(( Symbiosis Institute Compound, Leran Manev, Trill — Tuesday morning ))
Now meeting his sixth host, Yogan had grown accustomed to the disorientation from the memories being telepathically removed, like an invisible hand scooping out some of his guts. With Benim now gone from him, Yogan opened his eyes and watched the former host assert himself inside the body of Resolution’s chief medical officer. It was strangely fascinating how a slight change in carriage or the different placement of one’s hands could completely make a person over. Yogan waited for his brother to leave the room, then beckoned Benim to join him on a bench by the window.
Yalu: I’ve really been looking forward to meeting you, Benim. I feel like we have a lot in common.
Benim brushed a lock of the Betazoid’s curly hair out of his eyes and sighed impatiently. What an inconvenient body Yogan had found him.
Adea (as B. Yalu): ::pursing his lips:: Oh you do, do you? How quaint.
Yogan smirked with delight as Benim’s familiar mannerisms and attitude came out of Genkos Adea. Benim was the longest-lived of Yalu’s hosts, having shared his body with the symbiont for nearly eight decades. Yogan was fascinated by how the sum of those memories and experiences produced the personality sitting before him. Especially in his later years, after retiring from journalism and embarking on a career as a novelist, Benim had developed a reputation as a bon vivant. Sitting across from him now, Yogan tried not to betray his surprise. He’d always thought he’d inherited a flair for the dramatic from Keroga, the actress.
Yalu: To prepare for our meeting, I read some of your novels. I really enjoyed them. Especially Korgaxa and the Emperor. I couldn’t put it down.
Benim contorted Genkos’ lips into a wry smile as his chilly demeanor melted. Flattery would get Yogan everywhere with his former host.
Adea (as B. Yalu): Oh, thank you very much. :: he waved a hand languidly:: Please, do continue.
Yalu: I can see why the New Sydney Inspector called you “King of the Risa Reads.” They’re perfect novels to get lost in while sitting on the beach.
Benim blinked several times, feeling longer lashes than he was used to as he did so. He’d never truly agreed with the perception of himself as a writer of “Risa reads” - he preferred to think of himself as an author of more serious novels. But, he sighed, it was what it was.
Adea (as B. Yalu): Do you do a lot of reading, Yogan? I’d have thought you’d be too busy… ::he twiddled his fingers as he searched for the phrase:: flying around the galaxy?
Yalu: When I’ve got the free time. I’ve been reading a lot of Betazoid psychodramas lately. The novels I read are adapted for non-telepaths, and I’m fascinated by the way the characters’ mental abilities drive the plot forward.
Yogan paused for a moment. His description of the psychodramas he so enjoyed reading struck him differently when speaking to Benim. He didn’t want to get to unpleasant topics so early in their time together, but he felt the door to this particular subject had just been thrown open.
Yalu: Which, actually, reminds me of something I wanted to tell you. I hate to start things off on a negative note, but I am afraid I have some unpleasant news. It’s about Ohmallera.
Even though Benim’s memories were no longer inside of him, Yogan knew that what he was about to tell the man about his beloved adopted hometown would come as a shock.
Adea (as B. Yalu): ::somehow managing to frown more deeply than Genkos normally did:: What about it?
Saying the words aloud was more difficult than Yogan had anticipated. He willed himself to hold back his emotion, but his voice quivered as he spoke.
Yalu: There was an attack. Ten years ago, a Betazoid named Armeni hijacked a Federation starship and used its weapons to destroy the city. There were almost no survivors.
All the emotion slid off Benim’s face like eggs off a well-oiled pan. He opened his mouth to speak and closed it again. There was silence between them for a few moments, and when Benim did open his mouth to speak again, it was in a dull croak.
Adea (as B. Yalu): Why?
Yalu: ::shaking his head:: Armeni was a disturbed individual, with a long criminal past. She had been in and out of psychiatric facilities on Ohmallera and elsewhere, and it seemed her grudges and her illness conspired to get the better of her.
It was as if all the journalistic drive he’d had as a young man had returned. A coping mechanism, he supposed, to prevent himself from being over-wrought with emotion.
Adea (as B. Yalu): What did she think she would achieve, this Armeni?
Yalu: She seemed to blame Betazed, and the medical facilities in Ohmallera in particular, for interfering with her own delusions of grandeur. Her goal was to destroy the entire planet. The crew of the USS Constitution managed to retake the ship, but not before Ohmallera was completely destroyed.
Yogan hated delivering upsetting news, and although the reaction belonged to Benim, he wondered how Genkos, himself a Betazoid, had dealt with the calamity ten years before. Benim had known tragedy during his lifetime, much of it inflicted upon him personally. Yogan knew that his retirement on Betazed had been a long-awaited calm in an otherwise tempestuous life. Shortly after he became Joined, Yogan had visited Ohmallera, and his memories of the city were completely disjointed from the way it now looked, with reconstruction well underway. Benim’s final resting place would likely remain unknown for good.
