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Past Lives and Bad Memories

 

Flight Operation Centre, Deck 4

Leoni Jex stared down at the PADD for what must have been the umpteenth time in fifteen minutes. She could study the details no further or be more prepared for the Captain's plan of action. However, she knew she could always feel more prepared than she did.

"Damn it." She cursed aloud at herself. She tossed the PADD onto the situation table in front of her. Slumping into her seat, she just sat brooding. Her leg jittered almost as if she were nervous. It was not nerves however. It was instead a trait Deodzi often displayed when she would grow impatient and frustrated. Clamping a hand on her thigh, Leoni was brought up at suddenly realising she had picked up this trait.

With several lifetimes of habits and traits dumped into her body upon the joining with the Jex symbiont, Leoni had a hard time trying to adjust. Many of the adjustments that were hardest to comprehend were the little changes such as the tiny habits she would now inherit and display. She spent her first week joined eating her locks of hair that fell across her face, a habit she picked up from Niesa who would do so when she fretted about her children's health and safety. From Deodzi she had also picked up a rather coarse tongue and found herself using expletives as adjectives and adverbs and even nouns when she was speaking. This stemmed from Deodzi's years working with front line troops and patrols during the Cardassian War. Of course, such adjustments were to be expected and her own family understood and excused some of her out of character behaviour at that time. Still, it make it difficult to look her Grandmother in the face after declaring the scarf and mittens she had made for Leoni were the effing best ever, that Nan herself was an effing rockstar and the scarf would keep the nipples of an Orion dancer warm!

She let a small smile play across her face remembering that scene and the horrified looks of her family as they looked on. Leoni herself took a moment even to register what was so out of line. When she had, she was mortified and apologetic. However, even the prime and proper domestic goddess that was Neisa had chuckled at it. Leoni shook her head in wonderment at it all. In small moments such as now, she would find herself marvelling at what she had become. She was different now. Not only different in terms of habits she had picked up but different in how she thought and perceived things. She was different in how her scope of seeing the world around her was seen through entirely new eyes. The different eyes of different people. Her world was not blinkered by seeing it as Leoni herself. She saw beyond such a narrow field of vision and could discern what Neisa would have felt and what Deodzi might have done.

It was still such an odd sensation. From finding herself whistling tunes, she had never heard before, to developing an insatiable appetite for blueberry muffins. Neisa would sing often to her children, they found her voice soothing and comforting to fall over asleep listening to. Deodzi called blueberry muffins the only civilised contribution humans ever made to the universe!

It was a momentary sense of mirth that quickly passed. Leoni now leaned forwards on the tactical display table as it played out the scenario as she envisioned it. And how McGregor was calling it. She rubbed her temples as tried to focus her mind on the challenge at hand. Leoni had scored average to well in her shuttle training. She had never wanted to helm any kind of starship before. Merely she had grown up helping her grandfather as he tinkered with engines of skiffs and the odd shuttle that came his way. Progressing arthritis had paid heed to his exertions so as she grew up Jex had become more involved in the repairs of the one-man repair shop. No wonder then, that she grew to love engines. It was the magic of discovering what lay underneath the surface, holding together old and broken down engines and making them powerful and thrum with life once again.

She shook her head, shaking off the memories of her grandfather and his passing away. He would have loved that his little Leoni was now a Starfleet engineer, a dream he had once aspired to before family life changed his dreams in another direction. She smiled thinking that he would also have loved the fact that her assignment was to a battered, old and weathered Miranda class vessel instead of some fancy top of the line ship.

Though of course, she now remembered a time when the Miranda was a top of the line vessel, or as near to when he had joined Starfleet. Jeodzi had bounded aboard their first posting ready and eager to take the helm. "Grrr ..." She suddenly vented in frustration. She wanted to access those skill sets now. The skill sets in which McGregor had placed his faith believing that her previous incarnation as a pilot would carry through to her life now. In part it did, her skill and proficiency with navigational controls vastly improved upon her being joined. Like so many aspects of her life, she found she had new memories and knowledge of skills Leoni never had before.

However, she had never expected to be call upon such knowledge primarily in order to complete a mission. However, that was what McGregor was demanding of her. Not demanding, asking of her. It was a crazy assed move on his part. It was crazier still for her to consider even going through with it. Yet here she was after spending all night in the Sims practicing the plan of action and finding the touch coming back to her naturally. She now found herself daring to undertake the mission. But she now found that her memories were fading as the time approached and her nerves grew.

"Bing bong! All senior officers please report to my office!"

 "You let your anger dictate you."

Startled, Leoni looked up to see the imposing figure of Rah Eyrrs Norr stood over her. The Kzinti's amber eyes drilling into hers with an intensity she found unnerving. She had heard the rumours that some Kzinti males had the ability to read minds. No one had confirmed or denied that their Chief of the Boat could do so. But the look he gave now, gave Leoni pause to wonder that it might well be the case as his penetrating look seemed to pierce her mind. After all, she had seen firsthand that many of the tales that circulated around the Kzinti were in point of fact true.

