Visions of Fire and Ice

Posted on Mon Jun 21st, 2021 @ 11:39pm by Commander Ovrora Sh'rholok & Fleet Admiral Sturnack
Edited on on Tue Jun 22nd, 2021 @ 12:17am

Mission: Episode 2: 18th and Constitution
Location: Starfleet Medical
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1359

[Starfleet Medical]
[Minutes after the explosion]

“Look at me, Sturnack,” a voice spoke from the ether. The inky blackness split for the barest of moments, light beyond light spilling into the void that was his mind. Flaring, glaring — it burned his brain even as his eyelids fought to block out the luminance.

“Sturnack? Are you with me?” the voice said again, this time accompanied by the snapping and cracking of fingers. Someone clearly wanted the Vulcan’s attention but, swirling in the miasma of his own katra, it was so hard to focus.

“He’s not responsive,” spoke the voice, now a murmur in the background of black. “We need to get him on the blood transfuser now. And I want 10cc of kelotane in addition to the dermaline gel. Go,” the distant directive sounded.

“Sturnack?” the fingers snapped again. “Sturnack, can you hear me?” He was so close to the surface now but, with the sudden wracking of his body, his mind loosened and slipped back to then.

“Sturny, are you even listening to me?” Ovrora sighed, rolling her eyes and mock-stamping a foot in the darkness. From the thud of her foot came the wellspring of color and definition that flowed back into the world.

As the scene coalesced around him, Sturnack understood where he was. Despite the Fleet Admiral’s pips and modern day uniform, the Vulcan was back on the USS Ulysses, stowing something or other in the small closet of the quarters he shared with the fiery Andorian woman behind him. He could practically feel her ire burning across his neck, chest, and right arm. It burned so hot he felt cold. Fire and ice...

“I am quite capable of hearing you, yes,” the middle-aged Vulcan finally turned to reply. “Did I appear somehow incapable?” he asked, blinking away the confusion of Starfleet Command, Romulans in the lobby, and something about an explosion. It was all meaningless dream imagery. Looking down at his service-issue blues -- now in place of what he'd worn only moments before -- told him all he needed to know. The future was, as yet, unmade.

"You've been staring at your closet like it might grow wings if you look at it long enough," the small Andorian woman replied, hands firmly on her hips. She sighed, flopping onto the bunk opposite of the Vulcan. "And noticeably avoiding my question," she continued. "What is going on Sturny?"

Ovrora Sh'rholok laced her fingers behind her head, crossing one booted foot over the other where she lay, not bothering to take them off even though she was typically picky about having them on when on her bed. Her antennae twitched back, almost as if they were responding to her emotional state. To match she wore a look of frustration. And perhaps... uncertainty?

Resuming his old life -- having thrown off the shackles of what was to come -- the Vulcan moved from the closet to sit on his own bed. Blinking, he regarded the Andorian with eyes far too hard for one his age; regarded her with the eyes of one who'd seen far too much but didn't know it. Sturnack seemed hesitant to respond to the woman's question, indeed confirming Ovrora's suspicion that something was amiss. But, in the end, the logic of leaving things unsaid doing little to resolve the situation drove the Vulcan to action.

"I will tell you," Sturnack nodded slowly, "but, as usual, my answer will not be what you wish to hear." Indeed, they'd had versions of this same conversation in times past. Thrown two years beyond Federation space and living together to boot, the issue had come to light initially and, though put to bed, it roused itself every now when the conditions were just right. Such as after Ovrora's latest conquest in their quarters the night before...

"Your nighttime activities," he spoke with purpose, "are none of my business. You are entitled to them. However," Sturnack drew himself upright, stiffening, "you are aware of how I feel about you, Oh." He'd come to shorten her name in their time together, both a sign of comfort with the woman and, perhaps, a willingness to meet her request for less formality. "It is exceedingly difficult to watch you...try out the members of this crew knowing that you regard me so little in comparison. Call it jealousy if you wish, I've no argument to deny such." He left it at that, hanging his head somewhat, eyes studying the steeple he made with his fingers then.

A deep breath eminated from the direction of the Andorian's bed. Even though months had passed since his admission, Sturnack's feelings still caught her off guard--both because she knew how highly her friend prized logic and also because she couldn't figure out how to respond. He was handsome and honest. Kind and gentle with her in a way that it was hard to explain, but also unafraid to say things that she didn't want to hear. By all rights he would be a great match. She had even considered it early on--giving a relationship with Sturnack a chance.

