Looking Glass Life - The Other Side

by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2253)

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The Agent watched impassively - as impassively as one could at a moment this important - his hand poised over the intricate machinery disguised as a medical scanner. His own guise was that of a Romulan healer. Before him lay a young Warrior who had been gravely injured in battle. As he had been instructed, the Agent reported that there was nothing Romulan healers could do to help the Warrior. He was dying – and so was his much older, much decorated and honorably retired Bonded. The older Romulan knelt at the bedside of his beloved, tears flowing freely from the stricken eyes. The younger's beautiful face was hideously burned, his mind clouded with the drugs that had been given him to combat the terrible pain. He reached a mutilated hand toward his Bonded’s face, the name trying to form in the lipless mouth. The agony that was shared between the two men rivaled anything the Agent had ever witnessed or experienced, even in his own thorough, relentless training.

The Agent tensed. The moment was at hand. He could sense the rising fear and rising pain within the Romulans as their Bond began to tear – and he pressed the hidden switch in the apparatus. He felt the miniature, modified quantum transporter as a shroud pulling around their awareness, separating them from the - three, two, one - lifeless bodies. He had no idea how it manifested to them, and would likely never know. Their tel-empathic signatures, their consciousnesses - what some would call spirits or souls - were held in a stasis field ready to be to be reawakened within new bodies when Intelligence saw fit. Circumstances, and their final memories, would tell them that they had died, and that was all the Agent was required to care about. His own excitement and satisfaction at this successful implementation of a new and potentially devastating weapon in Intelligence's arsenal was of import only to himself.


"We can bring him back to you," the calm voice said, "whole and as beautiful as you remember. But of course we require something in return."

Tarvak of the House of Merad could not move. He could not turn his head. He could only see what was apparently projected before him. His telepathic senses told him his Bonded, his beloved, was in terrible pain and that those who spoke to him of such a miracle were neither Romulan nor to be completely trusted. He attempted to speak and found his vocal chords would not function. There was a chuckle from somewhere beyond him - that was yet from somewhere inside him - which sounded ugly though was just as clearly intended to be sympathetic.

"Don't try to speak, we are more than capable of hearing your thoughts."

What would you require?

"Your Bonded is exclusively qualified to go on a small mission for us. All we ask is that you convince him to do so, and to behave within our instructions."

Tarvak almost chuckled himself. If you believe I can persuade Joron to behave within anyone's instructions you clearly know little of him.

"If you wish him to live, if you wish to be reunited with him, we suggest you find a way."

You are not Romulan, Tarvak began. I am a loyal Warrior, as is my Beloved. We will do nothing to betray the Empire nor to further the goals of her enemies...

As if a curtain was being drawn back, Tarvak was flooded with his Bonded's agony, the sound of his screams, the smell of his burning flesh. He gasped, crying out, his mind reaching for Joron's to share and ease the pain. Shutters crashed over his thoughts, only the memory of Joron's plight racing along his veins.

"Or, we can keep him alive indefinitely, Tarvak," the voice said, just as calm as before, "just as he is now. Exactly as he is now." The emphasis was cruel and quite clear.

Tarvak could barely breathe. There was no honor in agreeing to this - yet Joron's anguish was a song of despair within him. Everything in his memory told him they were both already dead, yet had somehow been prevented from Journeying to the Altar of Souls. With a start he realized why he couldn't move; he had no physicality. And if Joron likewise was incorporeal - yet there was pain, unbearable pain. It was transmitted through the Bond as clearly as it had been in the Healer's rooms just after the accident. It was real enough, corporeal enough to cause his Bonded to writhe within Tarvak's thoughts.

And in those circumstances, whatever these voices asked of them could not be laid at their feet when they at last went before Kali’an and Telan.

The voice interrupted his thoughts, saying, "The choice, of course, is yours."

But Tarvak of the House of Merad had already decided.