"I thought all the senior officers were called to a meeting."

"They are." A moment passed. "I am not an officer."

Jex shrugged. "As good as."

Again, the towering Kzinti took a long moment before replying. "Better."

"Huh! I bet you wouldn't say that to the captain's face."

"I do. Often. He agrees."

Jex stepped back as if measuring Rah Eyrrs up, in doing so finding a formidable opponent with no visible weakness or point of attack. "Not much for sentences are you?"

 Rah simply bared his teeth in a macabre smile. "No."

"I suppose the captain does not keep your kind for company."

He did not move a whisker in response to her tone. "No."

Smartly and boldly she retorted, "Or conversation."

Rah's ears furled forwards as he countered with a frightening grin baring fangs. "My kind talks through actions."

Jex felt her heartbeat race uncontrollably with such a visceral reminder of her past stood right in front of her. With wide eyes and her breath escaping her she just managed to whisper, "And pleasant conversation it makes."

His head rearing back as his nostrils flared inhaling the scent in the air. His whiskers twitched. "You allow fear to dictate you."

"Fear," she shrugged, "or common sense, either way, I think it wise."

He actually nodded his head approvingly. "You do not fear the way others do."

Jex could hardly hear him over the rapid rate of her heart or the screams echoing in her head. "Because I don't need to base my fears on myths or historical records like the others. I don't base my fears on what you are capable of. I've seen what your kind has done."

"Kzin are formidable opponents."

"Bloodthirsty, animalistic, brutal, savage, are words more apt to describe what you do." She looked at his claws as he worked his hands. The sharp tapering claws could cleave through flesh like a hot knife through butter. Ripping and shredding and dissecting their opponents even as they fell. Formidable was not the word to describe their savagery.

Rah bowed his head fractionally as if agreeing with her thoughts; this caused Jex to gulp fearing that he could read her mind. The Kzinti were a truly frightening spectre. To have one loom over you was to be under their power and spell. It was no wonder that many people thought they could read minds and control the minds of others. Such was their sheer dominating presence that one would do what they bid. Anything at all to end the fear, the chill through the body as a walking stalking death stood before you.

"Then you are aware of what I can do." She nodded. He waited a moment before continuing. "Understand then why McGregor makes use of me."

Again, Jex nodded imagining that Rah was but a tool for McGregor, a weapon to be wielded. More than that, he was an animal to be unleashed and let loose on McGregor's enemies. Though her voice wanted to fail her, she said in a trembling fearful voice, "I know what to expect to see on the mission." He nodded but his amber eyes bore into hers. "And I can cope with it, if that is what you are concerned with." He gave no commitment to what he was concerned with. Instead, he stood there immovable and looming. "Know this, I will work with your kind, with you, I don't need to like it, but I will do my job and I will not be frightened by your presence."

Rah smiled, it almost seemed genuine, before turning away and leaving the room. Her breath came back to her. Jex felt her heart rate slow somewhat even though adrenaline still raced through her body. Her gut churned still as memories, horrible memories flooded her head. But she did not allow herself to dwell on them. She would not allow herself to relive those horrors of centuries past. She slumped back down into her chair placing her shaking hands flat on the table in some vain hope to still them. Closing her eyes she allowed the fear to ebb away, it meant she had to allow herself to feel the fear, to embrace it somewhat and even be tainted by the memories it dredged up.

... the smells ... the sounds ... the chill of the night air ... the dampness of the mist that shrouded around her ... the mossy peaty smell of the soil she lay face down on ... the bitter taste on her tongue of blood ... the scent of fear and piss and blood in the air ... the sounds of howling and wailing ... the terrible cries that echoed in the night sky ... oh the blood curdling cries ... the calls of Kzinti to other Kzinti as they hunted in the forests ... the snapping of twigs as the Kzinti neared, crashing through the forest  hunting them down ... eviscerating them ... shredding and dissecting ... devouring on the flesh ... savouring the blood ... sating their tastes ...

Tears spilled from her as these memories threatened to overwhelm her. With the palms of her hands, she wiped them away. She sucked in a greedy breath and controlled her breathing. The memories clawed at her mind but she resisted their pull. She was Jex but she was also Leoni Jex. She had survived that. She had lived, lost, learned in the time since then. She had mothered children, steered careers and forged new lives since that time. It would not defeat her fortitude. She was Jex, she was Leoni, she was Jex Leoni.

A long moment passed before she shook her head and then pressed the reset on the simulation. "Let's run this through one more time." She pressed the button to set it in motion, her mind focusing on the choices and calibrations she would have to make. "I can do this."

