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[2005: AUG-SEP] Shadows and Reflections

Cyrus Kai

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(As a note, I had no intention of writing in this contest until Al (Jonathan Fox) and I started discussing it in relation to our current mission. We had enough fun discussing it, that I figure I’ll try and come up with a story…)

It had been a lousy shift. How he’d been assigned to the stupid midnight shift with a dog was entirely beyond him. Not that he’d ever really wanted to be on the warship in the first place. The USS Morningstar, stuck patrolling the edges of Imperial Space, armed to the hilt. Morningstar was right, mess with this ship and get your face smashed out the back of your head… No matter, he was done with work for another 8 hours.

He stopped a Turbolift and headed to the crew barracks. All this time bouncing from ship to ship, station to station. The Talos device had done weird things to his mind, left him with nightmares for things he had never done, twisted anything good into travesties, horrors, that would wake him up at night. And he was running out of cordrazine. It had been easy to get planetside, but now he’d have to steal it from Sickbay. That was going to be a task…the lift slowed, well short of his deck. The doors hissed open revealing that arrogant [...] Fox.

“So, Cyrus, good day?” The sneer never seemed to slide off the man’s face. He knew about what his past held. The arrest, the innocent plea he had changed, the reprogramming on a penal asteroid near Trill.

“It was fine, Commander.” Best not to get in a fight here. Fox had the better training, the reach, and the rank to make any story believable. Cyrus would find himself back in the hands of the Doctor, dealing with another stint in the pain booth…the Talos device had helped him with that. The agony booths were all physical, nothing compared to having your brain picked apart.

“Good. Nothing I need to get you for?”

“No sir.” Cyrus continued to stare at his boots. Eye contact with Fox was not a pleasant experience.

“Are you sure?” The tone was dangerous. “Computer, stop the lift.”

Cyrus looked up. Not here, not now…Fox’s hand came up fast, but fighting it would have been worthless, anyway. Fox always won. He felt the finger circle his throat, lifting him off the floor, pinning him to the side of the car.

“I’m sure you’ve done something, criminal like you.” With his other hand, Fox backhanded him. “Can’t go a day without doing something against regs. Why don’t you get out of the fleet?” He saw the fist coming, but with Fox pinning him to the wall, dodging was out of the question. Cyrus’s head thudded against the wall, bounced. He could taste the blood from his lip.

“Anything is better than the penal system again…” Cyrus tried to look Fox in the eye, stare him down, but ended up looking back at the floor, the arm holding him to the wall. The first time this had happened, he had thrown punches. Fox had laughed, called for guards to restrain the “violent criminal” and Kai had spent a week in Sickbay followed by 3 hours in the agony booth. Now he knew better.

“I mean, seriously, Cyrus, you’ve been in the fleet for years and yet you’re still just a Petty Officer. You’ll never advance. I can see to that. Give up.” Fox shook him, bouncing his head off the wall. “I said, give up. Quit now. I can have the Captain approve a shuttle to take you to whatever hell hole is waiting for you.”

Cyrus looked up again. “No. Even this is better than the colonies. Sir.” He whispered the final word.

“Really?” The word was a snarl. “I must be slacking. Computer, resume service.” He released his grip, and Cyrus fell to the floor of the ‘lift as the door opened. Fox got out, and the doors began to close. He staggered over and got a hand in the sensor’s way, causing the doors to retract again. After a few moments, he had gathered the shreds of his ego again and was headed to his quarters.

He was relieved to see the interior of the room dark and empty. Donaldson must have been out with some little thing. He’d “invited” Cyrus on a date once, but it had ended up being 4 of Donaldson’s security buddies beating the [...] out of him while the dates looked on, giggling. That’s what he got for being convicted, for being drafted into the fleet. With the Jem Hadar applying more pressure on the shrinking Terran Empire, any able body was drafted to man the battleships and patrol craft. There were other “crooks” on the Morningstar, but no one else had been convicted of blowing up the Vulcan Consulate on Earth. That distinction was all his. He had been innocent, or at least he thought so. The Talos device had messed up all the memories of that device. He had been at the Academy. He had been studying Engineering, he was going to be an officer, he going…somewhere.

He’d received a message to be outside the Embassy, to meet an unnamed person for an undisclosed reason. Stupid! He’d gone, stood around, and the explosion had happened…or had he spent time planting explosives? The men operating the machine had seemed so certain…sometime he doubted his own story…

And then he was drafted from the penal colony and spent years filling whatever hole he could on whatever ship could stand to have him.

He sighed. Almost graduated. Almost an officer. Almost joined. “Almost” perfectly described his career, his life… He opened the duffel at the end of the bunk and reached for the tricorder. Pulling the back off revealed a hyp and two phials of the cordrazine. Loading one, he headed into the bathroom, keeping the lights down. Rolling up the left sleeve of his uniform, he pressed the hyp into the crook of his elbow, feeling immediate relief as the drug coursed through his system. He ran some water into the sink, splashing it onto his face before rolling the sleeve back down. The phial went into the recycler, and the hypo would go back into the tricorder.

It had been a long shift. Kai stretched before heading out of the office, back into Engineering. The port power conduit was having timing issues with its magnetic constrictors. And, in the nature of the way he worked, what had started as an “after lunch” problem had rapidly become a “work ‘til 3 am” problem. But, even at 3 am, it felt good to be able to run a final diagnostic, get the a-okay from the computer, close the panel, put the tools away, and go looking for some dinner…er, breakfast? Whatever. Something to eat.

