(( Symbiosis Institute Compound, Leran Manev, Trill — Monday morning ))
A. Verso: I don’t know, Yogan. I’m not very comfortable with this.
Yogan looked back at his father, concerned. This particular part of his zhian’tara hadn’t gone particularly well. When Nedal transferred Omed’s memories from Yogan into Aydam, there was a moment of hesitation, as if the process was interrupted partway through. During the experience, Yogan noticed his brother’s confused expression, but the hiccough lasted only a second before the transfer continued. Nedal and Rohjess Beem had paused to scan both Yogan and his father, and after conferring with each other, they declared everything was fine and the ritual could continue.
Fewer than ten minutes had passed since the Guardians left Yogan alone with Omed, and Aydam had reasserted himself over the former host twice already. There was no risk of harm to either volunteer or host–the volunteer’s full awareness throughout the interaction was an integral part of the experience–but the repeated interruptions were making it difficult for Yogan to get to know Omed. He tried to have patience and sympathy for his father, but his time with Omed was short, and the opportunity to get to know her like this would never come again.
Yalu: Just relax. It’s all right. Can you try to let Omed come back?
A. Verso: All right. I’ll try.
Aydam closed his eyes as he sat in his chair, fidgeting slightly. He took a few deep breaths, and after he had sufficiently calmed himself, his chin dropped to his chest. A moment of calm silence was broken when Omed returned, wearing worry on her face.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): Are you sure everything is all right, Yogan? The entity who lent me this body seems to be under some duress.
Yalu: I think he is fine, Omed. ::beat:: You were talking about administering the offworld colony.
Omed smiled, though the look of concern never completely went away.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): Yes. Choosing a career in the civil service was an honorable thing to do in my day, if a bit… mundane. It probably still is. After I had been Joined for a few years, I felt like I needed to push myself into something less predictable. Running a space colony was about the most adventurous thing someone like me could do.
Yalu: I think I felt something similar after I became Joined.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): You can probably thank Zedro for that. At least for me, his influence was the strongest. I remember meeting him during my zhian’tara, and him going on and on about mediocrity and advancing the symbiont to the next level.
Yalu: ::smiling:: Sounds about right. We had that conversation, too. What was it like when you got there? The colony, I mean.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): Well, it was certainly less glamorous than it was described to me. Relocating from our beautiful planet to a geodesic dome on some unknown planetoid was, to put it simply, a shock. There were nights when I would come home from my office in the administrative module and my husband and children wouldn’t speak to me. There were a lot of silent, icy stares at the dinner table.
Yalu: It wasn’t just your decision. Zevin supported you when you were offered the administrator position.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): He did, at first. But being so far away from home, so far from his career, really got to him over the years. As I succeeded and grew in my position, he felt himself starting to languish. At first, I thought he was just being resentful. Eventually I understood, too late, that Zevin was one of those people whose profession gave him purpose.
Yalu: And without it--
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): He was lost. ::beat:: You mentioned that you grew up offworld, right Yogan?
Yalu: Sort of. I was born on Earth and we lived there until I was ten.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): My eldest son Erovo was ten when we moved to the Radzax colony. Such a happy child, but oh, what a difficult adolescent.
Omed cocked her head to one side, as if she were momentarily troubled by something. Yogan recognized that look; it had happened a few times already during their short meeting.
Yalu: My father wishes to speak again?
Omed nodded, then closed her eyes briefly. Aydam’s comportment replaced Omed’s and his father looked at him pleadingly.
A. Verso: I’m sorry, Yogan. I don’t want to do this anymore.
Yalu: Is it really that unpleasant for you?
Yogan wasn’t certain why his father was having such a difficult time. Both Nedal and Iljor had found the experience unusual, but certainly not this troublesome.
A. Verso: It’s just too disorienting. Having someone in my head, speaking with my voice, moving my body around the room like I’m just-- a puppet.
Aydam leaned forward and cradled his forehead in his hands. Yogan didn’t expect this level of anguish from his father; the older man looked on the verge of tears. Nedal and Beem weren’t far away, and could be summoned on a moment’s notice if the experience required their intervention. But Yogan hesitated to reach for a PADD and call them back to the room.
Yalu: Is that really the reason?
A. Verso: I just don’t like this feeling, Yogan. Please, can we stop?
Yogan didn’t know what to do. There were so many things he wanted to ask Omed, and it felt like his one chance was slipping through his fingers.
