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Kali Nicholotti

May/June Runner-Up: "Lessons From the Past"

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((First Officer's Quarters, USS Apollo))

::A puff of steam rose from the plain white mug that sat alone on the small dining table. It lingered for a moment, as if testing the air around it, before finally dissolving into the nether of the recycled atmosphere of the ship. In a chair that matched the architecture of the table, with her chin on her knees, her knees pulled up to her chest, and her arms around them, Cayden Adyr sat in the silence of her quarters and found herself simply watching the steam as it rose and disappeared. The simplistic nature of the moment, in a dimly lit room that was supposed to mimic the luminosity of the early dawn, caught her mind somewhere between the delicate fantasy of a dream and the much harsher way of reality. And it took her to a place where she walked with herself.::

::There were no sounds, save for those of the breaths she took and the subtle hum of the ship, as it too breathed around her. So often these days, noise filled the air around her. So often, her mind was filled with the darker simulacrums of her past, or the brilliance of her future, but rare was it that she found herself caught within a moment in time. Rarer still was it that she found herself between the two ends of the vastly capacious spectrum. And yet here, as another puff of white steam met the cooler air that hung just above her table, it was in that existence that she now found herself lost.::

((Flashback, 195 Years Ago, Trill))

::Having rolled up the legs of his pants and tossed his shoes to the side, a rather good looking man grinned somewhat mysteriously at an equally stunning woman as they walked, arm in arm, down the length of an empty beach. The waves lapped softly up to them as they walked, missing their bared feet by only a few inches. White spray, filled with the scent of salt, splashed up around them as if responding to the tiny grains of dark brown sand that their own steps were tossing haphazardly into the same wind that blew their hair back. In the distance, the sun was just beginning to fall down beneath the horizon, giving off the distinct impression that the star itself was dying, as rays of yellow, red, and orange bled into the water and spread in the waves.::

::The chill of the night was already upon them, and though the scene on the beach would lead onlookers to believe something else, the only warmth that existed in that moment was that caught within the fragile flesh that walked between the ever growing night breeze and the cold winter ocean. But the two continued to walk, unfazed by the chill or the growing darkness. Indeed, all light that was needed was provided by the stars, and as Rodan would have said, the look in her eyes.::

::This was life! Of all that existed and all that his mind and body would experience, it was the moments between the moments that mattered. Now, after half a life lived, after having spent most of it making beautiful music, he realized that the most beautiful song paled deeply in comparison to her face. It was the first hints of love, and something that he would pass on through the ages by way of the symbiont that rested deep down inside. But, as the moment passed and another came, he did not think of posterity, but found himself drawn in and captured by the woman on his arm.::

::Even the beach faded away to him now, as it would in the years that would pass after he was long dead. He was Trill, and his thoughts would hail from the past for as long as the symbiont lived. And yet, it would only be on his death bed that he would pass on to the next host what he considered most important in all existence; love.::

((Flashback, 121 Years Ago, Aboard a Small Research Station in Low Planetary Orbit of Trill))

::One day, she dreamed wistfully, the barriers that existed would fall. One day, the mind would understand far more than it did now and the stars themselves would be theirs to hold in the palms of their hands. There wouldn’t be the need to pick and choose between one way of living and another; both would be able to thrive within a rapidly growing exosphere that only expanded as knowledge moved forward. Diseases would be vanquished, pain would fade, and questions not even asked yet would have answers.::

::A sigh escaped her as she stared out into the darkness of planetary night. It was the only period of an orbit where she could see the stars in all of their brilliance and glory. As such, she’d stop her work for just a moment each time the station passed into the darkness and let her thoughts travel along the very same cogitation. The future seemed so incredibly far away, and yet, it was something she was reaching for anyways. And while, in the end, she knew that it would not be her that was able to walk among those points of light that were the stars, at least she would be there in some manner of thought.::

::Subconsciously, her hand moved to the area of her stomach where the symbiont had recently been placed. Still working on integrating the previous hosts memories into her own, she had requested this assignment, but now she wondered. Just how much isolation could she take? It was a question that she asked herself; one that mirrored the one her boss had asked her just before launch.::

::Yet somehow, the answer she had given then – that she’d always have Rodan to speak with – held much less water now than it did then. For every bit of emotion, love, and spontaneity that Rodan had been known for, Eliza offered science, method, and logic. They were nothing alike, and yet, he still had lessons in store for her. In a way, she hoped that her own lessons would offer something to the next host, even if they were as vastly different as she and Rodan were. But the day to pass on her experiences was still a ways off, and for now, there was work to be done.::

::The first glimmer of the sun could be seen as its light scattered across the atmosphere of the planet below. Within seconds, it would return to its complete blinding brilliance, and so, Eliza turned back to the terminal and began to run the numbers of the experiment again. Under the microscope, tiny nano probes began their workday all over again.::

((Flashback, 64 Years Ago, USS Andromeda))

::The darkness around him swirled and coalesced into images created by his own imagination. Beneath him, the bed seemed far softer than the chair he spent most of his time in during the day and when coupled with the soft tones of the ‘music’ he’d heard since the ship entered the area of space known as the Typhon Expanse, his body simply let the trappings of the day fade into nothingness. It was this time of the day he enjoyed the most; when the neoteric quiescence of night allowed the voices of the past to whisper directly into his mind. The very epitome of being Trill, it was in this experience that everything existed.::

