(( Symbiosis Institute Compound, Leran Manev, Trill — Wednesday afternoon ))
Yogan sat alone in a small room, contemplating the ritual that he’d just completed. It had been several hours since Neddo transferred Eira’s memories back from Meidra, making him complete once again, and for the final time. Granted a brief reprieve to walk across the square to the Nahx Café and chat, Yogan had made an unexpected confession to his friend and counselor: When I arrived here on Friday, there was a part of me that wondered how I was going to get through this experience. Now that it’s over, I kind of wish I could have some of it back.
Now, reading over the debriefing questionnaire he’d been given, he had to admit that he still felt the same way, perhaps even more so. The feeling of being reunited with Zedro, Edanne, and all the others, was bittersweet. For the first time in several days, he finally felt himself again, not just Yogan-and-friends-with-one-conspicuously-missing, but Yogan Yalu, a unique individual to which he and all seven other hosts belonged.
He twirled a stylus in his fingers, the slow, repetitive motion helping him form words to accurately describe his thoughts and feelings about the experience. He glanced down at the PADD he’d been given and chuckled at the language on the questionnaire. Rohjess Beem had told Yogan in no uncertain terms that he was not permitted to leave the Institute compound until he had logged a satisfactory response to each item.
Yalu: ::reading aloud:: “Compare and contrast, using diagrams where appropriate, the sensations of the first and last hosts’ memory transfers.”
Feeling like a student kept after school to write sentences, Yogan bit his lip as he dragged the stylus across the PADD screen, crafting his answer in the Trill language as was requested of him, rather than Federation Standard. He did his best to focus, knowing that good responses were his ticket out of here, but he couldn’t stop his mind from wandering. The fresh memories from the past several days whirled in his mind, emerging out of order and without context, and he paused to acknowledge each of them as they came.
(( Flashbacks ))
Zedro: Knowing that my memories would continue to exist within Yalu compelled me to discover who I was. I could imagine long after I was gone, when future hosts would remember me, look to me for wisdom and guidance. I’ll be damned if all I left you was a lifetime of disappointment-induced mediocrity.
Edanne: When your heart wants you to stay close to home, there is really very little that anyone can do to dissuade you. ::she leaned forward and placed one hand on Yogan's.:: Not every host has to lead an "extraordinary" life.
Omed: And we also have our own baggage. Old grudges, failed relationships, missed opportunities. Multiple lifetimes of wisdom can make you arrogant. Multiple lifetimes of heartache can make you timid. Part of the joy, and the challenge, of being Joined is learning to walk the line between those extremes.
Keroga: Imagine that your passion, your talent, your purpose, had been taken away. The single most important thing in your life, drowned out by the endless cacophony of strangers. It was intolerable. I thought if I just threw myself into my work, and accepted the challenge of getting to know myself again, I could find a way to adjust. I couldn’t. Every performance was worse than the last. I couldn’t cope.
Benim: He told me, in no uncertain terms, to publish or be damned. He was like that, my Yaver. Never one to back down from a fight… Even though it killed him… and our boys.
Auzell: ::She blew on her fingernails and wiped them on her shirt.:: Oh, it’s all in a day’s work. Shaping lives, even in the afterlife… You’re not getting any younger, Yogan - you’ve gotta get in where the action is!
Eira: Those memories of the hosts who had come before, they were as real to me as my own family, yet my family saw me as a stranger. They believed that they had lost me when I was Joined, how was I to tell them that they were to lose me again? No, it was better to simply do as I had always done. Wake up each day with the goal of making life better for our people.
(( End flashbacks ))
Yogan scribbled a couple of paragraphs about the sensations of the memory transfer, drew and annotated a diagram, then moved on to the next question: “Identify the influences that each host have had on the presently Joined individual.”
Yalu: ::chuckling again:: That’s not a hard one at all.
The stylus flew across the PADD as Yogan answered the question with alacrity. The display screen was soon full of triangles defaced with squiggly lines–the Trill script in Yogan’s practiced penmanship–and he continued onto a second page. All seven individuals, so different in their backgrounds and personalities, had profoundly influenced Yogan, and until zhian’tara, he hadn’t realized that their influence was more complex than he’d previously thought. From Zedro, aversion to mediocrity. From Edanne, warmth. From Omed, orderliness of thought. From Keroga, insatiable passion. From Benim, zeal for the truth. From Auzell, sense of adventure. From Eira, commitment to duty.
Bubbling quietly underneath the main purpose of his visit was the long-overdue reunion with his family. As he read over his completed response, he thought about the answer to the question he’d been asking himself for the past week: Why did he stay away for so long?
Meeting each of his hosts was like receiving the missing piece of a puzzle. Each conversation filled in gaps in his understanding of who they were, and by extension, who he was. At the end of the ritual, he had all of the pieces, and the picture they created when assembled gave him the answer he sought.
Being the host, Yogan had undergone years of training to learn how to balance the innumerable qualities of his predecessors. The ones he shared with them were easier to negotiate than those which were uncharacteristic of him, but it was a tightrope walk all the time.
Going into zhian’tara, he had expected to fit the pieces together and discover exactly why their influences were responsible for him withdrawing from his family. When the puzzle was complete, however, Yogan realized that he had made the choice in spite of his former hosts, not because of them. The answer was never within Yalu, it was within Yogan all along. His fear of rejection, the ease at which he became embarrassed, his tendency to avoid problems rather than confront them—those characteristics all predated his Joining. The responsibility was his and no one else’s, but fortunately, the solution was within him as well: the wisdom and experience of seven lifetimes contained within the being who shared his existence. That was the point of being Joined, to live a life not just informed by lifetimes, but improved by them.
As Yogan contemplated the nature of his Joined existence in a new way for the first time, the doors to the room opened, and his brother peeked in with a half-smile.
N. Verso: All done?
Yalu: I think so. ::grins:: Will you check my work for me?
N. Verso: ::laughs:: I’m sure you’ll get top marks.
Nedal took the PADD from the table and slid it into the pocket of his buff-coloured robe.
N. Verso: Congratulations, Yogan Yalu, your zhian’tara is complete.
Yalu: Thank you, Guardian Nedal Verso. It was a pleasure working with you.
The brothers shared a chuckle at their facetiously formal tone. Yogan slung a bag over his shoulder and handed the stylus to Nedal, who pocketed it.
Yalu: I’m not leaving until tomorrow morning. Want to go grab a bite to eat? Or do you have to go back down to the symbiont pools and stir ‘em up?
N. Verso: Actually father invited both of us to join him for dinner, if you’re up to it.
Yalu: Absolutely, I’m famished.
N. Verso: Good. Besides, I have a few things I need to think about before I go back to the caves.
Yogan wondered what was going through his brother’s head. His experience embodying Zedro clearly affected him, but Yogan wasn’t certain of how.
Yalu: If you need to talk, I’m here.
N. Verso: Thanks. I think I might.
Yalu: ::throws an arm around Nedal’s shoulder:: Let’s do it. ::grins:: On the way to a restaurant.
Lieutenant JG Yogan Yalu
USS Resolution NCC-78145
As you liberate yourself in metaphor, think of others, those who have lost the right to speak.
— Mahmoud Darwish