(( Symbiosis Institute Compound, Leran Manev, Trill — Sunday morning ))
His brother shook his head, his serious expression now moderated by a slightly upturned corner of the mouth.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): Zedro.
The Guardian returned with a scanning device and passed it quickly over Yogan and his brother. Nedal, or rather Zedro, started walking purposefully about the room, interfering slightly with Beem’s attempts to monitor him.
Beem: It appears the memory transfer was successful. Yogan, could you please tell me the name of Zedro’s second wife?
Yogan opened his mouth to respond, but the name escaped him. His brow furrowed in confusion, and he looked over toward the Guardian, half-apologising, half-pleading.
Yalu: No, I can’t remember.
Rohjess Beem shook his head reassuringly, which Yogan found uncharacteristic of the typically ill-natured Guardian.
Beem: Not to worry, it’s quite normal to feel some disorientation after the transfer. After all, the memories have been inside you for six years now.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): Luara.
Zedro had returned from his promenade about the room and was standing by the altar, using a candle snuffer to draw swirling patterns in the bubbling liquid. Yogan felt strange watching his brother embody a completely different personality. The way he carried himself chest forward and shoulders back, almost a military bearing, was unnerving. Even the timbre of his voice was different.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): My second wife’s name was Luara.
Beem: ::nodding:: That’s correct. I will leave you two to get acquainted. Please notify the sentries if you decide to leave the compound. I will return at midday to transfer the memories back. Try not to cause any trouble.
Yogan continued to silently study Zedro as Beem packed up a few pieces of equipment into a cloth satchel and left the room. Once they were alone, Zedro turned to face Yogan and gestured toward the door through which Beem had just exited.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): ::raising his eyebrows:: Guardians, eh? Never really understood why anyone would pursue such a thing.
Yogan stifled a smirk. He wondered how Nedal was reacting to the words coming out of this mouth.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): What year is it?
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): ::musing:: Hmm. So now it’s Zedro, Edanne, Omed, Keroga, Benim, Auzell, Eira, and Yogan. It’s going to be a long week for you, with seven hosts to meet. Are you excited?
Yogan found this personification of his first host to be nothing like he’d expected. Physically, Zedro projected an air of confidence, a taciturn maturity. This contrasted sharply with what he knew of Zedro, that he was a private, even withdrawn individual who was often paralyzed by indecision. Yogan noticed a parallel between Zedro and his brother Nedal, whose new relaxed, open nature was a departure from the sensitive, easily overwhelmed younger brother he remembered.
Yalu: I don’t know what to think yet. Just trying to listen, and learn. To keep an open mind.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): That’s exactly what zhian’tara is for. It’s one thing to have all of us swirling around in your head all the time, but for you to stand before us as individuals, listen to us each in turn, well, that’s a whole different experience altogether. ::beat, sourly:: Not that I would know. I never had one.
Yalu: Of course not. You were the first host.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): Yes. The first. ::flatly:: Lucky me.
Zedro rested the candle snuffer on the edge of the cauldron and moved several paces away from Yogan, his body language changing with each step. He started to look more like Yogan expected of Zedro. His body turned inward and his shoulders crept forward, as if he were protecting himself from something unpleasant.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): Nobody wants to be the first host.
Yogan nodded, not wanting to admit aloud that he’d felt the same way when he was an Initiate.
Yalu: We all know that it is a possibility when we are accepted into the Program. Without first hosts, there would never be seconds, thirds…
Zedro sat down in a chair in the corner of the room, far enough away from the flickering altar that his face was obscured in shadow.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): When do you remember first wanting to be Joined?
Yalu: I was ten or eleven years old. My family had just moved back to Trill, and I was learning about our people’s history and traditions for the first time in school.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): I was a few years older than you when I decided I wanted to become Joined. I wanted it more than anything. I threw myself into it. It was the only thing that mattered to me.
Yogan remembered fellow Initiates saying similar things during his early days in the Program. But now that he thought about it, not a single person who had expressed that kind of single-minded obsession with Joining had made it through the program. They’d all been washed out. Without access to Zedro’s memories, Yogan could only presume that the Evaluation Board’s selection process had encompassed different criteria 250 years ago. In the 24th century, it wasn’t enough just to want it more than anyone else.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): I hoped and I expected that the symbiont would guide me, that its collected wisdom from multiple lifetimes would give my own life some direction. I thought it would give me a purpose. ::long beat:: And then, I got Yalu.
Yogan finally took a seat beside Zedro and wondered what he should do. It felt bizarre to be comforting his previous host inhabiting his brother’s body. Should he hug him? Should he give him some distance? After a few moments of trying in vain to remember how Zedro handled difficult conversations, he gave up and decided just to listen.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): I felt lost, Yogan. Zedro Yalu didn’t seem any different to Zedro Tiburn. When you work so hard for something, and it turns out differently than you expect, what do you do? How do you move forward?
