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Captain
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 1,536
# 5 Here's Chapter Three.
06-07-2013, 11:24 AM
Thanks, Sander233. Had I known that you were also interested in my story, I would've started this chapter alot sooner. Being a creative improvisor, making up things isn't too difficult for me. Making it self-consistent is another thing entirely. *That's* the part that takes most of the work. Making it up is the easy part.

Copyright 2013, by Philip Clayberg

CHAPTER THREE --

We didn't expect to have to wait long. Maybe a minute or two at most. But even that long would've felt like an eternity.

"I don't feel too well," I told Hu'ajat, holding my stomach. I felt ill. Maybe I'd eaten too quickly? Or maybe the food wasn't digestible by Romulans? But they need us alive. They can't risk poisoning us. Or can they?

"Same here," he said, doing the same. "Don't trust the Tal Shiar. I should've remembered that."

I nodded. "Hunger can make you do things you might not ordinarily do."

"Like eat whatever is given you," he said.

My eyes kept trying to close, and I felt like I needed to sleep. But I hadn't been tired before we'd eaten, so why now?

"I think they --" I said. Without warning, I fell unconscious.

If I dreamt, I didn't remember any of my dreams. I spent my time floating in darkness, inside some cave, not knowing which way was up, down, left, or right. Is this what a womb was supposed to be like? If so, I wasn't exactly impressed by it. Reaching out didn't do much good. The walls weren't close enough to touch. Perhaps I was still too small, as babies are known to be.

Someone shook me. I ignored them. They shook me again. This time I tried to push them away. And almost fell. There was gravity here. Of course. Why wouldn't there be?

Then a male voice spoke. One that I thought I recognized. "Wake up, T'kav. She's waiting for you."

I struggled out of the darkness, opened my eyes, and saw I was in a large room, about mid-way between ceiling and floor. Plain walls, plain furnishings with one exception. This definitely wasn't my sleeping chamber, nor was it my workshop. This was the official audience chamber. I couldn't remember how I'd gotten here, when I last remembered being in the meal room, sitting across from -- who? I couldn't remember that either.

I noticed I wasn't alone. There was a male Reman next to me. He must've been the one who'd spoken to me. He gestured ahead of us, at a large seat, like an ancient throne. In it, sat a white-haired woman wearing a typical Romulan's uniform, only made from far superior materials. I immediately checked to make sure everything was in place, hoping that my appearance was acceptable. This was our boss, after all.

"Feeling better, T'kav?" the woman asked me. She didn't sound concerned. More likely social politeness, which she normally didn't indulge in.

I nodded. "Thank you, your highness. I apologize for my illness. It was unexpected."

She turned to the male Reman. "And you, Hu'ajat?"

"Same, your highness," he said. "Perhaps the food we ate on Virinat changed what sort we could and couldn't digest. We should've kept to our native diet. We will do so from now on."

"Unfortunately, your illnesses have delayed things somewhat," she told us. "We have had to move things forward sooner than we'd initially planned to. Because of this, your current jobs have been terminated. They are no longer necessary. Understood?"

We both nodded, and said, "Yes, your highness."

"Good," she went on. "You will report to G'mel in Sickbay. He will give you your new set of duties Remember, though: I will be watching and assessing. And I will not hesitate to terminate your existence if you should fail me again. Understood?"

Again we both nodded, and said, "Yes, your highness."

"Dismissed," she said and the screen went black. The terminal went into a wall slot and disappeared from view.

"We should be grateful for her kindness," Hu'ajat said.

"Indeed," I said. "But I doubt that they will investigate and punish our poisoners. We are still not that important in the Romulan Star Empire."

"Agreed," he said.

We left the audience chamber, and walked down a long corridor. We passed by workstations and terminals used for engineering, the horticulture room filled with plants and a male scientist tending them carefully but without undo emotion, a large meal room, a workshop (my own? possibly), and then entered the Sickbay at the end of the corridor.

A light-brown-haired female doctor stood next to a sickbed, of several sickbeds. A patient lay in this one, looking worse than we had prior to our conversation with our boss. More food poisoning perhaps? The monitoring system made beeps that seemed to've been designed to comfort the patient. They certainly did not comfort me. I wished that they would stop. A red light pulsed steadily and silently. That was more like it. The doctor was speaking to a patient lying on a sickbed in front of her. Her orders were clear. Had they been directed at us, we would've had no problem following them. I had no doubt that her patient would be equally capable.

Finished, the doctor turned to us and introduced herself. "I am G'mel."

"T'kav," I said.

"Hu'ajat," my coworker said.

