SIM:Lt (jg) Alleran Tan - Voices in the Void
(( FLASHBACK: 238707.15, Cell 4, Brig, USS Tiger, 16:40 hours (twenty minutes before Alleran Tan's Zhian'tara) )
:: Symbiosis Committee docent Takkani Melan stalked her holding cell like a trapped animal. She'd quietly offered Alleran a way out- an honourable, clean death which would return the symbiont back to the one who rightfully deserved it, Melan's daughter. The docent had been extremely generous- she'd perform the Zhian'tara, administer the poison, then take the symbiont back to Trill Prime herself. Once rejoined, the Tan symbiont would be encouraged back to the 118-Ops crew and Tan would get a second chance to perform at the level required of joined Trills. But for all her kindness, Tan had her thrown in the brig. That's gratitude for you. ::
:: Outside, Alleran Tan took a deep breath, then walked up to the entrance to the USS Tiger's brig carrying a large, wrapped load. He had forgone his usual gold-necked uniform in favour of a traditional dull brown, full length robe. The door whooshed open. Laying his heavy bundle on the floor, the Trill had another brief moment of nervousness then stepped before the forcefield. Docent Takanni Melan, a middle aged woman whom Marine Captain Alexandria Somers had aptly described as a 'vulture' was imprisoned within, her steely gaze falling upon the man as he appeared. ::
:: The two merely considered each other for a time, then Melan broke the silence. ::
Melan: Look at you. Just... look at you. You look like a real joined Trill. ::She leaned forward, smiling malevolently.:: But you're not.
Tan: Fortunately for me, that's not for you to judge.
Melan: It's not too late, you know.
Tan: I'm afraid it is. My life is my own- I've made mistakes, but life is not a series of goals to be crossed off a checklist. It is a journey; an art, not a science. You of all people should understand.
:: The woman's features darkened. ::
Melan: I understand better than you know. You speak of your unpromising... "career" as though it were art, but you truly are a poor artisan. You lead a small life, piloting small ships, constantly making small mistakes. The symbiont you carry is a rare, precious reward for a chosen few- it is something *earned* by the best and brightest in exchange for a youth invested in backbreaking study. You did not earn your symbiont and, worse, you are... damaging it... every second you carry it. You contaminate it with your memories, your ineptitude. You squander its life, dragging it through your average, mundane, suboptimal, pathetic existence. Such waste sickens me.
:: Tan listened impassively, arms folded over his chest. ::
Tan: Are you done?
:: Melan threw her hands in the air, snorting loudly. ::
Melan: Your selfishness blinds you to reason. I see that now.
Tan: If I am here for my Zhian'tara, not to debate the merits of my existence. The others will be here in a little while. For the moment, however, we must prepare.
:: The Trill man strode over to the bundle he'd placed down. ::
Tan: I had your quarters searched by our remarkably destructive security personnel. I believe this is all we'll need.
:: Alleran unwrapped the bundle. On top of all the other items was an urn of a heavy, viscous fluid Tan presumed would be the dull brown fluid the symbionts lived in during the early part of their lifecycle before they were joined. He carefully set it aside. A small brazier was next along with a sack of coal, plus a large, empty pot- more of a cauldron, really. ::
Melan: Setting up the ritual area is my duty. YOU need to prepare yourself.
:: She had a point. ::
Tan: Very well. Computer, lower force field.
:: Takkani spent a moment gingerly reaching out to check that the forcefield was, indeed, down. She then slipped out of her cell, casting her gaze down at the shorter Trill male. ::
Melan: You should mediate and prepare yourself.
:: Tan moved over to a corner, kneeling down, closing his eyes. He slowed his breathing, letting his whole body relax, clearing his mind. ::
:: The brig was completely devoid of artificial light, the only illumination coming from the dull red fire of glowing embers underneath the brazier, basking the whole room in an unearthly ambience. In many ways the starship's brig now resembled a cave, the light casting long shadows on the walls, outlining those in attendance. ::
:: Docent Melan spoke in a barely audible whisper. ::
Melan: Who is to serve as the vessel for Marlee?
Avandar: ::Stepping forward in unison with his answer:: I S'Peek Avandar do so.
Melan: Do you choose your part of this ritual freely?
Avandar: Freely and of my chosing I do submit my body for this ritual.
