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A glimpse of what could have been

Posted on Saturday February 13th, 2021 @ 6:29pm by Niyahra Riohn

Mission: Marauder's Map
Location: Starbase 718, near the Romulan border
Timeline: Prior to 'An Adult Conversation'
2763 words - 5.5 OF Standard Post Measure

Niyahra was feeling jittery, it was all happening so fast. They were gathering the people required and soon she’d be having to break someone out of a holding cell hoping that the info that was provided to her by her new resistance contact would hold up otherwise she might just end up on the wrong side of the forcefield.

She strolled around the Starbase, trying to find something to ease her nerves. She knew it would be a bad idea to take KRed now, she needed to stay sharp, she needed to have her wits about her. Perhaps something a lot milder, like a triple espresso shot of raktajino. She rounded the corner into where she thought she remembered the replimats being. She didn’t have a lot of credits and she wanted to keep a low profile, so really that was going to be her only option.

The area was abandoned, nobody liked coming there for their food. Still it felt as if she was being followed, observed. Looking around to make sure she wasn’t being stalked for whatever reason she stepped out of the corridor. Before she could take another step the lights flickered, leaving her in the dark for a second. Her heart raced in her throat, this was where they’d get her. Then the lights came back on, brighter than before, or perhaps it was just because she had been in the pitch black just moments before.

Stepping up to the nearest replicator, she looked around again, making sure that nobody was there, she gave in her order and fumbled a bit with the cred stick in her pocket to pay for her cup of raktajino so strong that it bordered on reckless, but before she could offer it to the machine it had already generated her cup. She frowned a bit before pulling it out, looking around again to see if anyone had seen that. Perhaps it was the same glitch that caused the lights to go out. She immediately ordered a plate of food as well, see if her luck would hold up. She was happy when it did and the replicator presented her with a full plate of her favourite breakfast, “what the hell?”

Aranis was dying for a break. He had been cooped up in his office for hours looking over inventory reports, incoming ship requests, repair schedules for Starfleet ships in the area. Honestly if he could have slammed his head off his desk without injury he was sure he would have done so already.

His yeoman, Petty Officer McNally, had been on him all day. Handing him thing, making him thumbprint for that. Aranis had managed to slip out, leaving his Starfleet command jacket on the seat in the office with the badge still attached. For once he wanted to be left alone for a good hour or so and being that it was a late hour he was sure the promenade would most likely be emptier than usual.

As he approached the replimat of choice, he was on good terms with the owner, he felt a strange draw, almost like a pull or a niggle. It was always hard to describe. Aranis approached the replicator next to a woman who looked puzzled at receiving what she had asked for.

He looked over to her as she frowned, “Do you usually frown at your food like that?” he asked.

“Oh, no, certainly not,” Niyahra took what she had gotten and sat down on the nearest free table, hoping he wouldn't ask her what she had done with the replicator that it was giving out free meals. She leaned down and tried to not make eye contact, almost like someone new in a prison.

The woman scurried away with haste, it made Aranis suspicious but not to the point of concern. He found it quite amusing. “Coffee. T’San blend 2.” he said to the replicator and waited. For seconds he watched as it materialised and smiled. He had been used to this kind of technology for centuries and still it made him smile to see the ease of how quickly food and drink can be obtained.

He picked up his cup and walked to go beyond the table the mystery woman was at but something stopped him. The nag stopped him. “Mind if I join you?” he asked as she avoided eye contact. “Seems a shame to eat such a big meal alone and I could use some company myself. Escape from the day.”

Niyahra pulled the meal closer to herself, in an effort to protect it from him, "feel free," she didn't mind him joining her for the company, it was the chance of him taking her food that kept her a bit jumpy. She hadn't really properly looked at his appearance, and only shot a short look up to take in his features. When her gaze was going back down to her food suddenly something nagged her attention, she looked back up, "I… uh." Was that a Starfleet issue shirt? "What's so bad about the day that it needed escaping?" She could think of a dozen reasons, though she was curious to find out which one he'd be coming with.

