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Commander
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 366
# 15
01-26-2013, 12:22 PM
Sanara stared at her near-double on the viewscreen, wondering yet again how her life kept getting more complicated and bizarre. "Excuse me?"

"A favor," the other Sanara repeated. "Questions I want answered. Maybe three wishes, as the Terrans say." She smiled tightly. Like her battered old runabout, she had clearly seen rough use and some narrow escapes. Instead of science blue, she wore drab earth tones, greys and browns; the only spot of color was a faded blue-green scarf that set off her eyes. Her golden hair was not drawn back in a ponytail and draped over one shoulder, but cut short in a ragged, probably self-administered bob. The lines on her face were deeper, her cheekbones more prominent. The pattern of spots along the sides of her face and neck, however, was identical to the smallest detail. "I'd like to come aboard your ship and discuss it with you."

"You want to come aboard Europa?" Wary suspicion, skepticism... and lingering incredulity that this was actually happening.

Again the tart half-smile. "The Lethe's a bit small for both of us and your security team. Look... Captain. Here or there, I'm alone and at your mercy. I assure you, I just want to talk."

Draz considered it another moment before nodding. "All right. Hold your position; I'll have you beamed aboard. Draz out." A flicker of some emotion crossed the other woman's face as the screen blanked and returned to a magnified view of the runaboat against the starfield, but the captain was already turning to her tactical officer. "Get that security team to Transporter Room Two. Explain the situation to them, give her a thorough scan... and if she checks out, escort her to my ready room."

"Sir." Lt. Wen was already moving toward the turbolift; a quick gesture to Kessinger, and the larger man fell in behind her.

---

Fifteen minutes later, Draz was standing by the floor-to-ceiling window, gazing out at the stars - and at her own face, reflected dimly in the transparent aluminum - when the door chime twittered. "Come."

The door hissed open and her living reflection entered, accompanied by Europa's science officer. "Captain," T'Maal said with the slight head tilt and raised eyebrow that Sanara suspected was taught to all Vulcan children before they could walk, "may I present... Sanara Lucel."

Face to face at last, each woman regarded her counterpart with carefully neutral expressions. The one with captain's pips on her collar finally spoke. "Thank you, Lieutenant Commander. Dismissed."

"She'll try to kill you, you know," the visitor stated as soon as the door closed again.

"What?"

"Your Vulcan. As soon as you show any sign of weakness." The mirror Sanara shrugged. "They talk of honor and duty and then stick the knife in. Intrigue and deception are a way of life for them. Anyone who thought different got the hell off the planet thousands of years ago."

"That's not what you came all this way to tell me." Draz gestured to the seat on the other side of the desk; after a moment, the other Trill took it. Only then did the captain seat herself.

"No, it's not. I'm here for two reasons, one professional, one... personal."

"Let's start with professional, then," Draz suggested, regarding her double over steepled fingers.

The mirror Sanara nodded, launching into what was clearly a rehearsed presentation. "There's a question that's long vexed many scientists on my side of the quantum boundary, myself included: why you, and why us? Why, out of all the infinite possibilities, do we keep running into each other?" On the other side of the desk, the captain opened her mouth, but her guest held up one hand in a very familiar gesture and Draz obligingly shut up. "Yes, the first crossover was accidental - as far as we know - and there have been several deliberate incursions since, from both sides. But there's more to it than that. 'Random' dimensional interphases and other phenomena have a significantly higher chance of connecting this particular pair of realities. We have... evidence that the Tholians of our universe may have had contact with this one as far back as the 22nd century! Somehow, these two universes seem to have become entangled, just like two particles... but how, and why? Is it a natural event, or is someone responsible?"

"I've wondered the same," Draz acknowledged. "It should be random; we should both be seeing a much wider sampling across the set. But it's not. The dice keep coming up the same number, over and over." She frowned. "Unfortunately, aside from those deliberate incursions, there's not a lot of data. As a practical matter..."

"As a practical matter, those in power have other priorities." The other Sanara's frown was more of a cynical sneer. "They don't care about the how or why, only the what and how they can take advantage of it. In your reality too, I expect. Some things are the same all over." She leaned forward in her chair. "I'm here on behalf of a research consortium that does want answers to these questions. We want to work with people on your side, exchange data, get access to the observations you've made here. Work the problem from both ends."

"Purely in the interests of science and advancing the cause of knowledge, of course." When she wanted to, Draz could sound just as sarcastic as her twin, who smirked and nodded at her reply.

"Naturally, there are - or will be - some with their own agendas, people trying to turn what we find out into some sort of advantage or profit for themselves or their sponsors. But forget about the applications for a moment! Can you look me in the eye and tell me you don't want to just know?" There was a long pause, at the end of which she nodded triumphantly. "Thought so."

"I'll take your proposal under advisement," Draz said carefully. "I know people who might be interested in... collaborating with you and your associates on such a project. There would have to be strict guidelines, security arrangements, guarantees... but we've worked with Klingons on some things, and last I heard we were still technically at war with them." She sighed and rubbed at the bridge of her nose. "What was the other thing?"

The other Sanara said nothing at first, fidgeting in her seat. "How much do you know about how things are on Trill?" she finally asked. "In my universe, I mean."