Melan: Very well, approach the fire so we may begin.
:: The embers flickered and flared as Avandar closed. ::
Melan: I'nora, ja'kala Tan... zhian'shee, Marlee tanus rem... Gon'dar, Alleran tor...
:: After a moment's hesitation, Melan reached for the back of Avandar's neck, doing the same to Alleran. ::
Melan: Alleran, zhian'tara vok... Tu Tan, zhian'tani ress... Zhian'par, Melan garu'koj...
:: Tan felt a cold tingle start in his pouch, as though his symbiont had suddenly dropped a dozen degrees. It was not entirely unpleasant but this was his first Zhian'tara and he was unaccustomed to the sensation. The cold feeling ran up his spine, seeming to warm slightly at the base of his neck, then faded. ::
:: Tan's shoulders slumped. He felt... distant. Like waking up from a long sleep, where your mind is still partly in a dream and the real world is muted and dull. Marlee was gone from his mind; the quiet, wise woman who had been part of his life for over five years winked out of his memories, her traits removed from his personality. He felt like a cup of double-sweet raktajino with the sugar removed. For the inexperienced Trill, the sensation was extremely discomforting. ::
(( Flashback ends ))
:: An eyeopening experience, having memories taken away from you. It was like hearing a song you knew, but the name would constantly linger on the tip of your tongue, stubbornly unremembered... ::
:: Since that moment, things had changed. Instead of practically running the show, Marlee's voice moved from being merely an active participant in the joined experience that was Alleran Tan. The host felt her urges, her complaints, her desires, her fears... but they were more guidelines, a state which had persisted until this very moment. ::
:: Today, things would change again. Not lesser nor greater, indeed, but certainly in a different way. ::
:: Tan studied Belleau's life signs, reflecting on the recent events. Belleau's distress... his own distress-at-her-distress. It was heart rending, but he had to be strong. ::
Marlee: oO Gods, you're so pathetic and weak. You're staring right at her life signs and the solution is staring you right in the face. Transport her straight to the brig like Karynn said. It's the safest place. Oo
Tan: oO No. Karynn said to wait for any hint of danger. She seems... distraught, but fine, physically. Oo
:: The "voice" sneered at him, mocking him. ::
Marlee: oO Fine with the ghosts? Ghosts that can walk through forcefields? Ghosts that took the Captain away? How can she NOT be in danger? Do it! Save your "Captain"'s daughter! Oo
:: Alleran felt a surge of annoyance. The symbiont did not, in truth, "speak" to him. It was more a subconscious urging that was more than simply a thought, and yet less than voiced communication. It was simply better to... express.. the exchange in words, even if such a translation were woefully imprecise. ::
Tan: oO No. Belleau's strong. She's strong. She's a fighter, just like her mother- Oo
Marlee: oO Oh, GROW UP. Oo
:: The part of the Tan symbiont that was Marlee's thoughts, memories, fears and doubts had a vicious, nasty edge to it that Alleran found unnerving. Subconsciously, he realized what was going on- the symbiont was attempting, once again, to assert itself. Trills were warned about such things. The selection process for candidates was intensely strict, merciless really, and psychological profiles were one of the key components. The host had to be mentally strong enough to control the symbiont, to reach a union without being overwhelmed. ::
:: Alleran was not a good host. Marlee's urgings were acidic and laced with venom- she was doing more than pressing a point, she was beating Alleran down. Breaking his mental resistance piece by piece. ::
Marlee: oO You're blinding yourself to reality- the same pathetic delusions you've always used. Those things, those fracking ghost things, they took her and... your precious little Sidney is dead- or lost in another timeline, or flung far into the future or past. Whatever happened, she's GONE, and she's NEVER coming back, so you better get used to it- Oo
:: A surge of adrenaline and isoboramine from the Trill, strengthening the bond between host and symbiont, negating some of her advantage. His heart rate picked up, hands developing a slight tremble. He kept them resting easily on the console, however, and he wondered openly just how much of his internal struggle was being externalized. ::
Tan: oO She is NOT dead! We don't know that! We don't know anything! Oo