Joron was at last comfortable, enveloped within the mind of his Bonded. The agony he had endured was nearly gone, faded at least into insignificance. Tarvak had tried to explain what had apparently happened to them both, but Joron had never pretended to be as well-educated in the sciences as his Beloved; he accepted what the older Romulan told him without too many questions. What he did have questions about was the 'mission' their not-terribly-beneficial benefactors had in mind.

What do they expect me to do once I 'inhabit' this Human? he asked.

My understanding is that you bring him to them, was Tarvak's reply.

If they are capable of the kind of technology that brought us.. Joron began.

Apparently the subject must be dead - or so near to it as to make no practical difference - for their soul-capturing device to work.

And simple kidnapping won't do?

There are things they are not divulging, my Beloved, this is true. But my choice is the same. I could not leave you to suffer.

The strength of Tarvak's devotion warmed away the vestiges of remembered pain. I adore you, my Kah'lir.

And I, you. And when this is done, we will Journey on together.

Joron snuggled into the presence of his Bonded. Together.


Noel DelMonde was drunk, possibly more drunk than he had ever been in his entire life - which was saying quite a bit. Nobody at Jeffie T’s would dare say a word to him or try to kick him out, even though they were set to close for the morning, but truth was truth. He was too drunk to keep drinking without vomiting inelegantly all over himself. He hated that - his moustache stank for days afterward and he'd have to wash his going-out clothes, which usually made him vomit all over again. But he was also too drunk to stagger home by himself. Which meant he had to rely on the broke-ass transporter just outside, since the street car would surely roil his tender insides.

He carefully avoided thinking about why he was more drunk than he had possibly ever been in his entire life. Which, of course, started his brain down that very road.

With an angry snarl he slammed his hand down on the bar.

"Shee-it, fuck it all," he growled and pushed himself off the bar stool.

The bartender moved back a little, apparently ready to dive out of the way if N.C. had misjudged and began emptying his stomach.

N.C. belched loudly, then tossed his last credit onto the bar. "I not have no more fo' bouborn anyway," he commented to no one in particular, then turned and made his way out of the bar.

He made it to the transport station without falling. He managed to punch in the proper coordinates by rote. The last thing he remembered before unbearable pain sliced through his skull was a brilliant flash of bright blue.


Joron of the Bor’ah House had been told that his entry into the mind of the Human he was supposed to deliver to those who were the Federation equivalent of the Telenate would be painless. He had been instructed to immediately shield himself, as the Human dei'lrn had not been trained. A moment of disorientation was all that he himself would feel. Or so he had been assured.

Instead, a ravening beast awaited him. It struggled within him, tearing at him like some monstrous creature gone mad. In an instant, Joron comprehended the reason for this overpowering reaction and recoiled from the memories that were crowding his mind. This Human was a psychic killer, the power he had as a dei'lrn to feel and feel deeply had been twisted by rage and grief into a projection that ripped through others' brains, destroying them from within.

Joron tried desperately to flee, but the apparatus which had allowed him entry to the body that he now inhabited was not under his control, nor did those who wielded it seem willing or able to converse with him. With no recourse left to him, he quickly did as he'd been told and tried to shield himself.

The Human's panic tore through them like so much wet paper.

Khrahkah! he cried involuntarily, the Romulan command that meant 'stop' - but of course, the Human didn't know it. In a panic of his own, Joron formed a shield around the mad beast itself. There was a hissing sound, then abruptly the Human fell to weeping, words spilling haphazardly into Joron's thoughts.

What you do... how you... non I not care, merci, merci, mon dieu, who are you, how you... non, non I not care, merci, merci...

The Romulan almost wept himself with the sudden understanding. This Human - this lost dei'lrn in a Human's body - far from simply not being trained had never even been given the most rudimentary of shields. He had been tormented by the emotions and thoughts of others his entire, long, painful life. He was grateful now, he would follow Joron's instructions like some hapless pet.

