Posted on Sat May 7th, 2022 @ 11:03pm by Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai & Lieutenant Serana Zhaan & Lieutenant Kennedy Ryan Walsh & Ensign Noah Balsam & Ensign Sheldon Parsons & Ensign Sheila Mulhern
Sojourners of Time
Location: Omri's Memory, 100 Years Ago
Timeline: Mission Day 8 at 2000
It wasn't a short walk.
Emni had been quiet for a good portion of the trek as the team followed behind Omri and the Azhadi warriors who had captured him and were taking him to a person that Serana referred to as the Imai. Az walked up front with Serana, the three men following, and then the Romulan XO at the rear. It wasn't that she thought anything particular could happen to them as they walked so much that she wasn't sure, exactly, what could happen and wanted all of her people within sight if possible.
Parsons walked along with the group, quiet himself. He wasn't exactly sure where they were going and for what purpose but trusted Serana to lead the way through her own past. Well, sort of her own past. OK, maybe not her past at all, but that of someone she'd dreamed of? He didn't entirely understand but, then again, they'd all been flung across the galaxy and back in time so that was kind of the least of the young engineer's worries at that point.
Noah lagged somewhere in the middle of the procession, his eyes fixed on his problem-solving. If he could figure out a way to ping their tech with a quantum rotation, it would be like a beacon. And maybe that would be a way to get them home. Or at least help.
Kennedy walked alongside Sheldon. Every few hundred yards they walked, Kennedy found himself looking over to the other man. Wishing to break the silence. He wanted to keep a distance from Noah. Due his recent complications of setbacks with Irynya, he blamed it entirely on Noah's actions. He found himself looking ahead towards him but cutting his glances relatively short before looking back over to Sheldon.
One of the warriors broke off from the group and ran ahead while the rest surrounded Omri and started back, following the other warrior toward their camp. His intention was clear once they reached a small rise and saw the campsite stretched out below. As a nomadic people, who carried everything they owned, the scene could appear a bit sparse on first glance. Two large campfires, one obviously intended for community and the other for food preparation, dominated the center of the clearing. On the far-left side, were a set of small tents, enough to house two or three people but no more, and on the far right, nestled into the side of the hill they stood upon was the entrance to a cave. A table had been set up and there was evidence of a meal being prepared with several large pots sitting near the fire and a soft towel. A breeze stole through the clearing and lifted one edge; a sharp eye could discern the outline of colorful bowls.
And not one person in sight.
Off a short distance from the camp, in a separate rise, a larger, more ornate tent. The warriors immediately directly Omri to this tent as a warrior came out and ran over to join the group. They spoke in low tones, the sound low enough that it did not travel back toward the group.
"The Imai has ordered them to bring him in," Serana said softly and a tear welled up in her eye. She brushed it away impatiently. "I chart the history of my people through these experiences but this one has always made me sad. Two different cultures bouncing off each other. We'd better hurry. It won't be long now."
Attention diverted from his technical obsession, a wave of somberness fell over Noah. He... wasn't sure he was ready to see someone die. Especially someone that... as far as he understood... didn't really deserve it. He pushed his technical things into his pocket, and into his satchel. He pushed his hair behind his ears and swore- for the dozenth time-that he'd go get a haircut sometime before he got his commission.
Emni's jaw tightened with concern at what they were about to witness, but she followed the group as Serana led them forward.
The warriors entered the tent where the people knelt and the Imai herself, sitting on a small stool, watched their approach, the only one who went unveiled. Flanking her, on either side, two warriors stood, watchful and alert. Omri, looked at them, seeking direction, and moved, at a nod from one of his 'guards' toward the woman on the stool. He didn't know who she was, and she had, to his way of thinking, a kind enough face. Lined and weathered, a lifetime described in the craggy features of her face, and he found himself wondering about her. About their life. Curiosity roared to life with him, and he found himself moving more quickly now. So many questions to ask. So much that he wanted to know.
"Hello," he said as he approached, hands spread to the sides in what he hoped would indicate peaceful intentions, "I'm Omri. Had a bit of an accident and I was wondering if ..."
He didn't get any farther; hands came down, driving him to his knees, and the warriors beside the Imai took a menacing step forward. He rubbed his shoulder with his right hand, glancing upward at the thug who had struck him for no good reason. "That hurt," he said at once.
At the back of the tent, Serana was just entering, and she found herself smiling softly. "Omri had never learned to school his tongue, you see. What he thought, he said. Honest and straightforward all the days of his short life. And that's the one thing they cannot permit. Not here. Not in her presence. To them, he shows no respect and there is only one punishment for that."
The Imai waived away his guard and so now, it was only him and her and her guards if you didn't count all of the masked, robed figures watching. "You may speak," she said.