He had a PADD with the blueprints for Deck 5 of the USS Morningstar, newly finished, and equipped for a (hopefully) quiet science mission. He chuckled to himself as he walked. Fat chance of that with this crew. Somewhere in Starfleet was a ship where everything went by the book, no surprises, no thrills, but it wasn’t this ship. He made his way to the Lounge, nodded to Orlan, (did that guy ever sleep? He was always there…), and then spent a few minutes looking at the specials on the replicator. Nothing looked good. Well, that did. With some of that. He hit the appropriate keys, and found an available seat, (no problem at 3 in the morning) and started eating and reading. He was getting done when he sensed a presence across the table. Looking up revealed Commander Fox.

“Oh, hey Commander. You working late as well?” Kai paused the PADDs display.

“Yes. A lot of paperwork going through all the clearances of a brand-new ship’s crew.”

Kai felt a yawn coming, and despite his best effort, failed to suppress it. He watched Fox go through the same act, with the same result. Kai and Fox had had some disagreements on things, but overall, things were okay. Just so long as Fox didn’t establish check-points around the warp core and Kai didn’t give orders to the security people.

“You know, Commander, you ought to grab something to eat. I’m sure Doctor Lutjens would be upset to know that you’re working late, getting exhausted.”

“Yes, she probably would.” He glanced at the replicators. “Anything good on the menu?”

“Eh…nothing said, ‘Eat me! Eat me!’ but this was pretty good.” Kai gestured at the empty tray.

“What was it?”

“Umm…not really sure…just this and that, really.” Kai shrugged. “Probably a sign I need to get to sleep.”

Fox chuckled, then replicated his own food. They chatted amiably enough, Kai mentioning the kinks that new ships have and the list of fixes Engineering had made, Fox discussing the security training and recertification of the crew in fire-arms and first contact. When the food was gone, they both stood.

“Well, see you tomor…well, later today, then Commander.”

“Right. Later, Lieutenant.”

Kai followed Fox out of the lounge, but they split up at the first junction. Kai caught a lift to Deck 3, slumping against the wall a little. He was bushed…the door to his quarters opened. The long hours not withstanding, being the Assistant Engineer had its perks. Being assigned private quarters certainly beat a bunk with three other people to share with. He stumbled into the bathroom, and took a moment to look in the mirror. Then he shook his head. It beauty and sleep were related, he was in trouble. 18 hour days were going to have to stop if he wanted to maintain any aesthetic value in Engineering. He turned the sink on, and ducked his head down to splash water on it. Maybe a soggy Kai would be more appealing. He looked back in the mirror. Nope, it wasn’t any better. Just a dark figure with a hypo…wait, a hypo?

Cyrus paused, looking in the mirror. There he was, the usual mane of dark hair, the uniform that just hung on him, the two rank pine. Wait, two rank pins? He looked closer. One gold, one black. Lieutenant jg? He reached up to his collar, watching the apparition in the mirror copy the movement. No, his collar still only had the insignia of a petty officer, and the marker of a draftee…

Kai was unfamiliar with the other insignia on the collar. The quarters behind this other version of himself were dark, smaller, he could see multiple beds. Petty Officer? He’d never been a petty officer…

Cyrus was looking past this other him. The bathroom was huge, he doubted that Captain Ilic was even that lucky to be able to spare room for amenities like that on a war ship. And then there was him…an impossible version of him…

Kai looked at the hypo his “twin” was holding. What was this? Had he fallen asleep in the bathroom? Was he hallucinating? Why was he doing drugs in his dreams?

Cyrus started to wonder if Fox had given him a concussion. He felt his lip, looked at his fingers. Some dried blood was evident. The other Cyrus copied the motion, and looked confused. The man in the mirror didn’t look like he dealt with constant ribbings and beatings for no reason. Cyrus wondered where he was from…

Kai looked at the stranger’s uniform, face, surroundings, trying to figure out what was going on. Most of it was right, the gold color on the uniform, the rank insignia (wrong) were placed correctly. Then he looked at the comm-badge. The arrowhead was there, but it looked sharper, like you could pull it off your shirt and use it as a weapon. There was a stylized dagger driven through it. The uniform seemed to incorporate body armor, not a lot, but enough that it was sort of scary…

Cyrus looked at this doppelganger's uniform, amazed by the lack of protection it would offer in a fight. Not even a holster. Everyone carried a fire-arm (except for convicts). The Jem Hadar had stolen enough cloaking devices that being boarded was a constant risk…

Kai found himself wondering what it would have taken to become the person in the mirror. What had happened to this man that had made him and his world so different than the one that Kai called home? He felt some urge, some need to communicate. Tentatively, as if worried that the mirror might vanish, he reached to touch the glass…

Cyrus found himself wanting to know more about how he could have been this person in a more peaceful time, with better prospects and real achievements. Hesitating, he reached for the glass…

The Federation has never had very good models for explaining multiple time-lines and parallel universes. The Federation has proof that some exist, but does every action, every decision, cause a breaking? Are there universes out there populated with near mirror images and other filled with circumstances so bizarre that we would be strangers to ourselves? Or would it be the individuals who are very nearly us that would be more bizarre?

The two reached the mirror at the same time, Kai in his world, Cyrus in his. There was no momentous flash of light, no crash of thunder. They just stood there, both of them feeling kind of silly, until they heard it whisper between their worlds…


Kai found himself looking at a much more conventional reflection of himself, wondering what had just happened. He would definitely be scheduling a session with Counselor Skylar tomorrow. Not that she would believe him…no more late nights and heavy meals at 3AM for him…

Cyrus found himself looking at a much more conventional and bloodier reflection of himself wondering what had just happened. One this was certain, he wasn't going to spread this around. Who would believe him? On the other hand, it was reassuring to think that he wasn’t doomed, that he had the potential to have had that life in another time. He looked at the hypo in his hand. The other Cyrus didn’t need this. He didn’t need this. He put it in the recycler. It would take time, but he could get there too...

Edited by Cyrus Kai
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