The doctor handed us a tablet, with a list of duties on it. I accepted it and we waited. "This is what must be done by the end of today. If you finish them early, come to me and I will find more work for you. You will report to me from 0600 to 2100 each day until the end of this week. Then you will return to Empress Sela for new instructions. Acknowledge."

"Understood," we both said.

G'mel nodded and promptly went to the next sickbed, occupied by an injured female Romulan.

We went into the doctor's office, and inspected the duty-list on the tablet. Mostly nothing too terribly difficult. Finished, we looked up as a tall, strong-boned, muscular, bipedal reptilian in warrior's garb entered the office, reporting of pains from combat. Gorn. In a deep, raspy voice he identified where and how much. Thus we took care of the first item on the duty-list. And so the day went, only pausing in the middle for a quick meal (ten minutes, which seemed overly long, but unavoidable; there had been a problem in the meal preparation software, which was fixed while we waited, a line of other diners lengthening behind us). Back in Sickbay, I reminded myself that medicine was definitely not the profession for me. I couldn't say the same for Hu'ajat. Sometimes his face was greener than that first Gorn's. But we'd both managed to keep a straight face when we'd had to take care of a Hirogen, whose problem seemed more psychosomatic than actual. Otherwise, a failed attempt at invading a star system called Nimbus had, all by itself, brought in the most patients. It had been an interesting day, all told, if tiring.

My shoulders and back were aching, but at least we were down to the last item. Which was when Hu'ajat notified me that it was almost 2100. Would G'mel report that our efforts were inadequate? We had done our best, but it had been a very busy first day in Sickbay. We could only hope to do better tomorrow.

Returning to G'mel, I handed the tablet to him. The doctor looked at, noticed the one item left at the bottom. "This will be added to your duty-list tomorrow, and I will report it to Empress Sela. Do not ever make me apologize to her again. Dismissed."

We nodded, and left Sickbay for our sleeping chambers. I stretched and rubbed my lower back as we walked along.

"Nothing escapes her attention," Hu'ajat said.

"Nothing," I said.

"Evening meal and then sleep?" he suggested.

"Sounds good to me," I said. "Nothing too heavy, though."

"You shouldn't have tried to lift that skinny Reman," Hu'ajat said. "You should've let me do it."

"You were busy at the time," I said.

"Still," he said. "You will need all the sleep you can get. I'll inject you with a painkiller when we return to our chambers. It will make you drowsy and accelerate the healing process."

I made a face just before we entered the meal room. "You shouldn't have stolen it. G'mel will notice it's missing when he inventories his supplies in the morning."

"And I will explain that you needed it in order to do your job," Hu'ajat said. "If he argues, he can tell our boss, and she will likely be more angry with him than with us."

"Which wouldn't bother me much," I said. "Seeing how he doesn't like having us around as it is."

Inside the meal room, we headed for the food service area, and entered our choices into the a meal programming unit. The cooking was quick, if not exactly accurate. Not the machine's or software's fault, I thought. Someone must be wanting us workers to suffer as much as possible.

"Did you see the look on his face when you took care of that Aenar's symptoms when he couldn't do it himself?" Hu'ajat asked, amused. "I thought he was going to explode, he was so angry."

"But that was why we couldn't finish the duty-list in time," I reminded him as we took our food-trays to one of the tables next to the windows opposite the food service area. At the table to our right, three Romulans were sitting, eating almost entirely in silence. At the table to our left, two Gorns and a Hirogen sat, arguing and punching the air above them and gesturing at each other more than eating. And I didn't really want to know what they were eating. We sat down on opposite sides of our table and started eating. "If it weren't for G'mel practically breathing down my neck, I would've referred the Aenar to him," I went on "I wish I had."

"If you hadn't, you probably would've still gotten into trouble with him," he said. "Damned if you, damned if you don't. G'mel has his way of running his Sickbay, and don't you dare try to challenge him. Especially in his choice of nurses." He shook his head in disgust.

"At least the Aenar was pleased with the service," I said.

"And said so loud enough that G'mel could hear," Hu'ajat added.

"I wish the Aenar hadn't, though," I said. "I think I've already had enough of G'mel's dirty looks. Good thing he isn't a programmer. I wouldn't trust him not to try to poison us when no one was looking. And we still have four more days with him. Wonderful."

"Careful," Hu'ajat said quietly. "And don't drink that water."

I'd lifted the container and was about to put my mouth to its top opening. I paused and looked at him, and equally quietly asked, "What do you mean?"

"Put it down first," he said.

I did so, wondering what he was thinking and why I wasn't thinking the same way.