"Thank you," Omri said. "My name is Omri. I'm Ruari and I'm on my journey." He shrugged lightly. "First time away from home, you know. I'm sort of stranded here and I need help. I'm willing to work, do whatever you need me to, in return for food and a safe place to sleep. Just have to figure out what my next step is, that's all. I'd really appreciate anything you could do." He rose to his feet, fishing in his pocket for his identification and stumbled because dehydration and pain will do that to a person. He stumbled, lost his footing and fell forward, crying out in pain and reaching for something to break his fall.
In another place or time, he would have fell against her, apologized, and moved on. But not here and not with the Imai of the people. Omri died in mid-fall. Beheaded by a watchful guard who had orders that superseded even the Imai's own.
The guard froze sword embedded in Omri's neck while the life left his eyes. And no one moved. No one blinked. The scene simply froze in place. Serana stood, tears sliding down her face turned toward the group. "That's the end of the memory," she said. "First contact gone horribly wrong."
Noah had closed his eyes. He... couldn't do it. He couldn't watch. He could feel himself trembling, vibrating from his own internal anxiety. He felt... cold. And numb. Like he was in a nightmare and if he found a corner... counted to ten.... he could wake up. His breath felt shallow in his chest and his neck and shoulders were tense. I'm my ocean, I'm my ocean, I'm my ocean... he chanted. But fumbling fingers went for a necklace around his neck. He popped it open as the sword struck. He tilted out the small white pill and swallowed it down.
Kennedy closed his eyes recalling the disruptor blast that tore through Lieutenant Nir Giorgiou on Ch'othil. He held his hand onto his lower abdomen to relief the stress and urge to emesis. He looked over to Noah. He felt his hand naturally reaching out and holding back. He could be in medical duress, he was the doctor. He wasn't doing this as a friend but as the chief medical officer. He took a few steps slowly, "Noah? Are you okay?"
Like he had before, with the temporal sickness, Noah looked ashen. But he weakly smiled. "Panic attack, I'm fine..." He admitted.
Serana walked toward the Azhadi. She couldn't help herself. Couldn't not look into their faces because this was an unprecedented opportunity to observe everything in closer detail. That was the historian in her. The need to document this moment for her people and on a more personal level, the need to memorize the face of Omri's murderer. She understood a bit about it. That these people had a different way of doing things. That he had stepped wrong and hadn't realized it though this was more assumptions, cobbled together through long conversations after receiving the memory. She saw the regret plainly etched into the seated woman's features, the cold resolve in the warrior wielding the sword, the half-drawn sword of the second guard, the way the seated warriors were starting to rise. And through it all, she let the tears fall.
Parsons had watched the whole thing unfold and felt incredibly sick to his stomach. "What an awful memory," he commented, unaware of how historic and important the moment had been for Serana. "If you all don't mind, maybe we can find a less...eventful place to wait out rescue? I think I've had enough of whatever this was," he sighed, hands on his hips. "Can't believe someone would just end a life so willy-nilly like that."
Noah silently agreed. He understood cultures and species were different... but as far as any of them knew for sure they all only had one life. Still he approached Lieutenant Zhaan. "Are you alright, Ma'am?"
Serana turned, brushing away the tears as she did so, and shrugged slightly. "Don't know," she said quietly. "Though I'm thinking this," she gestured toward the scene before them, "was all a mistake."
Noah's features were honest in his conflicted and perplexed state. He could not bring himself to look at the body even though he intellectually knew this had happened years ago, light years away. Noah opened his engineering satchel awkwardly, bracing the open half of the shell on a flamingoing knee. Trying to keep his balance, he pulled out a sterile wipe he'd normally use to de-charge static buildup. "It's clean," he assured her while he handed it to the Lieutenant.
He nibbled at his lip, not sure what else to say. "M-maybe something can be um..." He trailed off with an uncertain glance at t'Nai. "Be-be gained? Or... I dunno? Can we go back in time and save him?"
She wished she could sit down, curl up somewhere, but the whole not being able to interact with the environment prevented all of that and so she stood there, arms wrapped around her middle. "I have born witness to so many tragedies and mistakes," Serana said softly. "To fix even one ..." She paused for a moment, struggling to find the words, to express the idea she and all the others like her had wrestled with so often in late-night conversations. "Actions have consequences. Reactions. To change this one thing, might change other things as well."
Noah's head was pounding with the temporal prime directive rules beaten into every cadet. Was this time or was it a projection? His eyes fell on the work he'd been trying to reverse engineer since they'd been trapped here and he was only an iota closer to understanding Talbeethian technology than he had been before. It would take months- or years- to understand it. Actions did have serious consequences and who knew what would happen if they somehow moved someone out of a time stream.