No wonder the Federation Telenate could not simply kidnap him. And no wonder they needed a trained dei'lrn to guide the poor creature.

And the most wondrous thing of all was Joron had comprehended it all in an instant of blue light.

The next instant shattered nearly everything. There was a spark, another flash, and Joron found himself not in a booth in a Terran city, but on the transporter pad of a completely unfamiliar ship. There were two Humans staring at him, one in a gold uniform, the other - a female - in red. She was scowling, an expression that rapidly changed to alarm, and he realized her intent before her arm even moved to the controls before her. With the rapidity afforded him by his ability to read her thoughts, he did something he would never do to a Romulan woman: he raised the small Romulan weapon the Federation Telenate had given him, firing and stunning her.

The male's responses were much quicker than he anticipated. Before he could reorient his weapon, he found himself on the receiving end of a powerful tackle. The weapon flew out of his hand, the breath knocked out of him. Still he struggled with all a Warrior's training. But he had none of his usual Romulan strength - and to his annoyance, he discovered the shielding that had protected him from his assassin hosts' abilities were also preventing the use of them on anyone else. The Human soon had him subdued.

As unprepared as he was for anything of this nature, Joron used his own natural gifts to perform a quick strategic assessment. The Human dei'lrn was and was not Noel DelMonde... both assassin and engineer for this vessel... which was a Federation destroyer, the U.S.S. Drake... under the command of the Human who had tackled him.... who was Takeda Sulu....

Get the FUCK out of my head! was abruptly screamed at him, barriers as solid as neutronium locking him away from the captain's mind.

Before he could recover from the psychic shock, he heard his own voice growling, "Who th' fuck are you?" - though it sounded nothing at all like his usual cultured, teasing tones.

"Del?" Captain Sulu asked warily.

The body he was in shivered. "You not call me that..." his 'host' started to say. Joron asserted himself.

"I don't believe anyone calls him that where he's from," he said. Within him, the Human who self-identified as "N.C.," choked in surprise.

The captain's eyes narrowed. "And just what do people call you where you're from?" he asked.

Joron considered that. He had no instructions as to how to deal with this. He had been told he would simply inhabit the Human body long enough to gain a foothold in his family and contacts. Nothing was said about a connection to the Federation's Fleet.

He gave his most persuasive smile. "I'm not sure I should tell you that, Captain."

He felt the fury of his host welling up inside him, the rage born of long years of disregard and fear. He found to his dismay that he couldn't completely control his own mouth.

"What th' fuck goin' on here?" his host demanded. He stepped forward, and it afforded Joron some satisfaction to see the captain take an involuntary step back. "If you in cahoots wit' the damned Orions you need to back th' fuck up an' get me back to my Uncle! I work fo' him, not some sad, slave-ownin', green-skinned bilge-rat!"

"Shit," the Human captain swore softly. "Can I trust you to just stand there while I look at the transporter for a minute?"

"Why I trust..." the Human dei'lrn began and Joron again pushed forward.

"You have my weapon," he said, "and you've already proven how fast and strong you are. I'm not sure 'trust' enters into it." He smiled again. Then he watched with fascination as the captain quickly evaluated the readings of the machinery before him, his dark eyes constantly - and appropriately - flashing back to his unexpected guest. The man was attractive - not in a Romulan way of course - but his features were more than pleasing. He found himself imaging what they would look like on a Romulan and for a moment could almost hear his Bonded's exasperated, Joron, behave yourself.

Joron? came from the mind of his host, and he saw the captain's head jerk up as if the man had spoken aloud.

"They're trying it again," he whispered, his tone a mix of revulsion and sympathy and fear.

That got Joron's attention. "Who are 'they' and what are they trying again?" he asked, although he was fairly certain he knew the answer to one of those questions.

"Nobody use me!" his host suddenly roared. "I do what I gotta - th' only t'ing I good at - but no one gonna make me do a damned t'ing I not ready t' do my own self!"

