SIM:Nadira, Chapter 6
The events in this SIM occurred in 2397. The SIM was originally posted on 15 May 2020 (stardate 239705.15).
((Guest Suite, Kaitaama Palace, Krios Prime))
Roshanara sat numb on the end of the bed as Del continued his scans. His tricorder indicated that somehow her Kriosian physiology seemed to have transformed the scar tissue, resulting in a rejuvenation that rivaled even that of the most advanced dermal and vascular regenerators. Standing in the doorway apart from them was her partner, the quiet and contemplative Rodulan.
Rahman: I went to sleep last night. Everything was fine, and then when I woke up…
Her voice broke as she started to sob again. She wiped her eyes, letting out a scoff in frustration.
Rahman: I’m sorry.
As Del reassured her it was all right, his voice faded away into the background. She simply nodded, not really listening anymore as she was unable to focus. She felt so lost as she glanced down at her hands in her lap. While the skin had healed, her mechanical digits still remained. Ironically, having them still be a part of her gave her some much needed comfort.
It was Del who’d performed the surgery to attach the current set of replacements after her original prosthetics had been destroyed during an away mission nearly seven years ago. She shifted her gaze to him when something during his explanation to her brought her back out of her daze. The doctor held up his tricorder, showing her the scans that confirmed the transformation had been connected with her neuroplasticity. This was all part of her metamorphic abilities.
Tristam spoke up from the doorway, confused at the revelation.
Core: But how is that possible? She learned to block such changes years ago.
It was true. After being declared medically unfit for active starship duty, it was only through training with Tristam and learning how to create impenetrable mental barriers that she was eligible to then return to Starfleet. She’d turned her mind into a fortress, committed to ensuring that she’d never again be susceptible to Harrison Ross or anyone like him.
Suddenly, Roshanara’s expression grew cold, the tears drying as she went from shock and sadness to rising anger. She didn’t say anything as she hopped off the bed and stormed past Tristam and out of the suite to find the man responsible.
Kalil: “What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. O, be some other name”
The boy read the lines of the play, struggling a little with the foreign name and strange construction of sentences, before stopping and looking back up at his teacher.
Jatann: Yes, continue, Kalil.
The young metamorph looked back down at his screen and began reading again. Other children in the classroom followed along on their own data PADDs, trying to decipher the meaning of the strange foreign text.
Kalil: “What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Jatann stepped forward in front of the class, nodding at Kalil before turning to the rest of the students. He held his hands open in front of him as he spoke.
Jatann: All right, so this is a common saying not just among humans but also many other species that have expressed a similar idea. Here, Juliet is telling Romeo that no matter what his-
He stopped as Roshanara entered the classroom and stood by the door. The teacher was surprised to see her changed face, but he offered a warm smile.
Jatann: Ah, Roshanara. Welcome back to our class-
She interrupted him. While not shouting, her voice still weighed heavy with fury.
Rahman: You callous bastard.
The class of mostly boys sat in their seats curious at what was going on before Jatann turned to them.
Jatann: All right, children, I think that’s good for today. Finish reading the rest of the act, and we’ll continue our discussion tomorrow. Dismissed.
As the students got up from their desks and walked out, passing Roshanara, she remained standing where she was, but her eyes were locked on the teacher. When it was finally just the two of them, he gestured to a seat.
Jatann: Would you like to sit?
Rahman: I’d like you to shut the %#@$ up.
Her voice was like sharpened ice, and the other Kriosian metamorph’s eyes widened as he cleared his throat.
Jatann: You have me at a loss, I’m afraid…
Roshanara walked up to him, pointing an accusing finger at his chest.
Rahman: You had NO RIGHT!
Jatann: Roshanara, I don’t know what you’re talking about-
Rahman: Oh? Really? Smart man like you? “Professor?”
For probably the first time in his life, Jatann stammered, unable to find the perfect thing to say in response as his furious guest stepped closer.
Rahman: What did you do to me?! You thought I wasn’t pretty enough for your liking?
Jatann: I assure you that was not my intention at all. I didn’t even know you were still capable of such changes. You’d told me about your finiis'ral. Typically, that should mark the end of your metamorphic abilities.
Rahman: I never completed the finiis'ral!
The other metamorph furrowed his brow, clearly not understand how that was possible.
Jatann: But if you started years ago… the process should have been well-finished by now.
She closed her eyes shut, as if she were wincing and balled her hands into fists for a moment before opening them again, her voice a little quieter but a bit unsteady.
Rahman: When I didn’t know what was going on, I underwent an operation to try to fix what my doctor and I thought was an unknown disease.
