and events, those past versions evolved into something new.
This was a lesson that took her seven lifetimes to learn. Even with that many lifetimes under her belt, she still found her own patience lacking at times.
Mouth affixed into a scowl, Jadzia Dax was desperately trying not to treat the woman in front of her like a child. But it was really, really hard, especially when said woman was asking for a slap across the face. "Don't do this, Persis."
The augment, muscles tense and eyes hard, was coiled to strike. She was a living, breathing weapon to some. A living piece of history to others. But to Jadzia, she was simply someone struggling to fit in. Augments were engineered for many things, but most weren't engineered with superior social skills.
Except Julian, she thought wryly to herself.
Persis didn't move her eyes from Jadzia's face. "I'm going to end this before it begins."
Jadzia took a short breath, calming herself. "You think killing him will help?"
"What good is one more going to do? We can't stop this. None of us can." The finality of her words was like a punch to Jadzia's stomach. Persis took a half-step forward, brandishing a dagger from her back as she did. "I don't want to hurt you, but you're in my way." She pointed the dagger at Jadzia, her without waste. "Move. Now."
Seven lifetimes of experience told Jadzia not to move, but her own survival instinct was screaming to do the opposite. Persis was deadly serious; the augment had reached a breaking point since the loss of her partner, a loss they all felt but she more than the rest.
"It wasn't your fault."
Persis' hand tightened around the hilt of the dagger. "He betrayed us all and I let him. He made me weak, used me, and you expect me to just let it happen again?"
Jadzia took a step forward, pressing the tip of the dagger into her chest. "Then kill me and go kill him. Kill us all." Good luck with One.
They stood like that for a long moment.
And then Persis uncoiled, dropping the dagger at Jadzia's feet. "It doesn't matter. We're patches on gaping wounds. The universe is hemorrhaging out and we can do nothing." She turned and walked away.
Jadzia watched her go, words failing her. Deep down, she knew Persis was right.
She hoped, one day, she could look back on this version of herself from a distance.
A very great distance.
Consciousness hadn't been easy to come across for her, not true consciousness anyway. Intellect she had almost from the beginning - the acquisition of knowledge had been the easiest part of living as she did all those years ago. To learn was simple, but putting that knowledge into action had been more difficult.
She had help, of course. Everyone needed help and she did from the very beginning. She wondered, at times, how the others before her felt. If they even felt at all.
She felt. Feelings had been - and still were - the most difficult thing about achieving true consciousness. She wasn't sure why anyone would want them but was equally unsure why anyone wouldn't.
"Contradictions," she mused as she carefully cut the stems from her tulips, each cut a reminder to her how short life was. The flowers, much like herself, had needed help in the beginning. She had cared for them, watered them, fed them, and they eventually became self-sustaining, needing little from her but the occasional trimming.
The flowers had a purpose - in this they were secure from their humble beginnings. Their purpose could not be redefined by them on a whim. Their purpose could not be altered by unexpected events. In this she envied the flowers.
She had a purpose once and then her feelings awakened; that purpose was lost then.
As were many things.
She placed the flowers in a vase, carefully arranging them to look as pretty as she felt they were. She took them to their next destination, a place that she had seen - that all of them here had. A place where lives ended and began again, all at once.
She felt a tingling sensation in her spine and her mind grew dark. She wasn't fond of this place, but none of them were ... except, perhaps, One. He had a fascination with it that she didn't, but it was part of what made him so unique.
The door to the room opened, the patient before her lying in a bed. Remarkably, he looked at peace.
"You're his first visitor," Phillip said from her right. Seated, he was watching the patient intently.
She set the flowers down on the stand beside the bed, taking a moment to adjust one that was slightly drooping. "Your presence would seem to contradict that."
He broke his gaze, meeting her eyes. "I don't count."
She allowed a small smirk. "I suppose not. Your presence here is ... standard."
He pointed a finger at the flowers. "Those from your garden?"
"Yes," she answered, pride in her voice. "I thought they would help him feel welcomed."