Marlee: oO Belleau knows it! Karynn knows it! Everyone. Knows. It. But... YOU. Look at their faces! See the despair painted on them, hidden by a sickly veneer of paramilitary professionalism! Karynn is Captain now, and you will address her as such! Oo
:: Like a kettle set to boil, Alleran's emotions surged. He barely saw Belleau's readings anymore, his internal strife rapidly approaching breaking point. He absently grinded his teeth, watching her heart rate. Elevated, but high. Neural activity high, but normal... she's fine. She's fine... ::
Tan: oO I will not. I was told to watch Belleau, and so I'm going to watch her- Oo
:: The symbiont snapped inside his pouch like an angry snake. Alleran felt distinctly uncomfortable- the Trill symbiont formed a part of his balance and coordination system. If it moved too much, it could produce vertigo. ::
Marlee: oO Watch her die. Oo
:: The conflict between symbiont and host boiled over, then. Alleran's hand trembled slightly above the =/\=Emergency Transport=/\= button. The host had not moved it there- this was the symbiont's act of rebellion. ::
Marlee: oO Press. Oo
Tan: oO No! Oo
Marlee: oO Obey me! Oo
Tan: oO GO TO HELL! OO
:: The mental urging was practically the equivalent of a shout, in that strange way that even a Human's thoughts and desires can be so conflicting with each other. The creature within him twitched and spasmed, practically screeching. ::
Marlee: oO Idiot! Unwanted host! I never wanted you- and I still don't! You're a pathetic, insecure, shell of a man who can't manage simple things- you love someone far beyond your station, far beyond anything you could ever dream to have- you might have wormed your way into her bedchamber, but she doesn't love you... Oo
:: Alleran metaphorically winced at the blow. Sensing weakness, the symbiont bared its metaphorical fangs, firing off a string of rapid-fire accusations like vulnerability-seeking missiles. A full barrage right into the host's self confidence, letting fly with all proverbial guns ::
Marlee: oO ... she pities you, like a noblewoman giving a crust of bread to a filthy street rat- oh, and speaking of street rats, that's just what that insipid girl and her disease-carrying rodent are. Yet you're below even that- you're dirt beneath Riley's heel, a little plaything, something to amuse herself with- how amusing you could think she would ever consider you a worthy mate! If Marlee was still alive, she'd have you as her personal valet, flying her around like the pathetic insect you really are- but oh, wait, your sheer incompetence at the single thing you're moderately good at killed her. A-whoopsy-daisy! Fascinating, how you can even live with yourself after what you did... COWARD! Oo
:: Alleran fought with all his mental strength, the battle moving slowly from his subconscious up to a more conscious layer. The symbiont threatened to overwhelm him with her precision, picking off his weaknesses with the cold professionalism of a sniper using vicious words for ammunition. ::
Tan: oO What I did? Fat talk coming from a "scientist" who never realized that a weather control radar could be installed backwards, fouling the readings. You think I'm a coward!? What about you, living your entire life with the blood of Soo-sang Mar's family on your hands, huh? Not even a deathbed confession to sate your conscience... and no, giving me your memories doesn't count. You ever think what Mar might have to say about this? Oh, wait, you never asked. Have you ever considered the fact you never had a meaningful relationship in your life- despite, at times, whoring yourself out to anyone who would take you- that subconsciously, Marlee gave up a family of her own, out of guilt for killing the Mar symbiont? Jian left you, Matthew left you, Zee- your WIFE- less left you more was driven away by your insecurities, and don't get me started on- Oo
:: The mention of Zee seemed to strike a vicious blow against the rebellious symbiont. ::
Marlee: oO You don't know anything about- Oo
Tan: oO I KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW! Oo
:: This sudden, forceful push gained Alleran ground. It was a simple axiomatic statement, and it was emboldening. It was more than Marlee's memories that were part of him- it was her thoughts, her hopes, her dreams, and her fears. Fears that she now projected violently onto her new host. ::
Tan: oO I know what you know! Your knowledge, your experience, your very mind is part of me now! We're one! Oo
Marlee: oO Not anymore! Oo
:: It was Tan's turn to strike, now, pressing his advantage with snide aggression. ::