She drew in a sharp breath before continuing.
Rahman: It wasn’t successful. Instead, it only enhanced my neuroplasticity. Effectively, it ensured I’d never finish the finiis'ral.
Jatann nodded slowly, the consequences becoming clear to him.
Rahman: I was only able to regain a semblance of my normal life by learning to shield myself from the influence of others. To protect myself…
She looked up at him squarely.
Rahman: ...from people like you.
Jatann: You lowered your guard since you’ve been here? Since you’ve been with me?
The questions stopped her. Was it really her fault then? Had she allowed this to happen to her? She honestly didn’t know. She hadn’t thought so in the moment. But they'd spent so much time together. She'd tried to keep an open mind and learn as he'd asked.
Rahman: I’m not sure…
Her voice began rising in volume.
Rahman: ...but the point is, I wouldn’t have changed if someone else didn’t want this change, and since I know it couldn’t have been my partner, who is a Rodulan and thus unreadable to me, then it had to be you!
The male metamorph raised an eyebrow as he nodded, seeming to comprehend now everything and ready to return a sympathetic gesture.
Jatann: Perhaps it was. ::folds hands together:: You’re right, I did think and *do* think you look much better now.
Rahman: ::tightly:: How dare you...
He raised his voice as he interjected.
Jatann: How dare I what! Tell you what you already thought yourself?
She raised her finger again at Jatann, this time though as if to keep him away.
Rahman: You know *nothing* about me! My society has grown past such superficial thinking.
Jatann: Oh come off it, Captain! I may no longer have my metamorphic abilities, but I’m still an empath. Maybe that's what your society has taught you, but you can’t lie to me. I sensed how you felt when the Headmaster confronted you about your scars. You hide your insecurities behind a mask of self-righteousness and anger. *You* haven't grown past such "superficial thinking."
He took a breath.
Jatann: If you came here expecting me to apologize or even sympathize with what’s happened to you, you’re even more lost than I thought. Your own body has now given you a greater understanding of what you are--what you can be!--than I ever could.
He opened his hands, turning his palm upwards and holding them out in front of her.
Jatann: Can you not see it, Roshanara? How amazing you are? You have done on your own what all those advanced Federation doctors couldn’t! What they *failed* to do for you because they lack the understanding to even consider what is possible for you.
He stepped towards her as if to hold onto the side of her arms with both hands.
Jatann: Just imagine what else you could do, who else you could become, if you let yourself fully embrace what you are.
He backed off, and his voice softened, almost pleading.
Jatann: Roshanara… Nadira. Why are you still clinging onto what *they* say you should be? They will never truly understand. You’re living by someone else’s rules.
She gulped as she stepped away, her voice tight again. She kept her finger pointed at him.
Rahman: I don’t want to ever talk to you again. Stay away from me.
She retreated towards the door, giving him a final look while he remained standing where he was.
Jatann: Nadira, wait…
But his former classmate left him behind, just as she had thirty-six years ago.
Core: --and honestly, who thinks they’ve a right to report on such drivel! They tested this stuff, long before it was released. Honestly it feels like we’re back at square one with this thing. Not that I’m backing it, by any means, but when the science behind the drive is sound, why bother continuing to poke holes into it.
Across from her partner, Roshanara sat quietly, looking out the window but not at anything in particular. Her gaze was towards the city, but her thoughts were lightyears beyond. She’d barely acknowledged when the attendants had brought in the mid-day meal, leaving it to grow cold. Ordinarily one to show her disdain for sensationalist hysteria about new technologies, the fact that she didn’t seem to care now that her life’s work was being scrutinized in the press was downright troubling. Tristam’s shoulders fell, onyx eyes flickering away as uncertainty swelling in his chest.
This was… This hurt. The Rodulan could hear her anguish on her march out of the room to berate Jatann and on her retreat back. Since she’d returned, Tristam had avoided the subject -- why press her on something that was clearly painful for her just to think about? So he changed the subject, to anything related to engineering. Anything, and everything. Even controversial topics, just to try to get some kind of rise out of her -- some kind of indication of acknowledgement.
He’d been acknowledged, yes. But barely. Just nods to the notion that Tristam existed in the moment, nothing more and nothing less. He suspected this was all she could really give him at the moment.
He wished Del hadn’t left.
Alright, then. Time to address the elephant in the room.
Unlike before, the fire in her voice was gone. She continued to stare off into the distance as she spoke.
Rahman: Tristam, why do you like me?
The Rodulan raised an eyebrow ever so slightly.
Core: Why I ‘like’ you?