* * *

 

Rah stalked off towards the main hanger bay itself ducking through the seal hatch doors such was his height. From the upper gangway, he looked down on the quiet hanger deck. The two Stallion craft to be used in the assault by the boarding party were presently sitting isolated and quiet. Though in truth, the Stallions were always ready for an immediate launch in case of an emergency. A flight and rescue crew was always ‘standing‘ready in the adjoining room. A new shift was due to begin in less than fifteen minutes. The normal procedure for said crew would be to run tests and checks on the Stallions and the stowed equipment as a matter of fact regardless that the previous shift would already have ensured everything was as it should be. Then the crew would drill an emergency launch and record their response time. If it did not meet their target, they reset the drill parameters and began again. Then the crew would either retire to the flight operations room to run through procedures or to assess past missions. These mission recording would be from their own, another teams on the ship or from another Border Patrol vessel. McGregor was keen that the crews would learn from the practices and experiences of other crews. It was a strangely logical practice instilled by McGregor. The ships traded logs and video feeds with one another as different crews had different experiences and specialist training.

This practice was of course in addition to any official debriefings after an actual launch or mission. Depending on the nature of said mission, senior officers would sit in with the post analysis debriefings and contribute to the success or failures of the missions. The Captain himself was always in attendance at such debriefings always looking for a way to refine and improve tactics and approaches and gain insight into novel ideas that might have work instead. It often led to very open and frank debate as various persons argued one option or approach over another. Something McGregor encouraged so that everyone would be better informed for the next time. Even past mistakes were valuable learning exercises.

For now, Rah took in the silence of the moment before McGregor's orders would start filtering through the system. Even as he held his briefing with the senior staff, Rah knew that time-coded orders would start launching in the next five minutes to pertinent departments ahead of the operation, which would be, by McGregor's reckoning, in a number of hours.

Behind him, the access through to the flight operation centre was to be seen through the open hatchway. In the immediate room behind him was the hanger deck's control room to one side with the larger space belonging to the stowage and repair area for the Kestrel's compliment of Wasp and Killer Bee fighters.

The tall muscular well honed figure of Senior Petty Officer Mila Chomsky strode towards him. Her heavy footsteps pounding on the metal grating of the catwalk as she approached. It was of course part of the soldier in her. Breach and Assault missions such as the one ahead of them were par the course for Chomsky and she could stalk with a light foot when she needed. However, in approaching the Chief of the Boat, Mila tended to announce her presence ahead of reaching him. She knew his capabilities when surprised or attacked and preferred not to risk any instinctive reaction.

Clasping her hands behind her back to stand at parade ease at Rah's side, the Ukrainian stopped to inform Rah. "I've Alpha Team getting organised as ve speak Boss. I figured the little ‘bing bong' announcement meant the captain had something cooking."

Rah turned to give her an appraising look and there was a hint of amused pride at her prompt deduction. He nodded his head in a satisfactory acknowledgement. He pulled out a PADD and extended it to the SPO. "Here is the recipe." Her own head bobbed as she reached for it and looked down to examine its contents. Her short dirty choirboy bob cut fell over her face as she did so.

It was her turn now to nod in a satisfactory manner as she took in the details of the mission. Scrolling down the PADD she took in the details of the captain's plan and various contingencies. "The Skipper has been busy. It could be fun. She is the pilot?" She nodded her head back through the open hatchway to where Jex could just be seen scrutinising the plan of attack in the operations centre.

Rah did not look back. Instead in his gruff voiced affirmed it. "Yes."

"She looks," Mila shrugged, "a little frazzled." Rah looked up to give Mila a dark look. "If you don't mind me saying. You have not been scaring the ensigns again on the Skipper's orders?"

"No."

"That is good."

"Just a ... past life."

"Hers, or yours?"

Again, Rah's amber eyes narrowed and gave a glimpse of the predator he was. A low growl reverberated from deep within.

Mila held her hands up in mock surrender. "Forget I said anything then."

"Hers."

Mila stuck out her bottom lip as she mulled on the complex lives of a joined Trill. "I cannot say having a parasite living in my gut would make me anything but queasy. Why now though?" She barrelled a look back at Rah knowing that something more significant must have happened.

"Memories. Bad memories."

"Oh?"

"From the Kzin Wars."

"Oh!" Mila looked through at the waif of a girl and wondered how it was that such a delicate slender figure could have survived the atrocities of that era. Then she shook her head to remind herself that it was the host inside and not the girl on the outside that had survived. It was hard to separate though in Mila's head. "It was a long time ago though. A past life. Before you Boss. Try to remember, those are not your sins to bear."

He darkly growled, "I know that." He bore his teeth showing the long sabre fangs. "My sins are my own."

"And you have tried to make amends for them. Do not take on the bad memories of another era for you to settle."

"I have enough to make amends for?"

She shrugged. "Only you and God above can tell that for sure. Regardless, I will as always pray for you, your soul and your safety of course too."

"You may pray." He looked down at his paws as his claws slowly extracted and then retracted. "And I will do what I do best. I will slay."

* * *

 

 

 



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