"You aren't sounding like a properly subservient and obedient Tal Shiar, that's why," Hu'ajat said. "I think G'mel suspects, but I'm not sure if he'd risk telling our boss. Anyone that doesn't toe the line has a tendency to disappear. Permanently. As in, out the nearest airlock."

"You're not exactly a shining example of a Tal Shiar yourself," I reminded him.

"I'm a Reman," he said. "Romulans usually don't look down far enough to notice us. Or at least they didn't use to."

"There's nothing wrong with you," I said.

"Then you're the exception to the rule," Hu'ajat said. "Look, Yi'aju --"

I shook my head, looked around us. No one seemed to've heard what he'd just said.

"T'kav." I said. "But only between us. Remember: Yi'aju was killed by the Tal Shiar on Virinat. If they find out that I'm still alive --"

Hu'ajat nodded, not willingly, not happily. "Understood. T'kav, then. But someday someone will notice the differences, however slight they might be. And then what?"

"I'll face that day when it comes," I said. "Being your sister has its disadvantages sometimes."

"At least we've never had any birth-parents to deal with," he said. "I can't imagine what that must be like."

"Someone to nurture you, to care for you, to educate you," I said. "Such small, unimportant things in a person's life. Not like a machine that teaches as mechanically as possible, that has no sense of humor, that wouldn't care whether you went on living or dropped dead on the spot. I couldn't imagine anyone choosing that sort of education. I'd rather have a living being, imperfections and all." I finished my meal, noticing that he'd finished his quite a bit sooner than I had. "Must've been hungrier than I was."

Hu'ajat nodded, and got up. I did the same. We took trays over to the recycling system, pushed them into the drawer.

The chronograph above us said that it was 21:30.

"Let's go back now," he said, as quietly as he had at the table.

"Yours or mine?" I asked, imitating his drop in volume.

"Yours," Hu'ajat said. "At least we know it isn't being bugged."

"Not entirely sure," I said. "Just because we didn't find anything doesn't mean it isn't there."

He sighed. "True."

"Besides, if we do hang out together, we won't get much sleep," I said. "Not with all the talking we do."

Hu'ajat smiled a bit. "Your mouth moves just as much as mine does, remember."

"You can always tell me to shut up," I suggested.

"Cloned or not, I wouldn't do that to my sister, my only sister," he said. "If you're silent, how am I supposed to argue with you? Yelling at the equivalent of a wall isn't any fun."

"Do you need immediate feedback that intensely?" I asked.

Hu'ajat shrugged. "I'm only Reman."

Which was exactly why we had decided not to say that about myself when we'd joined the Tal Shiar. Officially, I was a Romulan orphan, and he was a Reman orphan. Enough information. We would only elaborate if we absolutely had to to survive. And only as little as we could get away with.

Back in my chamber, I sat down on the bed, cross-legged, and Hu'ajat pulled up a float-chair and sat in it. It was easy to forget for a moment that there were IR beams everywhere in here, even if they couldn't hear what we said. The Tal Shiar in charge of domestic surveillance would know that there were two warm bodies in this chamber, when there were supposed to be one. But G'mel knew that we sometimes sat together in Hu'ajat's room, talking, so he'd said so to Empress Sela, and she'd gotten domestic surveillance to back off of demanding that the only-one-person-per-room be enforced. Not that it made our daily lives any easier, however.

"I'm glad you didn't die in the attack on Virinat," he said softly. "I don't know what I would've done if I'd found myself alone, without any friends, without any help."

I nodded. "Same here. It was such a relief to find that the orphanage wasn't too far from the fields. That we could meet each day for mid-day meal. When you have no friends, and you're far from your home-world, having a brother nearby is comforting."

Hu'ajat smiled. "And non-clones think that we don't think that way."

"They're idiots," I said. "Insufficiently educated. Soaked in ignorance up to their ears."

"You still think like that," he said.

I glanced at him. "Of course I do. When did you think I'd ever change that position?"

"Never," Hu'ajat said. "One moment. I forgot something in my chambers. Don't go anywhere."

I nodded, watched him leave the chamber. It suddenly felt empty. Devoid of life, of everything but echoes. Reminders that loneliness may suit some beings, but not all beings. Just because you have to be alone, doesn't mean that you always enjoy it.

Then he returned, and I felt relieved.

"What did you forget?" I asked.

Hu'ajat took something from inside his jacket. It was the same one he'd brought with him from Virinat, never telling the Tal Shiar that he had it.

I stared at it. "Put that phaser away," I hissed. "What if they catch you with it?"

"Would you rather I disposed of it, then?" he replied.