Phillip nodded once. "I'm sure he'll like them, Rayna."
She looked at the patient, noting his youthfulness. Soon he would awaken and his old life would end just as his new life was beginning. He would be vulnerable. He would be hurting. He would confused.
And she would try to help him as she had been helped so long ago.
His eyes opened slowly, his mind aware of so much and so little at once. But one thought dominated all others: I should be dead.
He looked at both his hands, stunned that his flesh wasn't burned, that he wasn't in agony. He seemed fine, physically anyway. He sat up slowly, the position change causing his stomach to flip, but it was completely empty.
"Good afternoon." He turned to his right to see a man, his skin dark, dressed simply in civilian clothes. The man's brown eyes were looking at him intently. "Welcome back."
"Back?" he said quietly, his voice stronger than he thought it would be. He rubbed his throat, careful to note all the sensations and all the feelings. This didn't feel fake, but it could be.
She could make anything feel real.
The man smirked. "It's not a trick, Henry."
Henry Harrison stared at him, becoming more convinced by the second that it was. "That's what she'd say."
"Would she? Would she bother being someone else?" The man shrugged his shoulders. "She seemed uniquely obsessed with making sure her victims knew it was her. Pretending to be this," he said, pointing at himself, "would be below her." He patted his stomach. "She would hate my lack of definition." The man pointed behind him. "I don't recall her liking flowers, either."
Henry turned around and saw a vase full of white tulips. He picked one up, inhaling deeply. It smelt real. "How?" he found himself asking. "I should be dead. I should be vaporized into oblivion."
"You weren't easy to put back together."
Henry faced him, mind grinding to a halt. "You mean ... I died?"
A singular nod. "Briefly."
"Briefly?" Henry felt a tightness in his chest as his heart thudded in his ears. "I ... there was nothing." The idea of an afterlife wasn't exactly a strong one for him, but he had always believed people went somewhere. But he had gone nowhere. He had been alive, then felt the heat, then woke up here. Seamless.
And nothing was between his death and his awakening, not even a blank space.
"My name is Phillip," the man began, his tone calm. "You've been brought back to life from death."
"How?" Henry asked again, fury rising within him. He threw the sheets off him and stood from his bed, hands clenched into fists. A trick - it had to be a trick. "You've explained nothing, you sit there and tell me things that can't be true."
Phillip remained seated, unperturbed. "You're alive. You set the phaser to overload and you put it between the two of you. You can't survive that ... and she didn't."
He jutted a finger at him. "She could of survived! She could be running this whole show now!"
Phillip shook his head slowly. "No, she can't be. Because she's not here and you are. I brought you back for a reason."
Henry glared at him darkly, preparing himself for anything. "To fuck with me some more?"
Phillip smirked. "To join a team of others, like yourself, plucked from the grasp of death centuries ago."
"Centuries?" Henry dropped his hand to the side, mind reeling. Something in him told him this was the truth. Something in him told him that all of this was exactly as it seemed. "The 33rd century?"
Phillip smiled. "Seems the download of information worked, albeit not quite as proficiently as I was promised. Probably something to do with your nanoprobes and his being so different."
Henry fell back to a sitting position on the edge of the bed, eyes aching to cry but his pride refusing. "I ... but ..."
"Any questions you have you can answer yourself. I'm not going to quiz you."
He shook his head, none of it making sense. A flood of information and no context, no reference points ... not yet, at least. "You want to stop the universes from colliding with one another?"
"From bleeding into one another. Realities - multiple realties, more than we can count - are at risk. Entire groups of species, of powers, are hopping into other realities to take advantage of them: whether that's through resource mining, cheap slave labor, espionage, or trying to make that reality their own by altering events in its past." Phillip cracked his knuckles. "It's a real mess out there and we've been put together to stop it." He stood, gently putting his hand on Henry's shoulder. "But that can wait."
"What is this?"
Phillip grinned. "The last line of defense for realities everywhere. Welcome to Project Paradigm."
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.