"Practically nothing," Draz answered immediately and honestly. "I assume that you're part of the Empire, just as my homeworld's been part of the Federation for the last hundred and twenty five years."

"It's a little more complicated than that." The other looked up, making eye contact again. "My people are slaves. Not to the Empire, but to the things that rule us. The parasites."

"The p-- the symbionts?" Draz stared, not believing what she was hearing.

"That's what they call themselves. As if it were a partnership of equals, as if they did anything for us." She scowled, crossing her arms over her chest. "They raise us to be hosts for them, our immortal masters. When one of them needs a new body, when the old one is all used up, they pick someone strong or beautiful and take them away. And when that person comes back, it's not them anymore. It's one of them looking out through their eyes, speaking with their voice."

The Trill with the short-cropped hair rose to her feet, leaning across the captain's desk. "You're at war with the Borg in this universe, right? Your Borg, not ours. I've read about them. Let's see if I've got it right: they assimilate people into their collective against their will. They stick things in them that take them over, take away everything they were, turn them into drones. Puppets. Empty, expendable husks. Does that cover the essentials?"

Sanara nodded slowly, feeling a cold twisting in her gut as the Draz symbiont echoed her horror. A universe where they were no better, no different than the Borg... Suddenly, she wanted to find the nearest bathroom and vomit.

The other Sanara pushed off from the desk and stepped back, still facing her native counterpart. "So that's the other reason, the main reason, I'm here. To see if your Federation will help us. To ask you to save 700 million people from slavery, no, worse than slavery... from being hollowed out by those things so they can walk around in our skins, bred for it like animals for their dinner tables."

Draz, still shaken, took a moment to find her voice. "I... of course I'll do whatever I can. I'll take it to Starfleet Command and the Symbiosis Commission if I have to."

"Good," her double replied with a sharp nod. "I'll return to my ship and my universe, get in touch with my contacts and let them know help is on the way."

"Wait." It was Draz's turn to hold up a hand. "It'll take some time to get things moving, and... and honestly, I don't know how much the Federation can do right now. Like you said, we're at war, and not just with the Borg but on several fronts." She looked aside, avoiding the other's gaze. "And then there's the Prime Directive to consider..."

"**** your Prime Directive!"

The outburst rang sharply in the small office, making Draz's jaw drop at its unexpected venom. Her visitor plowed onward: "We never had anything like that in my universe. Maybe there's something to it when it comes to primitive, pre-warp cultures. But when you apply it to other empires? Then it's just an excuse, something to hide behind when you don't want to get involved. Because it might be hard and messy. You might get your hands dirty, might have to suffer and sacrifice a little for your principles. You love to talk about how evolved and morally superior you are, but when it comes time to show it? 'Oh no, we couldn't possibly interfere.'"

Mirror Sanara pounded a fist on the desk as she continued her rant. "But you are involved. You've been involved in our affairs for over a hundred years. You interfere just by existing and observing; Heisenberg. You don't get to pretend otherwise, to abdicate your responsibility. Either live up to all those lofty words about universal rights, or have the honesty to admit they only apply when it's convenient for you."

"I said I would help," Draz gritted, rising to her feet as well. "Just don't expect miracles."

"I expect nothing from you," her reflection scolded. "I hoped maybe you'd be different, that I could trust you, but I was wrong. You're just the same."

Draz nodded curtly and reached for her desk terminal, touching a button. "Security to my ready room. Our guest is leaving."

"Acknowledged."

"If you give us a way to contact you, I'll be in touch when I have some news. On either matter." Gaze still locked with her counterpart, Draz came out from behind her desk to face her as they'd done at the start of this meeting. She gestured toward the door, which had just swished open to admit Kessinger and an ensign, also in red and almost as beefy. "But right now, I think you should go."

Seconds passed before the civilian blinked, literally and metaphorically. The captain turned...

And a loop of simple, inert, harmless cloth slipped over her head and was yanked tight.

Sanara gagged and struggled against muscles as strong as hers, perhaps even stronger. She could see that the guards had their phasers out, but her assailant was keeping the hostage between them and her as a shield. The silk scarf that had looked so fetching around the other Sanara's neck was now around hers, and the voice that whispered in her ear was her own.

"If there's anything left of me in you, I'm sorry. I'm doing for you what I couldn't for my brother. But if I'm just talking to the monster?" The noose contracted further. "Choke and die."

Through the pounding rush of blood, Draz faintly heard the hum of a transporter somewhere close. Then the tightness around her throat was gone and the person who'd been strangling her was dead weight, slumping unconscious to the deck. She gasped for air to fill her lungs, leaning on the slender but strong shoulder of her rescuer, finally lifting her head to meet that cool dark regard. "Ugh. Thanks. That was risky, you know."

"There was adequate space for transport, and Chief Galloway is a skilled operator," T'Maal replied, unperturbed. "If she did manage to avoid my nerve pinch, there was a 67.2% chance that she would expose herself to phaser fire. I deemed those odds acceptable."

Draz smiled weakly and nodded, giving T'Maal another pat on the shoulder and reminding herself not to even consider playing a game of chance against the woman.
Join Date: January 2011