She turned to look at him finally. Having returned to her species’ homeworld and spent time with so many metamorphs in recent days, her inability to sense anything from Tristam through her empathic abilities had been especially noticeable. While the Kriosians were rather open with their attitudes and thoughts--even arrogantly so--the Rodulan was a black hole. She’d always found that mystery integral to their relationship. Reassured that her abilities were not affected by him, she could trust that she was being “herself” with him at all times. Even more so, not knowing if she’d said or done the perfect thing for him brought with it a certain thrill.
But now, that inability to know turned that thrill to fear.
Rahman: I mean… well, you *know* what I mean. Don’t make me say it.
oO Why do you find me physically attractive? Oo
He wasn’t able to suppress the long breath expelled through his nose in response to the query and its accompanying thought. He put his cutlery down, scrunching his serviette and idly tossing it back and forth between his hands as he considered his response.
Core: Can’t believe it was a decade ago. ::he shook his head.:: We’d just watched Ivanova walk through the doors of the mess hall -- she had a reputation for being feisty, breaking fingers, that kind of thing. The subject changed when you strode in.
Bringing up her close--and stunning--friend Lidia Ivanova wasn’t doing anything to assuage her fears. It wasn’t the first time she knew the comparison had been made.
Rahman: What does that mean?
Core: Well, Haresh’s intention had been to “spread the joy”. ::He nervously chewed on his lip:: He didn’t like your work ethic. Compared you to a slave-driver, if I remember correctly.
She rolled her eyes as memories of the talkative Bolian on the Pioneer resurfaced.
Rahman: He always was lazy.
Core: Goes without saying. ::beat:: When you walked away, my first words to Haresh had been about your spots.
A small smile finally broke through after such a taxing morning.
Rahman: So that’s how this all really started? A spot fetish?
Core: Well… Yes, but… no. That’s not the first thing I remember thinking about you. That’s the first thing I saw, but not heard. I heard you the second you walked in. Your spots are an added bonus.
The smile on her face remained for a moment before she looked down at her hands again resting in her lap.
Rahman: You know, any normal person would be overjoyed at what’s happened. Maybe even call it a miracle. But I can’t help but feel like this transformation just confirms everything I’ve ever feared. About not being good enough.
Tristam’s hands stilled, the balled serviette crunching in his left hand. His head tilted (almost until his ear touched his shoulder) as he regarded her.
Core: A concerning ideology, I must admit.
Rahman: I mean, I know we are fortunate to live in a more enlightened time. There is beauty in all forms. But that doesn’t change that this happened because someone else thought I’d look more beautiful if I didn’t look the way I was.
Core: You’ve counselled me about a similar matter -- that some thoughts are only skin-deep, others even deeper. What one person might think in the moment doesn’t equal the weight of their beliefs overall.
She paused for a moment and swallowed.
Rahman: Yet as much as I’m upset at Jatann, I’m also ashamed at myself. Because I’ve had that same thought before. After the accident on the Tempest, it was easy to point to my disfigurement as to why people stayed away. It made sense to me. And it’s why I was hesitant when you first showed interest. A part of me doubted your sincerity. ::beat:: Which you since have proven.
He smiled, dropping the serviette.
Core: I’ve never really seen it. ::beat:: Of course, I’ve seen it, but… it’s never really been part of how I’ve seen you.
Rahman: There were others though who didn’t hide their disgust. But over time, I came to embrace the scars. They’d become almost like a shield--no, a blade, actually. An unavoidable first impression that let me see how someone would react when the curtain of beauty had been stripped away.
Core: Gave you a sense of protection.
Rahman: ::nods:: Yes, and a source of strength. And now it’s gone.
He remained still for a few moments, twisting his fingers together with his elbows resting on the table.
Core: I have told you, for as long as we’ve been together. You are a beauty in nothing and everything, ervami. And I will continue to tell you that. Because you are. Your scars… they were never part of how I’ve felt about you.
Rahman: I know that.
She looked at Tristam earnestly as she reached out across the table to hold his hands.
Rahman: I do. And I hope you know how much that means to me.
She rubbed his knuckles with her thumbs before she continued.
Rahman: But for fourteen years, I carried them with me. It’s not something I can just let go overnight.
Core: I recognise that. And I’m here. For however long your acceptance of yourself will take. But ervami… your scars are not your intellect. And honestly, I fell in love with that first. ::with a slight shrug:: I hope you’ll be able to, too.
She wanted to respond with an affirmation. If not to assure him, then herself that everything was going to be okay. But the words never came.
Lt. Cmdr. Tristam Core
Captain Roshanara Rahman
CO, USS Veritas