"What if we duplicated him?" Noah asked idly. He folded his lanky limbs across his chest.
Serana turned a curious look in his direction, brow furrowing slightly as she considered the possibility. "As an intellectual exercise, it's an interesting idea. As something to really do?" She shrugged slightly, her gaze turning almost apologetic. "My first thought when you said it was that it would be wrong because it wouldn't really be him. If that makes sense."
Noah chewed his lip. After a moment of conflict he asked, dark eyes flitting to the officer. "Why? Because his atoms would be duplicates?" His own brows knitted in thought, "On, um, on average the tra-transporter pattern buffer loses 0.064% of your atoms... more at longer ranges or near-warp. And-and they're just replaced in the recombination. Over time that adds up...." He shrugged. "But... we're still us."
"Okay," Serana said slowly, drawn out, as she thought about the idea. "So are you saying that it is conceivable that we reach a point where all of our atoms have been replaced by the transporter?"
"In Third Lyceum, we learned tha-that your body replaces up to ninety-eight percent of your atoms every year anyway." Noah quoted. "But it probably takes, um, several thousand trips through the transporter." He shrugged, "But over a lifetime.... y-yeah we're probably recycled once?"
"And yet, we remain uniquely ourselves," Serana said. "The whole being greater than the sum of the individual parts?"
Noah slowly nodded, "We're still our memories... and-and our personalities."
"And that's stored in some of those atoms, copied over time and time again? Is that why memory, for some anyway, fades over time? Because the replication process has its faults?"
Noah wasn't a scientist per se. He was more engineer. But copying data over and over did, over time, degrade it. But it could also be recovered, buffered, and remastered. And with tech upgrades, it could be made clearer than the original. "Well, we-we are biological machines. So maybe. But part of it is, I think, that when we don't use those memories then the pathways have fewer connections. Sort of like... emptying the cache. Every time we use it, it's added to the cache so it's faster to recall next time. But if you stop using it..." His eyes darted to t'Nai, Walsh, and Parsons, "Then it's not in your cache anymore."
"I'm keeping you," Serana said at once. "Thank you for something new to think about. Put my mind on a different track, so to speak."
Noah's too broad smile, smiled. "Oh. Ok, thanks. You're welcome."
She watched him move away and felt the loss of even a momentary connection. Rather than dwell in that, she returned to the job she could do for her people. Investigate the scene. Commit the details to memory so that she could update the official record. From another such as herself, she knew that his brother had championed stricter training for those leaving on such journeys. Training she herself had received before she left from one of his descendants. Never assume. Every world has their own beliefs and customs. Watch. Learn. Respect their ways even if they are not your own.
"Thank you, Omri," Serana said softly, speaking now in her native tongue. "We learned from you. And many survived who might not have because of the lesson your death taught. I am sorry this happened to you, and I stand witness to this moment before all our people. You are not forgotten."
[Some time later]
"Finally!" Splashes of colorful Starfleet shoulders had come into view after what seemed like hours of walking. Ensign Sheila Mulhern had arrived where the group initially had but, as expected, t'Nai and her team were nowhere in sight. Phased as they were, there weren't any footprints or other means of tracking she could follow. Thus it had been simply up to wandering the countryside in hopes of spotting the Starfleet crew. And, at long last, Sheila had finally found them. With a great bounding of joy in her step, she approached from behind and made herself known.
"Commander t'Nai!" Mulhern called out to Emni. "Hey everyone," she said, nodding to the rest of the group. "Can't believe I finally tracked you all down. Listen, we've got a plan to get you all back. It's why I'm here. This," she gestured to her wristband, "is firmly connecting us back to Talbeethia Prime in our time period. If you all are ready, we can give this a shot. Fair warning, though: it could go wrong. Might not work. Hoping it does, though," she noted excitedly.
Emni felt Sheila's arrival right about the time that the other woman's Finally escaped her lips. She'd already turned in her direction, suspicious about the appearance of another familiar emotional signature so long after their arrival here. As the other woman approached, though, her suspicion turned to relief, echoed in the emotional signatures of the rest of the group and then amplified as she explained the situation.
Looking from one person to the next she spoke. "We're more than a little glad to see you Ensign. If that's the way home, even at a chance, I think we're ready to try."
Finally returning her gaze to Sheila she offered the woman a broad smile. "Take us home, Ensign Mulhern."
=/\= A Mission Post By =/\=
Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai
Lieutenant Serana Zhaan
Chief Operations Officer
Lieutenant Kennedy Ryan Walsh
Chief Medical Officer
Ensign Sheldon Parsons
Midshipman Noah Balsam
With a surprise appearance from...
Ensign Sheila Mulhern