Uno, Dos, Caradan
Location: Guest Quarters
Timeline: Before "Arrival at RaQ'Al"
The second Mindo, the one they called "Mindos," sat uncomfortably in his cramped guest quarters. Because of the Tornado's limited size, this living area, a small room with closet and bathroom, was the best accommodation they could find for him. Staying with the other Mindo, who they now called "Minduno," was not seen as a good idea.
Outside the room were two security officers guarding the room. Mindos understood this precaution. After all, he did go to Starfleet Academy and was familiar with such regulations. It didn't stop Mindos from feeling let down about not being able to sleep in his own bed.
Minduno had been rather nice; or was it "civil?" It certainly bothered Mindos that there was already another Mindo aboard the Tornado drinking his drinks and running his engines. But the other Mindo had been kind enough to give him some tranya and a few bottles of whiskey. They'd given him alcohol in the other place, but when Mindos arrived the bottle was nearly empty. It was inevitable to make his presence known, and the side effects of the lack of alcohol would soon impair his judgment on the matter. Going to Minduno's quarters was the only option he had.
Something else had been bothering him. He was sure that during the months he had spent outside the Tornado his doppelganger had been sleeping with Caradan as well. Jealousy was a trait typically foreign to Feserians. But Mindos had spent so much time missing her and being away from her. How would they deal with two of them?
This was why he had sent her a message asking her to meet with him. More than anything, he wanted to see her. To be around her again. To tell her how starved he was without her. She had responded to the message and would no doubt arrive any minute.
Of course that response was rather flat and lacking any emotional or social qualities. ‘Professional’ was the best word to describe her response. And that response actually too a bit longer than Mindos expected. Caradan was normally quick to respond, quick to drop everything, quick to find or make up some reason to leave her post. This time though, Mindos knew Caradan was in her office. The seconds stretched into minutes before he received her response.
Now he was counting the minutes before her arrival. A small sliver of eternity had passed already it seemed. Yep, she would no doubt arrive any minute.
Breaking the infernal silence was the dull sound of voices. Words were being exchanged. There was a third voice. A few seconds after the conversation ended, the door slid open revealing Caradan. Crewman Wallace peered inside giving the place a once over for the safety of his XO. He resumed his guarded stance as Caradan stepped further inside. The door slid closed.
The Changeling found it hard to maintain eye contact it seemed. Looking into his eyes but only a second and she would send them to the floor, the wall over and behind him, elsewhere. She was standing in the middle of the room. It was small and a bit tight but she seemed to be acting as professional and official as she could.
“Mindo,” she said. “Mindos…I mean…or…” her words trailed off as he eyes once again trailed elsewhere. Straightening, she reacquired eye contact. “You requested my presence. Is there anything you need?”
Mindos stood. By reflex, he tapped his leg, hoping to activate his LEGs, an all-too-common gesture. He still did it, despite the fact that he hadn't worn the LEGs in a very long time. There was a small look of frustration on his face for a moment, but it passed quickly.
Still standing and feeling awkward doing so, Mindos looked up at beautiful Caradan and wondered what he looked like to her. He was a significant ten pounds lighter than the other Mindo due to undernourishment. His hair was more shaggy as well. He might have had a beard if Feserians could grow facial hair. He had been able to trim his finger and toe nails since his arrival. He would have gone to a barber, but that wasn't going to happen as there was no barber on a ship this small. And he couldn't do it himself because security would not give him access to a trimming device. He wondered how Minduno was managing.
His inner thoughts of his appearance went away as fast as they had come. There was little he could do about that. Caradan was here. At last.
"I wanted to talk to you," said Mindos. "I haven't talked... really talked, to anyone for weeks. Maybe months. And no one else will talk to me. I'm finally back here and no one wants to talk to me."
There were some obvious reasons for that to be sure and both knew those reasons and there seemed no cause to repeat them. Caradan seemed half in the way of making an awkward exit. But she also seemed half willing to stay. She was struggling with the situation and that much was obvious.