The captain moved forward. "Calm down, Del... N.C...." he quickly corrected. "I'm not gonna make you do anything..."

"I not know you," the Human dei'lrn growled. "This some damn drunk hallucination..."

"Listen to me, feel from me," the captain continued, his voice a calming, persuasive monotone. "I mean you no harm, you can feel that..."

"I feel too much all th' damned time!" his host wailed.

"I know you do, I know," Captain Sulu said, and from his momentarily unguarded thoughts, Joron heard, Damn, I wish I had some sapphire on me.

What is sapphire? he asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.

Not now, Joron, came the unexpected answer.

"Let me send you back - to your Uncle, was it?" the captain went on. "Just step back onto the transporter pads."

"You know what has happened," Joron said, again coming to the fore.

"Not entirely," Sulu replied, his fingers moving switches on the transporter controls. "All I know is neither of you is where you belong." There was an added, unspoken sentence: And I don't have a fucking clue how you're here at all.

What are 'they' trying again, Captain? the Romulan asked.

Espionage, transferring life energies, holding you and Tarvak - they have Tarvak, don't they? - hostage, forcing you to become double agents, came the answer - though Joron wasn't entirely sure it was the captain who was answering him. The mental emanation was too cold, too hard for the caring the man had just evidenced toward his wretched Human host. But I thought you were dead, he added.

Joron shook his head. "I am,” he said aloud.

That started a complete and utter panic within the Human body he was inhabiting; wordless, nameless terror of ghosts and demons and evil spirits. Joron could feel the power building within the dei'lrn and knew the shields he had erected were close to breaking. He stepped back into the transporter chamber - not afraid of what the power would do to the handsome young captain, but afraid of what the captain using the Romulan weapon on his host would to do him.

"Fight them, Joron," the captain said as he worked the machinery. "They have no honor."


Far from finding himself again in a dingy booth in a Terran city, Joron opened his eyes - such as it was - to Tarvak's welcoming embrace.

You were successful, Beloved? his Bonded asked, and his tone was filled with both sorrow and hope.

I don't know, Joron replied, more than a little bewildered. I - contacted the Human but... things didn't go as they told me. There was a Federation ship, a captain who somehow knew us...

Did you deliver the Human to the Federation Telanate? Tarvak interrupted.

Joron shook his head. Tarvak's sigh was tremulous.

Then they will not keep their bargain, the older Romulan said. We will not be allowed to Journey on.

The silence was heavy with anxiety and foreboding. After a time, Joron stirred in Tarvak's arms.

The Human captain said we need to fight them, my Kah'lir, he said hesitantly.

And you would trust the word of a Human?Tarvak replied.

He said they had done this before.

How did he...

He knew the Human I was supposed to inhabit, yet did not. His thoughts seemed to suggest - is this possible, Beloved? Another universe?

Parallel? Tarvak asked. I have heard of such things.

He seemed certain we had Journeyed... Joron ventured.

Tarvak's mind worked furiously for long moments, then he nodded and again settled Joron in his arms,

Then perhaps, my dei'lrn, he said softly, there is still hope for us.


N.C. felt the agony crashing down on him as New Orleans again materialized around him. He fell to the sidewalk, hitting his head on the pavement. There were people rushing up to him, and he recognized the telepathic signatures. They were the same people that had been coming around Josef's looking for him. He tried to push himself up, to summon the rage that lived in his soul, but succeeded only in vomiting in a fierce, almost projectile burst. Then there was a cool hand at his head, a soft touch, breath scented like scotch and soda and fresh beignets - and a sweet female voice he had never heard before murmured, "You've been done wrong all your life, Mr. DelMonde. Let me take you away."

He blinked, seeing hair the color of strawberries and gentle silver eyes and he knew her. His soul wept, catching echoes of music in her mind: There was love all around but I never heard it singing, no I never heard it at all,, till there was you.


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