I shook my head. "Keep it. But hide it as well as you can. The IR beams inside each room could pick it up if you ever turned it on."

"Which is why I leave it off," Hu'ajat said. "Most of the time, anyway. And thank you again for the modifications to it. Good thing you worked in the workshop at the time."

The modifications made the phaser more powerful than it had been designed to be. I wasn't the type to leave something alone, if I could make it better. Here they didn't mind it so much as they had at the orphanage on Virinat. The orphanage had made their -- displeasure -- all too clear to me. I had no wish to cross that line again while I was there. One of the few things I was grateful for when we'd joined the Tal Shiar. Working in the same ship as my clone-brother was another.

"Not anymore," I said.

"My apologies," Hu'ajat said. "Covert activities don't always stay covert."

"No kidding," I said. "Next time you put your head on the block, instead of mine."

"Agreed," he said. "I owe you that much. And more."

I shook my head. "Not here, not now. My life as Yi'aju has to be kept as quiet as possible. I am T'kav and have always been T'kav. And it has to be that way for now."

"I know," Hu'ajat said. "Would it be all right if I slept on the floor in here?"

"Is there a problem with the bed in your chamber?" I replied.

He shook his head. "I would just feel safer in here."

From what, though? I wondered. The other Tal Shiar? Our boss?

I signed. "All right. Stay. But only tonight."

Hu'ajat smiled a bit. "Thank you. I owe you one."

"I'll be sure to remind you of that the next time you get me into trouble," I said.

We got ready for bed. I gave him the only pillow the bed had, choosing to use one of my arms as a makeshift pillow. He complained, but I complained right back. And then we had to get quiet again, since loud voices might carry outside my chamber. I set the chronograph alarm to 0500 and whistled off the lights, and the darkness was almost as palpable as it had been when Hu'ajat had woken me from my sleep before we'd spoken with our boss. But at least here it didn't feel like a womb. I wasn't alone here.

The next morning the alarm didn't go off. I got up, worried, and then saw why. My brother had turned it off, with a finger against his lips. He nodded at the wall that separated my chamber from his. His chamber had noises in it. The noises of feet, hands, and voices. Tal Shiar. Were they looking for Hu'ajat or something in his room (like his modified phaser) or something or someone else? I couldn't believe that they could possibly be looking for me. I was innocent this time. Or was I?

Was this why he'd wanted to spend last night in my chamber? Did he know it was going to happen? Or was it just a lucky guess? Something that humans were supposed to be better at than Romulans or Remans.

"It isn't here," someone next door snapped, deep, gruff, disappointed. "I thought you said surveillance had detected it."

"It did," someone else snapped back, annoyed. "I showed you the report on my terminal. I wasn't lying."

"And of course computer systems can't lie either," the first voice said, not sounding convinced.

"She won't be pleased with this," the second voice said.

"Your problem, not mine," the first voice said. "I'm off to talk to G'mel. And he'd better be more open than he was the last time, or else I'll reacquaint him with my shock-probe."

"You could stand next to me," the second voice said. "Show some sort of loyalty."

"I'm a Gorn," the first voice said. "You're expecting something out-of-the-ordinary from me? Don't be stupid like the rest of your Hirogen race." A pause. "I have my orders and you have yours. I won't disobey mine."

"And I won't disobey mine," the second voice said.

"You'd better not," the first voice said. "If you know what's good for you."

Their footsteps left Hu'ajat's chamber, not bothering to shut the door behind them. For a moment, I thought they would check my chamber next. But, oddly, they didn't. Maybe they knew who and what they'd find, and that wouldn't help them? Or maybe part of their orders told them to stay away from me?

"I'm going to change the parameters quite a bit, T'kav," my brother said. "Things you need to know."

I looked at him. "Now? Why now?"

"Because we're not going back to G'mel's Sickbay," Hu'ajat said. "That's over and done with."

"We have four more days," I insisted. "I do think you're the crazy one this time. I'm definitely not."

"If we go back there, we're dead," he said. "Do you understand why?"

I shook my head.

"All this is a lie," Hu'ajat said. "A well-constructed lie. Enough truth mixed in to make it convincing. I don't mean the ship. Or G'mel. Or his Sickbay. Or the rest of the ship. Or the empress."

"There isn't much left, then," I said. "So whatever is left must be . . . you and I."

He nodded. "Correct."

"And you're absolutely serious about this," I said, wondering if I was crazy to believe it even a tiny bit.

Again he nodded. "Correct."

"But how do know what you know, then?" I asked.

"Because I overheard G'mel talking with our boss when you were busy with that Romulan patient," Hu'ajat said.

"The one that wouldn't stop complaining," I said, remembering.