She kept her hands, both of them, balled tightly into fists and flexing her fingers minutely. She seemed to move about very little here and there, possibly attempting to maintain focus; to maintain shape.
“Well,” she started and in that moment Mindos came to fully understand what she went through when she was first assigned to the Tornado. The first ever Changeling to serve aboard a starship and no one wanted to speak with her.
“Well,” she started again, “I do know the feeling.” She made to movement toward a seat but just stood there. “What do you wish to talk about?”
A smile came over his face and he appeared very excited. "Anything!" he said, climbing onto the other chair, extending an inviting hand for her to sit.
She did take a seat, after a moment’s hesitation though. And Caradan sat not in the middle of the chair but off to the side a little, pressed slightly against the arm, and seemingly away from him. Intentionally?
Ignoring that for the moment, "I don't know how long I've been gone," he said. "I'm not even sure what my last memory of being here was. Something happened to Takato... is she OK? I heard we have a new captain."
Caradan took a second to gather her thoughts. “Since you…well…Lieutenant Mindo was technically never missing,” she made eye contact again and he could see a little sympathy there, “we have no idea yet how long it has been for you. We do have a captain though. He holds the rank of Commander. And he’s Bajoran. Having fought in the Dominion War, he hates me. As for Captain Takato………she was taken captive and we have little leads to her whereabouts…or if she is alive.” Something did break her professional mannerism however. Her voice changed to that which Mindos recalled when they would speak at length about nothing at all; casually. “If your memory is lacking as far back as that then…” but her expression turned grave, “do you recall your confession? You told us of your tribulations at the hands of…um…that old captain of yours. Aboard…oh what was that ship’s name?” She finished and looked about the room as though searching her memory.
"I remember," said Mindo. "I told you all about Captain Davies. I remember your face as I confessed. It was so hard for me I even remember Greep filling in the details. He said he was the one who killed Davies. I remember my last conversation with Greep. I told him this changed everything between us. It's one of the last memories I have of this place. The only thing after that... was talking to you about it, and you telling me about a similar experience. I remember it clearly, but after that it's just a haze..."
“Perhaps your confession has something to do with what happened to you.” She seemed a little more at ease. “Some people will go to great lengths to ensure certain information is never made public.” Having studied her features at great detail and at great length, Mindo could see even the smallest changes in her expression. Her smiles always made the days seem brighter and a small smile seemed to tug at the edges of her lips. “I am happy that you got away from whatever held you captive. I could not imagine going on without…” and her words vanished as quickly as that small smile, as quickly as her calm mannerism. Feeling he knew what she was going to say to finish that thought, he knew just as she realized…again…that there were now two of him; that she was not going on without him. She was going on with Mindo; the other one. “No one deserves to be held captive without due cause,” she then said, professionally.
But Mindos caught the change in expression. He knew her well enough that he could tell when something was bothering her. He could see the shift in her form, just like he had seen her hand shift when they were reunited.
Mindos realized that this may be harder on Caradan than he thought. He was so relieved - elated! - to see her again that he hadn't even considered what it must have been like to see two of him at the same time in the same room.
He sank a little, and when he spoke, it was with more caution. "I've been wanting to see you for a long time... but all that while, you were with him." His voice got softer. "You haven't missed me at all."
There was a bit of silent agreement between them both. It was of course obvious that she did not miss him as he was, technically, aboard the ship the whole time. Thus, there was no need to miss as there was nothing or no one to miss.
“I can’t imagine,” she said rather flatly. Her eyes drifted around as she continued. “…what it must be like…to be…” To be what? A doppelganger? A clone, copy, imposter? To be the result of some dastardly scheme? “…to be held captive and wondering what your loved ones are doing to rescue you. Only to find out,” she sent her eyes to his. There was sadness in her face. “…to find out that we didn’t even know. I am sorry for what you went through and are going through.” There came that small, short-lived smile again. “Things will get better for you now. I promise.”