Tan: oO What, you're just going to pop the connection and wiggle out of there? I'll die, and we're weeks away from Trill prime and the joining committee- so in a few hours, you'll be joining me in Gre'thor, you slimy little cow. Go on, I dare you- I double dog dare you. Do it. Do it. Oo
:: Stone silence. ::
Tan: oO Do it. Oo
:: Nothing. ::
:: There was a brief cease-fire in the constant barrages between the two. All of this had taken place in mere moments, but the momentary pause was enough for Alleran to, mercifully, retract his hand from the transporter button. ::
Marlee: oO Fine. Oo
:: Pain. A sudden wave of pain, like a cramp in the stomach but lower, deeper. Then there was a familiar feeling- as though the symbiont had suddenly dropped a dozen degrees, chilling his pouch. A tingling sensation grew on his temples, as though someone were tickling there with a feather. ::
Tan: oO Wait! Oo
Marlee: oO Oh-ho-ho, not so brave now, are we? Oo
Tan: oO No, you stupid old worm, wait! Don't you hear that...? Oo
:: A voice. A voice in the void, something cutting through the madness and fog that was Alleran's mind. A voice Alleran was, initially, convinced he was imagining or hallucinating, but like an echo there it was again... now stronger. ::
Riley: ~ Alleran ~
:: Fear. He sensed fear... and pain. Physical and emotional pain. It was like nothing he'd ever felt before- it was like having his heart cut out with a black knife, a blade envenomed and as cold as ice, freezing and poisoning the flesh as it sliced. The feelings intensified, her words coming through clearer than they ever could through his combadge. Immediately words formed in his mind, a reply- ::
Tan: oO ... Sid'?! Sidney- SIDNEY...! Oo
:: The symbiont seized on this moment, metaphorically lunging for control. In the middle of this maelstrom, this perfect storm of factors, Tan's reply was caught by the treasonous creature in his belly. ::
Marlee: oO Not so fast. Oo
Riley: ~ Alleran, Reapers ~
:: He saw them now, clearer than the monitor he saw in front of him. Dark shadowy creatures. They took people- Riley had encountered them before- and she, now, had been taken. Put in a horrid place- a place he could not even begin to describe. A place of shadow and blood and terror. ::
:: She was not alone in this place, but she might as well have been, surrounded by mocking shadows and wraiths who seemed to want to torture her for their own inscrutable ends. ::
Tan: oO Truce. Oo
Marlee: oO Not on your life- Oo
:: If there was anything Tan was certain about, it was this. His ferocity in reply, a mental push far more powerful than the exaggerated sniping he'd engaged in before, roared towards Marlee's significant defenses like a ship at warp. ::
Tan: oO Truce, or so help me, I swear before all the four Virtues I will reach into my pouch and I will tear you from my body- whatever this is, this battle, this contest of wills, truce. Riley's life is in danger. That place, whatever it is... she's in pain. I don't know how, but I can feel it. She needs me. Oo
:: The symbiont, weakened by the powerful assault of emotions, was subdued. Her reply, though sincere, was ominous. ::
Marlee: oO ... truce. For now. Oo
:: Slowly, like a man coming up for air, Alleran's mind- both of them- returned to the present. ::
D’ciq: ... There is an old earth saying. “Live Free Or Die.” I chose to live free, and find the Captain. ::Standing at attention.::
:: Leaving his torpor, Alleran tapped a few keys, his hands finding the grace and coordination of unity. He transferred monitoring of Belleau's condition back where it belonged, to Belasi. ::
K. Brice: Response
D’ciq: By your leave. ::Stepping back and turning with Audie by her side walking to the turbolift.
:: Finding his voice, Alleran felt a sudden surge of... of something intense. Courage, confidence, strength and- and some indescribable quality that he had never really experienced. ::
:: Unity of self. ::
:: He turned to the Haliian, shocked at how he saw her now... as less of the somehow intrinsically superior woman who held a post he could never aspire to, despite quiet ambition, but... as the supremely confident, graceful leader he felt in his heart he could someday become. ::
Tan: Permission to fly the rescue shuttle, Commander.
K. Brice: Response.
Tan: I understand, sir, but Riley's probably down there. If she is, I have to get her back- and if she isn't, I have to see for myself before I can be sure. Besides...
:: He cracked a wide lopsided smile, inclining his head just a little, radiating confidence. ::
Tan: ... you're going to need the best pilot you've got for this one.
K. Brice: Response?
Lt (jg) Alleran Tan
Simmed on the 06/06/2011.