As she shot a quick look at him he noticed the Trill spots but also the quick protection of her food, that gave him pause. She looked skinny, to the point of malnutrition. Her clothing looked like it could do with replacing, her overall appearance looking a bit unkempt. “Ah, so many people here.” Aranis replied honestly. “Everybody is always wanting something.” he added as he threw his leg over the back of the chair (Riker style) and sat down. “Are you alright, miss? If you are in need of medical attention we have plenty of doctors here who would be happy to see you…”

Her heart immediately started pounding in her chest, "What? No. I don't need a doctor, no doctors" She pushed a good fork full of food into her mouth and needed some time to chew through to give her some time to come up with a better response, or even an escape plan. The food was good but not good enough to risk getting caught over, she tried to ease her thoughts and refocus on her goal of coming to this starbase, "There's someone here I'm picking up, I think he's being held in security." It was weird how she thought that would make things better, "nothing major, no need to bother the overseer."

“Overseer?” he asked with a little confusion in his voice. A pang of discomfort shot through his head that made him cock it to the side and close an eye for a brief moment. A report flashed through his mind of encounters with the Mirror universe, or that of alternate universes, throughout Starfleets ever so brief history. “There is no-one here with that title.”

Aranis could tell she was becoming skittish, that any push in the wrong direction could prove disastrous. “If you could tell me your name? I am Aranis.” he said in a friendly tone. “No-one here will hurt you, I promise you that.”

Niyahra had heard those words before, they were usually quickly followed by the sounds of doors getting kicked in and phaser fire. The hairs on her neck weren't standing up though, there was something about this man that comforted her, "Wha.. I.." She looked around again, the promenade completely empty. A station this close to the Romulan Star Empire surely had an overseer, wouldn't leave that to a Gul, "Who's in charge then?" She continued to eat, figuring that if she was about to be burned she wanted to have one last good meal.

“Me.” he said with no hint of concealment or hesitation as he placed his hand on her upper arm. There was a pull towards her, one that made him want to move closer but he held back as she was acting strangely at the moment for a Trill. “Is everything alright? You are Trill, are you joined? Would you like to tell me your name?” he asked.

There was a moment where she was trying to process the fact that he just told her he was in charge of this station, then she immediately pulled her arm back at the touch, that was even before the question came, are you joined? "What? No. What makes you think that!" She got up from her chair and looked around, still the promenade remained empty, "I'm not DPI, and I'm no renegade symbiont," she hadn't been able to bring her phaser pistol onto the station, the security check would've caught it and it wouldn't have done her any good. Her protests were too much of a knee-jerk reaction, there was no way he'd believe her.

"Look, I don't know what you think you know, alright, but please, you have to let me go, I have a kid who's stuck in your brig, he needs to get back to his parents," Niyahra knew that it wouldn't do much good to appeal to the empathy of a collaborator but it was the last play she had.

“Miss, there are no children in my brigs.” he said as he leant back in his chair. His body language was open and non-threatening as he did not want to alarm her. “You do not need to be alarmed, there is no-one that will harm you here. I am unarmed, I bear you no ill will and in fact I would only like to help you. You are not from around here, are you?” he asked, indicating her displacement.

“You look at me like you do not believe I am in charge of this station. I see your fear at the mention of a symbiont yet you have the confidence behind the eyes of all those I have known to be joined. My second in command is a joined Trill and I have served with many so I know how they appear. I get a feeling from you that I have had before, from those that are outside the normalities of time and space. Can you tell me one thing? Then I will know… Do you know what Starfleet is?”

It was as if she was being cornered, what he was saying made very little sense. How could he have worked together with Trill over the years unless he was in the DPI, she shook her head at the mention of Starfleet, "Yeah, I know of Starfleet," she nodded, "I may have been just a kid when they fell to the Dominion, but I've lived the consequences of their hubris and failures enough to know who they were."

Aranis nodded, he was right. She came from an alternate reality. The point where their history diverged being the Dominion War it seemed. Aranis fought in that war, knew what it was like and could not bear to think about what would have been if they had lost.

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his service identification.

T’San, Aranis
Commanding Officer, Starbase 718

This also showed an image of him in holoform as he opened it.