Yalu: I-- I guess. ::beat:: I’ll call Neddo and have him transfer the memories back.
Yogan stood and crossed the room, each step leaving him feeling worse and worse. He wondered if his brother might volunteer to embody Omed, so he could at least finish the conversation with her.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): Yogan, wait. Come back.
Yogan took his thumb off the PADD and turned around. His father had allowed Omed to return.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): Your father wants us to continue.
Yalu: Are you sure? ::beat:: Both of you?
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): ::nodding:: Yes. I think I understand his reluctance. ::pats the chair next to her:: Come back.
Yogan set the PADD back down on the table and returned to sit beside Omed.
Yalu: I don’t want to make my father do this if it’s going to be too much for him.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): It’s not you. It’s me.
Yogan looked at Omed quizzically.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): Your father is a very complex man. It is a privilege to share this experience with him. ::beat:: I can tell that your relationship with him has been distant for some time now.
Yalu: That’s true. Before this week, I hadn’t seen him in a few years.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): Because of what happened between him and your mother.
Yalu: ::shaking his head:: No, that’s not it at all.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): Are you sure? That is what your father thinks.
Yogan felt bewildered. This conversation had become something completely unexpected: A two-and-a-half way trialogue with Omed speaking on behalf of Aydam. Yogan wondered if he should have called for his brother after all.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): Every time you and I started to discuss family, your father started to pull away. I think I can understand why. ::beat:: There are a lot of parallels between your family’s experiences and mine.
Yogan was trying to follow the logic of what was taking place, but struggled. He spoke, more sounding out the problem to himself than speaking to anyone else.
Yalu: And that is upsetting to my father.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): I think that, combined with the experience of sharing his consciousness with me, is… disquieting… to your father.
Yalu: ::sounding it out again:: Because he wanted to be Joined.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): ::nodding:: Like I said. He is a complex fellow. Lots of emotions rolling around in here. Your father was the caregiver when you were young, right Yogan?
Yalu: Yes. My mother worked for the Diplomatic Corps and was called away a lot.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): You were inseparable.
Yalu: ::laughs:: Yeah, I suppose you could say that. When we moved back to Trill, my father was the one who encouraged my interest in flying. He convinced my mother that I should take lessons.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): And what about when you wanted to become Joined?
Yalu: We never really talked about it until I was a teenager. When I told my parents, my mother wasn’t very enthusiastic. My father told me it would be difficult, but he believed I could make it through the Initiate program.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): And you did.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): So what happened, Yogan? Why did you go away?
At this point in the conversation, Yogan wasn’t certain exactly to whom he was speaking. The line between Aydam and Omed seemed to be far more blurry than Nedal and Zedro, or with Edanne and Iljor.
Yalu: I don’t know.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): Can I give you some advice?
Yogan looked into his father’s eyes, squinted slightly as Omed tended to do. She put a hand on his knee.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): You have seven of us inside of you all the time. Each of us has our own past, our own successes and failures. Each of us left things unfinished when we died. ::chuckles:: Even me. 101 years wasn’t enough for me to do everything I wanted.
Yogan smiled and leant into Omed’s words, as if he could absorb them if he just tried hard enough.
A. Verso (as O. Yalu): 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.
(( Timeskip – Nahx Café, Leran Manev, Trill – a few hours later ))
The four Versos–Aydam, Yogan, Nedal, and Kejana–had taken over an outdoor table facing the square, each nursing a different beverage. It had been several years since all four of them had been in the same place, and although there was some initial awkwardness, they had settled into a pleasant conversation on the one topic on everyone’s mind.
N. Verso: Father, how was your experience?
A. Verso: ::chuckles nervously:: It was something I’ll never forget. Moving, a little disorienting--
K. Verso: Don’t tell me that, I have mine next. I’m already nervous about it.
Yalu: Don’t worry, Kej. Nedal and I are old pros at this by now. You’re in good hands, I promise.
A. Verso: I just want to tell you kids how much it means to me, to share this experience with you.
Yogan raised his mug in a silent ‘to the Versos’ toast, and everyone joined in. He wouldn’t have thought that this experience, ostensibly to give him closure with his past hosts, would have done so much toward mending his family, and him, at the same time.
Yalu: Me too.
PNPC Aydam Verso (embodying Omed Yalu)
Yogan Yalu’s father
PNPC Nedal Verso
Yogan Yalu’s brother
PNPC Kejana Verso
Yogan Yalu’s sister
with, and simmed by
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