And of Second Chances
Location: Mindos Quarters
Caradan marched down the corridor toward the few civilian quarters the Tornado possessed. She marched with a purpose. She reached the quarters of Mindos. She had promised earlier to not have the same conversation again as she had grown tired of having to say the same things again to another Mindo. In time though, the conversation would be complete for all three. But not this day.
She tapped at the controls next to the door, overriding the answering protocol and removing the log that anyone had called at that particular door at that time. She was still an engineer by trade.
Pressing herself through the opening door, Caradan even narrowed her form just a bit to get inside more quickly. She barged inside far enough for the door to slide shut and stood face to face with a surprised Mindos.
"Cara," said Mindos, only vaguely recognizing her thanks to her new appearance. "Is everything..."
“You got about twenty minutes,” she cut him off. “Pack your belongings. Provisions and a mobile replicator is being prepared and delivered to the Shuttle Bay. You’re leaving.”
"Leacing?" said Mindos. "To where am I going?"
“Anywhere you want. You may have heard that we are headed back to Earth. We are actually going to make a course correction soon for the Martian Shipyards. The Tornado is to be decommissioned immediately. But Starfleet does not want anyone getting off the ship just yet. Except for you. Not Mindo but you,” she pointed at Mindos, “in particular.”
"Why?" asked Mindos.
“Starfleet Intelligence caught wind of our report; a possible clone with awoken memories of the original person. They even have a word for that; ‘Ghola’. And if Intelligence wants to make sure you do not get off the ship and disappear, there is a good chance Section 31 is in on this. I’ve heard of how they poke and prod and probe people.”
Caradan thought about how she was poked/stabbed, prodded/raped and probed/violated with a stasis device.
“And I do not wish that upon anyone.”
Mindos jumped off the bed and looked up at this new Caradan. "Then... this is goodbye."
Caradan paused a moment and just looked at Mindos. There was hesitation in her words. “I hope not. For now,” the hesitation vanished, “it has to be. We will be warping by a dense nebula shortly. You can fly into there and hide for a bit before making you way. I do ask two things of you.”
"Anything," said Mindos.
“Should you ever see Mindo again…he’s…not talking to me right now…I want you to tell him that I apologize. I was rather harsh with my words but my resolve remains the same. Right now, though, we cannot be. I have a long and difficult path before me.”
Mindos furrowed his brow in concern upon hearing this. "I'm not sure I completely understand, but... I will do as you wish."
Caradan looked to the floor a brief moment. She swore to herself she would not have the same conversation again. She found herself impatient in having to tell two Mindos the same thing. “You will understand,” she looked back up at him, “when you speak with him. Second,” Caradan looked down at her chest. Her form liquefied and parted exposing the Elanin Singer Stone. It was singing away as it had been in contact with her being. She grabbed it and held it a second. “You gave this…Mindo that is…gave this to me.” She looked up to Mindos and held out the stone. “I want you to keep it safe. Consider it a promise that I would like to see you again.”
Mindos took the rock and smiled upon recognizing it. "This was my mother's," he said. The rock shimmered and sang quietly. Mindos' smile faded. "This is not the same song it usually sings for me."
“You are not the Mindo you once were,” she said. “Your DNA is exactly the same and your memories are the same up to a point…then…” she shrugged. Caradan was no scientist. She did however step forward slowly and display hesitation as she extended her hand. She nearly pulled away several times but managed to will herself through her hesitation and at least touch a finger to the stone singing away in Mindos’ hand. The tune started changing.
"It sounds so sad," said Mindos. "Is this our song?"
Caradan kept her eyes on the rock and listened to the music carry on for another few seconds before pulling her hand away. “It is at least the song when we are both touching it though I would say that it contains a few hopeful elements.” Caradan realized the passage of time. “You had best get going. I cannot guarantee if or when we may see each other again. Do take care of yourself.”
"Thank you, Cara," said Mindo. He went in to hug her one last time.
Caradan allowed him to hug her. She awkwardly hovered her arms over him and stuttered in her movements as she thought to hug him back.
Suddenly, all she saw was a room aboard a Klingon vessel. A pair of thick and heavy arms were wrapped around her. The burly Klingon was behind her, holding her off the floor. Each time she exhaled even the slightest, causing her mimicked lungs to deflate, those arms grew tighter. Her lungs were mimicked yes, but, for a Changeling, even perfectly mimicked lungs desired new air. And Caradan was panicking as she was disallowed to breathe. The memory of that moment flooded her conscience and she recalled not having the strength to fight back against her Klingon torturers. She had gasped and gritted her teeth in an attempt to breathe. But it was no use. It felt as though he was about to crush her ribs. The walls of reality were closing in. Her death was nearing.
Caradan found herself unable to breathe. Somehow though, she suddenly had the will and strength to attempt an escape. She did just that within Mindos’ grasp as she yelled, “No,” and flailed about awkwardly and forced a hand between him and her and pushed hard. “Let me go!”
Outside of his grasp and able to finally breathe, Caradan slouched as though ready for a fight. She took deep hyperventilating breaths and realized she had somehow and at some point involuntarily created mimicked lungs within her chest. She looked around as though taking in her bearings and her eyes picked up the soft surroundings of the civilian quarters inside a Federation Starship. Her breathing slowed and then finally stopped altogether as she reabsorbed those lungs into her being.
She was several feet away from Mindos and grew embarrassed upon seeing his look of both surprise and hurt. “As I said,” she straightened and continued to look around, “I have a long and difficult path ahead of me. I…” She found eye contact with him uncomfortable. “I’m sorry. I mean no offense.”
Mindos nodded slowly. Something had happened to her while she was away. It reminded him of how he felt shortly after the incidents on the Rhys.
"You've been hurt, haven't you?" he asked, not making any sudden move, sensing her vulnerability. "Is that why you look different?"
Fright still had a small hold on her mind as she nearly trembled as she nodded. “My away mission.” She was beginning to fully trust that she was where her eyes told her she was. “I was captured. The…Klingons…they…” then, all at once, Caradan straightened and her expression and tone turned to stone stoicism. “I’m not talking about that. It is best that you go now. Otherwise you will miss the nebula and your transponder will be seen for light-years.”
Mindo nodded. "I understand," he said. Since he had no belongings he didn't need to pack up. He began to walk out of the room, but he stopped for a second, and looked up at Caradan.
"I will never love another person the way I love you," he said. "I think regardless of his feelings right now, the other me feels the same way. If he is anything like me, I know he forgives you."
“That singer stone seems to think you two are different,” she said immediately. That seemed to give the conversation an awkward pause. Speaking immediately and as a result of the pain and hard emotions she felt was what made her last conversation with Mindo end as it did. It felt right though and Caradan felt that it was well deserved, but her speaking with Riaan made her realize that acting all tough and hateful was not going to be the answer, just more cement for the wall to keep people out. “Perhaps,” Caradan continued, “if fate brings us together again, I will see that I am wrong. Now go. Your window is closing.”
“And…” she knew there was little time left so she decided to just get on with it. “If you see Shae, Cailus, Oakley, Gendaylii, or any of the others. Tell them…it was an honor and I do hope to see them again.”
"I'll do that," said Mindos. "Goodbye. And thanks."