“We beat the Dominion over 20 years ago.” he confirmed. “The Romulans joined the war and helped us turn the tide. I was there, I was a POW in the Letani camp for 18 months.” Aranis’ memory of that time was still painful to recall. He rose from his seat slowly and smiled at her disarmingly. “Please, sit.” he said. “Can I get you another coffee?”

Niyahra her mouth fell open, she stumbled forward at the holographic display, there was a temporary flashback to her time in the Fleet. She shook her head to correct herself, not her time, the time her symbiont was in a Starfleet host. She reached out to the small device that was floating his credentials, "You.. you won?"

Tears started to form in her eyes, realising what that meant. Realising that so much of their pain and suffering could've been prevented. Had been prevented, "but… but how… after they struck down the fleet trying to retake Terok Nor, there was nothing left. Thousands of warships streamed through the wormhole. Earth fell within a year..." she shook her head again, it was impossible to fathom how in any reality the United Federation of Planets had been able to strike back against the overwhelming Dominion forces, "They… we… the council surrendered on Bajor."

“It is true, the battle of Deep Space Nine was not an easy one. We were nearing defeat, about to fall back and regroup when the self replicating mines were deactivated then destroyed. Captain Sisko made one last ditch effort in a badly damaged Defiant to head into the wormhole and face the Dominion fleet head on but the ‘Prophets’ intervened. Not wanting him to die they simply took out the incoming Dominion fleet and from there our eventual success came.” Aranis said, offering a quick snapshot of what their outcome was. “That turned the tide in our favour as Humans say. Operation Return worked.”

“Since that day there have been a number of challenges that have affected us all, but we still have the access to free food, drink, clothing.” he said indicating the replicator. “The right to choose our own path. Choose who to trust.” he said emphasising the latter part.

Niyahra looked at the replicators, free food, drink, and clothing. It was something she remembered. Walking into a mess hall and just ordering something not a care in the world. She came closer to the table again, grabbed the fork and stuffed some of the food in her mouth. She didn't notice another ripple coursing through the replimat, similar to the one that brought her there but much smaller, "Sisko was… he deserted. They say he cloaked and deserted during the battle." She shook her head, "I can't believe," she kept shaking her head, "I can't believe we won."

“I think the wormhole aliens have a lot to answer for in both our universes.” Aranis admitted knowing what happened to Sisko in his timeline. He was still unaccounted for even now. “It would stand to reason that those aliens took him instead of letting him die at the hands of the Dominion force, but in doing so condemned your universe to Dominion rule. I am truly sorry for what you have gone through. Can you at least tell me your name?” he asked as he felt the hairs on the back of his neck start to tingle.

"Niyahra," She looked up from her meal and saw the walls around the promenade twist and warp, "Niyahra Riohn," She reached out and touched his hand that was resting on the table. She felt a static course through her and with the blink of an eye she was suddenly sitting at an empty table, all alone, hand grabbing at nothing but air. She felt her stomach turn. Just as quickly and unexpectedly as she had come to be in a place she could barely believe was real she was seated at an empty table, in an empty replimat, on a hostile station.

She shivered and shook, feeling she had lost something, or someone, that was very dear to her, tears started welling up in her eyes. Her hand fumbled to try and find one of her KRed capsules, out of habit. She ran it through her hands, watching the red liquid slosh back and forth in the glass. Before she even got up from the chair she was sitting in she had already convinced herself it had all been the hallucination fueled by withdrawal. No matter how real it had felt. How right it had felt.

Aranis had watched as the dark-skinned hand of the now named Niyahra Riohn reached for him and for a moment there was a connection. He felt the warmth of it, the sensation of it and watched as this woman seemingly evaporated before him leaving nothing but the half-eaten meal and a lot more questions.

As the mysterious wave washed over him the sensation in his mind disappeared, the nag dissipated but the feeling of this woman did not. He could not explain it, usually he couldn’t when it came to anomalies of space and time but there was a connection here. A different kind of presence.

It did not feel wrong, uncomfortable. It felt like it was right.

This had not been an accident. Fates had intervened. An impression left.


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