::Sleep, itself, never came easily, but he didn’t mind. He had freed himself from the constrictions associated with the uniform that lay draped across the back of a chair in the corner of the room that he could not see, but knew was there. And in his newfound freedom, deep contemplation danced a complex waltz with introspection. Intuition wrapped itself up in the ruminations of whatever situation faced them and answers were found, while lessons from decades before were spoken softly.::

::The dance continued long into the hours that constituted night aboard the tiny, when compared to the universe it explored, vessel, that drifted nearly silently deeper into the perpetual night of space. With the continued backdrop of music, provided by the Expanse itself, Alaryc found a chance to really listen, and learn, from the history that had come before.::

::Deep whispers from within rose up to speak of solitude and of the stars. They drifted without direction or set destination and spoke of things he'd not focused on in his life, like love. Though the experiences came to him, not always making sense, he found himself learning and growing with each lesson from the past. It was a path that would ultimately lead to the center chair, and a life full of things to pass on to who came next. It was a legacy that would live on.::

((Flashback, 17 Years Ago, USS Valor))

::On the padd that was firmly grasped in her hands scrolled the words that answered every wish and prayer that she had ever had. They were simple, and they explained only what her next steps were, but it was one word at the top of them all that had her literally jumping for joy. Accepted. The word created ripples of elation within her entire body, instigating the intense flow of endorphins and bringing her to a level of jubilation she had never experienced before.::

::Still tightly holding the padd, the young girl ran out of the quarters that she shared with her parents to share the news that she would not be staying there for much longer. Everything she had worked for, and everything that she had wanted was finally coming true; having been accepted to the University in Medara, soon she knew that she would be leaving her current life behind. There would be no more red alerts, or danger, or stuffy air that was simply recycled through the ship. No more warp core centered discussions at the dinner table, and no more going over emergency procedures that would take her to the lifepods; Jazra was about to set out on a new course.::

::It was a course that she had been striving for ever since she had first set foot on a starship. Having lived there most of her life, she had thrown herself into school, excelling past those that shared her age, and never making friends. Now, her long nights spent studying, and her lack of a social life, were finally paying off. And while she knew that her parents were still on duty, she didn’t care. This was something she needed to share, even if her running through the halls of the Valor brought quite a few strange looks. Even if the whole ship found her odd, or troublesome, or anything else. It didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered were the words; words etched into history on her padd.::

::But fate, as it would have been, had a different path in mind. Change was coming, and soon, Jazra's mind would be open to the history Adyr granted to her, even if she didn't know it yet. Sure, she'd get her chance and attend the University on Betazed, but not without growing pains that would add her own experiences to the long list of lessons held for the hosts of the future. Not without making some attempt at keeping her from leaving.::

::And in time, even her girlish excitement would fade into the teachings meant for someone else.::

((Flashback, 14 Years Ago, Trill))

::It was funny how things often came full circle.::

::Standing in the courtyard in the capital city of Mak’ala, Norah let his eyes take in sights the Adyr symbiont had not seen in quite some time. Around him, people came and went, busy in their lives and wandering about their business. Each of them seemed too caught up in the moment to think about what might come in the next, but that didn’t stop him from contemplating his own end. Having just been joined, the susurrations of Jazra, and those that had come before, were bubbling up in his mind. Together they sang, as if in a chorus of voices that gave him insight into his own end; an end that was coming towards him faster and faster, with no brakes available to slow inevitability down.::

::And though the idea might have been disturbing to some, the old diplomat simply smiled at the oncoming cliff. His time had been long ago in days that were remembered with pleasant thoughts. Now, at least, he would be able to pass those moments on through the eyes of the symbiont he never thought he’d have. Perhaps, somehow, his experiences as a peace seeker, negotiator, and overall diplomat, would bring knowledge and patience to a place and time where it would really matter.::

::Though pained by the circumstances of her death, and the intense feelings for a certain Betazoid man that echoed from the young woman who had met her end, Norah knew that it was all part of the grand scheme. Together, Jazra’s short life would coalesce with those that had carried Adyr prior and build a legacy unlike any seen outside the planet on which he now stood. It was in that legacy that he found peace. Death was certain to come find him, and soon, but with a legacy like he had now, what more could he ask for? He would not die now, but live on, in the mind and body of another. ::

((End Flashbacks))

::A final puff of steam floated towards the ceiling as the most recent host of Adyr looked on. History danced around in her head, coming together into stories that were far better than fiction as her coffee fell inevitably to an undrinkable temperature. Perhaps it was the lack of steam, or the fact that her legs were cramping from how she had been sitting for so long, but she suddenly knew that it was time to go.::

::Standing, Cayden left the dining area and moved to the room to prepare for her day. In her wake, on the small dining table, sat a now-cooled mug of coffee that had not been consumed as one might have expected. Though it remained in the mug, and the mug on the table, it had become the catalyst for so much more.::

::It had brought her mind to the more important lessons from the past; lessons that would serve her well as she stepped away from the moment, and into the rest of her life.::

--

Captain Kalianna Nicholotti

Commanding Officer

Starbase 118/USS Victory

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