Yalu: I know what the city meant to you, and I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry.
Benim gave Yogan a curious look, cocking the CMO’s head and narrowing his dark Betazoid eyes. Curious that Yogan chose his Betazoid friend for this host, the one who retired to Betazed...
Adea (as B. Yalu): It wasn’t your fault, Yogan. You have nothing to apologise for.
Yalu: I never had the opportunity to see it as you knew it. What made you decide to settle there, of all places?
Adea (as B. Yalu): ::laughing, once:: If you had ever been there, and I mean, truly been there, Yogan, you’d know. Of all the planets I’ve seen on my travels, Betazed is the most beautiful. ::memories flooding back, he looked at Yogan, tears brimming in his new body’s ebony eyes:: They’re a remarkable species, the Betazoids, endlessly eccentric and loving for a species that has had many atrocities in even their recent past.
Yalu: It sounds like the perfect place to start over.
Adea (as B. Yalu): The scars of the Cardassian occupation still thread throughout the planet, body and mind. ::a tendril of Genkos’ mind brushed against Benim’s:: Even your friend, ::he held up Genkos; pale, slender hands:: his life was touched by the occupation, although he was barely a child. And yet, they are a joyful people. They bounced back. What’s not to love?
Yalu: Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to visit again soon. I promise I’ll take it all in next time.
Benim leaned the slender form of the Betazoid body he was currently inhabiting, back in the chair, and crossed his legs at the ankle.
Adea (as B. Yalu): You’d better, and I suspect your friend here would make a rather good guide. Although ::his brows knitted in a very familiar frown:: a telepathic kick under the table has just told me to shut up. ::he pursed his lips in amusement:: So, is there anything I can illuminate you on, Yogan?
Yogan chuckled. The interplay between the volunteer and the host was fascinating. All of his friends and family who participated in zhian’tara with him had been wonderfully good sports, allowing the host’s memories and personalities to come fully forward during their time together. Some of them disappeared into the experience entirely, while others occasionally made their presence known from time to time. In a way, Yogan found it comforting that Genkos was interacting with Benim. He would be certain to ask the Betazoid doctor his impressions from the experience afterward.
Yalu: I hope I’m not getting too personal with this question, Benim.
Yogan hesitated. What a strange thing to say, and even stranger to feel. For six years, Benim had existed as a part of Yogan, Joined with all the others through Yalu. The idea of him being ‘too personal’ with his former host seemed bizarre. Yogan took a moment, allowing himself to be comfortable in his discomfort. For the time being, Benim existed as a separate entity, and the purpose of zhian’tara was to interact with him as such.
Yalu: ::reaching for a PADD:: I wanted to ask you about the corruption investigation on Barisa Prime. I read your articles and I was ::beat:: amazed that you continued to investigate and publish after–– after what happened.
Benim pursed the Betazoid’s lips until they formed a tight, straight line. He blinked a few times, his eyes steely. Naturally this is what Yogan wanted to know about; the most violent and most traumatic chapter in Benim Yalu’s life.
Adea (as B. Yalu): What else could I do? Not publishing… ::tears formed in the ebony eyes of the good doctor:: Not publishing would have meant my husband and our beautiful sons had died for nothing. They should have known that it would only strengthen my resolve.
Yalu: ::nodding, understandingly:: You were a well-known journalist. You had a reputation for exposing things that people would rather keep hidden. Corruption on that scale must have been an irresistible story for you.
Benim thought about lecturing Yogan on the tenets of journalism and the standards by which writers must hold themselves if they want to be taken seriously. Instead, he shrugged, and gestured his hands towards his host, palms outwards.
Adea (as B. Yalu): ::simply:: It was.
Yalu: And when the threats to your safety intensified, what did Yaver do? How did he handle it?
Again, a slight brim of tears came unbidden to Benim’s eyes, and he swallowed once. His body’s large laryngeal prominence bobbed repeatedly in his throat as the memories of Yaver and their boys flooded back to him. He remembered the precise moment Yaver realised the danger to their family, and there was never a moment where he doubted what Benim had to do.
Adea (as B. Yalu): He told me, in no uncertain terms, to publish or be damned. ::he smiled without mirth, a maudlin grin:: He was like that, my Yaver. Never one to back down from a fight… ::he let that hang for a moment, taking a deep inhalation as he did so:: Even though it killed him… and our boys.
He looked away from Yogan, unwilling or unable to let the Trill see the flow of tears that came from the corners of his eyes. He wiped them unceremoniously on his sleeve and turned back to his host, a deep frown appearing on his face.
Adea (as B. Yalu): My apologies. Clearly your doctor has over productive tear ducts.
Lieutenant Commander Genkos Adea MD (embodying Benim Yalu)
Second Officer & Chief Medical Officer
Lieutenant JG Yogan Yalu
USS Resolution NCC-78145