Yalu: I guess I try to make the best of it, and try to learn from the experience. That was certainly the case when I finished medical school.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): You’re a doctor?
Yalu: Yes– No– It’s complicated. I graduated from Starfleet Medical Academy last year and was posted as a medical officer aboard Atlantis, but five weeks later I was transferred to Resolution to be a helm officer.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): You’re a pilot, too?
Yalu: I started flying ships when I was young. It was always a hobby, an avocation. I didn’t expect I’d be doing it as a career. Don’t get me wrong, I love flying Resolution, and serving on the bridge of a starship is something I never even knew I wanted to do. I just feel like my training and education were––I don’t know.
Yogan didn’t want to use the word ‘wasted,’ because that was an inaccurate way to describe his feelings. But it was the only word he could think of that came close. Zedro stood up, scratching his chin in contemplation, his back turned to Yogan.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): Sounds to me like you’re doing exactly what you were meant to. Hopefully it doesn’t take you years to realize that, like it did for me when I was first Joined. Don’t allow yourself to be limited by your own disappointment.
Yalu: Surely you felt a sense of accomplishment, though? So many of our people want to become Joined, and only a handful are selected. You made it, you were given a symbiont.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): ::turning back to face Yogan:: True, but it took me a long time to realize that I’d missed the point. ::beat:: Yogan, a symbiont is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.*
That as much was true. Yogan, like all Initiates, had undergone years of training to ensure that he, the host, possessed the fortitude to balance lifetime after lifetime of memories with his own identity. The worst thing a host could do is lay all their hopes for the future on becoming Joined.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): When I finally realized that, I understood that I’d been given a tremendous privilege, and a tremendous responsibility, in becoming Yalu’s first host.
Yalu: How do you mean?
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): Yalu’s first experiences on the surface of our planet, of interacting with humanoid life, of existing within our society, happened because of me. Everything that I experienced–the births of my children, my professional successes and failures, the breakdown of my marriage–Yalu experienced, too. I didn’t have lifetimes of memories like you do, but I shared my existence with another sentient being, with its own thoughts and identity.
With a ‘come along’ gesture, Zedro beckoned Yogan to join him back at the altar. The two men stared into the flame, which was burning low and dim in the centre of the cauldron.
N. Verso (as Z. Yalu): 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–Edanne, Keroga, you–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.
Yalu: ::shaking his head:: You didn’t.
They stood together in silence for several moments. Yogan thought about how Zedro had begun their conversation exuding a façade of control, even dominance, over the experience. But that had quickly crumbled away to reveal a self-reflective, self-motivated individual. There were elements of Zedro that Yogan had found difficult to acknowledge over the years–he was often condescending and insensitive, and his 22nd-century opinions about other species would be considered outmoded by modern Trill. But he also possessed a unique combination of analytical prowess and boundless imagination, which Yogan had often relied upon both as a physician and at the helm of a starship. He was delighted to get to know the man as an individual, and he was pleased that Zedro had been the first link in the chain.
(( Timeskip – Nahx Café, Leran Manev, Trill – a few hours later ))
Yalu: You’ve been awfully quiet.
Yogan’s brother seemed a million light years away. After the Guardian had transferred the memories back into Yogan, he and Nedal had been given a few hours of free time to decompress. They’d not gone far–just to a café within walking distance of the Symbiosis Institute compound–and despite the experience they’d just shared, they had surprisingly little to talk about.
N. Verso: So have you.
Yalu: ::chuckles:: Fair enough. So how was it? Embodying Zedro?
N. Verso: It was… incredible. I can’t describe it.
Yalu: Well, at least now you know what it feels like, since Guardianing is your thing now.
N. Verso: Yeah, I guess so.
Nedal’s response was not what Yogan expected.
Yalu: You ‘guess so’? What do you mean?
N. Verso: I don’t know. Just some of the things Zedro said got me thinking, is all.
Yalu: About what?
N. Verso: My life, and where it’s going. I don’t have a symbiont to which I’m leaving my legacy, but maybe I should be living like I do.
Yogan didn’t want to force the issue. Ever since he came back home, he’d wanted to talk with Nedal about his sudden and inexplicable decision to abandon his career as a poet and become a Guardian. But now was not the time. If this experience was giving Nedal pause for reflection, Yogan wouldn’t help matters by goading him into talking about it. Perhaps, when the ritual concluded, they could discuss it.
N. Verso: We only have a little time left before we need to be back. Who’s embodying your next host?
Yalu: A friend of mine from Resolution. His name is Etan Iljor.
(( OOC: *Co-opting a quotation from the greatest sports film ever, Cool Runnings. ))
PNPC Nedal Verso (embodying Zedro Yalu)
Trill Guardian Apprentice & Yogan Yalu’s brother
PNPC Rohjess Beem
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