Mindos was beginning to understand what was going on. It killed him and relieved him at the same time.
"I'm not Mindo, am I?" he said. The words lingered for a moment... long enough. "That's fine," he continued. "But I need to hear you say it." He reached forward and brushed back a strand of her hair, like he remembered doing so many times. "It's not real if you don't say it."
Caradan withdrew from his hand slightly, but enough and that strand of hair fell back to where it was.
“I…I cannot make that determination. Throughout my years away from the Link, I’ve been told that I am not a real person, that I am not really alive, not a female, not a member of Starfleet…that I have no soul.” Caradan started shaking her head. “Nothing…no one, not even you, can tell me what I know about myself to be true is false. How I feel is real. Not even death will take that away.” With a smile, “and many times you have shown me…” but it was a short-lived smile. The realization of the situation shot back into her face.
Leaning forward, she placed her hand upon his. Hesitation showed in her face but also a measure of bravery as though trying still to figure it all out and to work through the difficulty. “I cannot tell you, you are not Mindo. You look like him, feel like him, smell like him." She paused as though wanting to expand further. "Even our scans cannot seem to tell you two apart. You are, what you know, on the inside, to be true.”
"And if that is not enough," she continued, "I can only say that...you are Mindo."
"What were they thinking?" said Mindos, almost laughing. "Starfleet can barely handle one of me! Now there's more?"
“And on the same ship no less,” she said in similar fashion; almost laughing. Her form softened a bit and Mindo could feel it as her hand still remained on top of his. Caradan’s thumb, as though from instinct or habit, was lightly rubbing the back of his hand.
“We are a science vessel,” she continued. “And we will figure this out. We must perform any experiment we can think of and compare the results.” Did Mindo see a little bit of desire in her eyes? “You would not happen to have any other ideas,” she asked, “do you?”
"No," said Mindo after a brief pause. "I'm not even sure where I've been the past few months. I didn't even know we had a ship's counselor until this Tellarite woman came to talk to me."
Caradan responded with a nod. "She is a good counselor. Has aided me a few times. It seems to be trend aboard this ship. Change, that is. Blink and someone has left or there is a new face." She gave Mindos' hand a squeeze. "Here's to hoping you do not spend any more unnecessary time away from the Tornado. And...if you do come up with any ideas, anything you want to try...to make sure you are the real deal...just let me know."
Mindos took her hand in his. "There is something; I've wanted to do for a while."
He felt a slight tremble in her hand. Likewise, it grew warm and soft. “Yes?” she said.
Mindos brought himself closer and gently put his other hand to her face. But he did not get any closer. He stopped, and looking her dead in the eyes he said, "I've come this far... but only you can bring me the rest of the way."
“This…” she started but hesitated her words. That did not stop her from drawing closer; from pulling him closer. “Not exactly what…” her words were soft and confused as though her thoughts were just as jumbled, leaving only base instinct; what felt right.
Her hand in his turned almost into a warm putty. Caradan did not seem to be too focused on her hand though as she drew herself closer to Mindos. Their lips brushed against each other. “It has, actually, been a while.” She kissed him.
Mindos brought his other hand up and brought her in very close. It was quite possibly the most passionate kiss he had ever experienced with anyone.
When their faces finally parted, Mindos couldn't stop the tear that grew out of his eye and down, down the length of his cheek. It was all he wanted. For months, he'd only wanted this.
“It truly has been a long time,” she said as she realized the fact. Caradan wiped that tear away with her thumb. Holding him closer, almost cradling him. “It must have been terrible for you. I can’t imagine being somewhere, unable to contact those I love.”
"I hope it never happens to you, to us, again. I love you Cara." Mindo took her warm hand and kissed the palm. Then he closed his eyes and smiled. Everything was going to be OK. Mindos was sure of it.
“And I love you,” she was holding him again. “Everything will be fine.”