He nodded. "That one."

"What did you hear?" I asked.

"This," Hu'ajat said. "They're trying to figure out who and what I actually am. If they can, they're going to try to get DNA samples from me. They think that that will help them start their own cloning lab."

"Will it?" I asked.

He shook his head. "There's too much missing. Hardware, software, experience, knowledge. They're like babies trying to learn what an adult has spent a lifetime learning."

"They're fools," I said.

"Agreed," Hu'ajat said. "But more they want more than just my DNA."

I couldn't imagine what else we could possibly have that they'd want so intensely. But I had trouble reaching back in my mind to before the darkness-in-a-womb unconscious that he'd woken me up from. Before we'd spoken with our boss.

"Do you remember arriving at the Tal Shiar satellite, in orbit above Virinat?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Is that where we are? I thought we were onboard a Tal Shiar ship."

"We are onboard a Tal Shiar ship," Hu'ajat said. "We were brought here from the satellite."

"And I'm not Reman," I said.

"No, you're not," he said. "You're Romulan."

"Just like the Tal Shiar are," I said.

"No," Hu'ajat said. "Definitely not like them. You might be able to walk and talk like them, but you don't think and feel like them. I can tell."

"But how do you remember what came before all this?" I asked.

"Because I faked being poisoned," he said. "I ate the food they gave us at the satellite. But I didn't drink the water. You did, though."

"And they set up all this, just for us?" I asked.

Hu'ajat nodded. "To get us to give them the information they needed."

"And like the assumption that having Reman DNA is good enough to start a cloning lab," I said, and he nodded.

"They miscalculated," he finished for me. "Their egos won't let them admit to failure. They've never made any mistakes. That's for us lesser, fallible beings."

"Then what do we do?" I asked. "I only know what I know on this ship, and a life that apparently was never mine. I was never Yi'aju. I was only ever T'kav."

"Your thinking is leading you in the correct direction," Hu'ajat said. "Your memories will return."

"When?" I asked.

"When the medication in the water passes through your system," he replied. "It's already happening."

"Because I didn't drink the water, because you told me not to," I said.

Hu'ajat nodded. "They did a better job constructing your imaginary past than they did with me. Well, not an entirely imaginary past. They dug out my memories of my sister and put those in you, telling you that you were her, not T'kav. And you believed it. Maybe you still do."

"Not so much," I said, and it was true. Echoes in my older memories were strengthening, solidifying. Just as not quickly as I would've liked them to. So I had to trust him even more than I usually did. "I can only hope you're right, that all of my real memories will come back."

"They will," he assured me. "This medicine doesn't cause permanent effects, only temporary ones. It has be replenished or it fades completely."

"Then what do we do?" I asked. "We're inside a Tal Shiar ship. We can't just try to escape. We'd be caught, if they didn't kill us first."

"They can't kill us," Hu'ajat said. "They need us alive. Me for my DNA. And you --"

The chamber's door slid open. G'mel stood there, with a Gorn on his left and a Hirogen on his right. G'mel had a phaser pointed at us.

"You should've come to my Sickbay," he said. "Much less suspicious, much less incriminating. But you had to do it the hard way. Fine. Get up."

Hu'ajat got off of his float-chair and I got off of my bed. Then we looked at each other, and he nodded.

I ducked and rolled to my right. I heard Hu'ajat's modified phaser fired several times. The Gorn fell, as did the Hirogen. Either dead or stunned. G'mel looked astonished, unable to fire his own phaser. The Tal Shiar must indoctrinate their "volunteers" as they had done with me, to the point where you believe any lie the Tal Shiar tell you. Because it sounds like the truth, and it couldn't be a lie, could it?

"You -- stupid -- little --"? G'mel said, and finally aimed his phaser at Hu'ajat and fired. It missed.

But Hu'ajat didn't. G'mel fell, sprawling across the bodies of the Gorn and Hirogen.

Then Hu'ajat shoved me out of the chamber and into the corridor outside it, following right behind me. The corridor was briefly empty, but I knew that that wouldn't last long. When he stopped pushing, he turned and fired at the door controls. They exploded in a little burst of sparks and smoke.

"That should do for a bit," he said. "You're right, T'kav. You couldn't be my sister."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because she couldn't shoot, not even a khellid drone in self-defense," Hu'ajat replied. "I tried to teach her how to fight, but she just wasn't interested." He paused because two Tal Shiar suddenly entered the corridor ahead of us, from a side corridor. And they were both definitely armed.

(written 6-7-2013)

Last edited by philipclayberg; 06-07-2013 at 11:54 AM.