Truth be told she still considered it now, although so much time had passed that it felt less and less a consideration and more an unkindness to him. But no matter what angle she considered it from, they were stuck out in deep space. Far from home. Far from everyone they knew and loved. They were, for all rights and purposes, the only family each other had.

She had been quiet longer than she intended, a wash of self conscious embarrasment at her "activities" chasing after a feeling of frustration and lonliness. "I'm sorry Sturny. I truly didn't think you'd be back to our room. I would have insisted we meet elsewhere if I had known."

She turned over onto her side to face him, cerulean fingers tangling in her hair where she propped her head on her hand. "I..." she started, opening her mouth then shutting it. A deep sadness crossing her expression. "Sturny, I regard you more, not less. I don't know how I can convince you of that, but it's true. Trust me... you don't want to be one of my nighttime activities."

Perhaps that was true. Sturnack had seen how Ovrora treated her bedmates. Rarely was it the same person twice; he did not think he'd ever witnessed a third, fourth, or beyond. But then again, he'd not made it a priority to steadily observe her sex life. Such would be inappropriate for their friendship and damning to the closeness they did share. But a lack of repeat customers did not mean he wouldn't be the one to break the pattern. Perhaps, Sturnack thought to himself, I will be the exception.

But that hadn't been the case. And it never would be the case. So why was he stuck in this memory? For, indeed, his brain was now telling him this was such. This conversation had happened over hundred years ago; the present day found Ovrora as worm food, slowly rotting in the frozen ground of Andoria's permafrost-hardened carapace. Why was she here now? Why was he here now? It didn't make any sense.

"Is he...going ok?" came a concerned voice from somewhere else. It was hitched, as if the speaker were too emotional to get it all out in once sentence. The source of the words was both instantly familiar but also alien to Sturnack. Hearing her speak, a pair of red-rimmed eyeglasses appeared on Ovrora's face, the woman's hair now hanging down to frame them.

"What...what is going on?" Sturnack asked, physically moving himself backwards away from Ovrora Blake.

The spectre of Ovrora sat up on the bed, reacting to Sturnack's distress, hand reaching up to adjust the red eyeglases on her face.

"Sturnack?" she said, concern coloring her voice as he backed into a chair that hadn't been there a moment before. Her voice seemed to echo as if two voices spoke--her own and that of the owner of the red spectacles.

The Vulcan turned to look down as the tops of his calves came into contact with the chair.

"Sturnack?" Ovrora asked again. As he turned to regard her the space around them resolved into a sitting room. Cool blue light flowed in through windows around them showing off snow and ice as far as the eye could see. The space was cold by Vulcan standards, though the sight of Ovrora sent a painful flash of heat through his chest.

The small Andorian's age showed on her features. Crows feet met at the corners of her eyes and laugh lines crowded her mouth. But her eyes twinkled with the same happiness that they always did when she had seen him again after a long absence.

"Are you ok?" she asked, concern coloring her voice and expression, but unable to take away the warmth in her eyes.

This...this was Andoria? Sturnack could see such through the windows. But if it was so cold, why did his body burn so much? With a wash of agony, the Vulcan shuddered, feeling his back, neck, and arm flush so hot he wanted to scream. But the moment and its awful sensations passed and the past, again, settled its way in as a wedge-block towards his future memories. "Ov...Ovrora?" the Vulcan asked, eyes drinking in the sight of his most long-time friend.

She was older than she'd been a few moments before, though, and Sturnack became transfixed on her features: the wrinkles, laugh lines, and the spackle of age on her skin proved her advanced in years. Was that why she needed the spectacles? Had her eyes grown so old that she could not see without them? "I...I don't remember you needing glasses, Oh," the Vulcan said, eyes tracing the red-rimmed accessory gracing the woman's aged face.

His eyes were drawn suddenly to a picture hanging behind Old-vrora. In it, she and a male looked incredibly happy together, sweeping each other up in a twirl-hug of joy. Ovrora wore the customary dress of an Andorian bride while her groom -- or perhaps one of her grooms, as Andorians often formed coupled-together pods -- was bedecked in the trappings of marriage himself. Around the larger picture were smaller frames fully of children at various ages, all culminating in a family photo showing the children all grown and Ovrora and her husband stooped with age.

Sturnack raged inside at this view; raged at the life he could have had with her. But that rage was quickly recognized for having been dealt with some seventy years prior. It was the memory of rage that plagued him now. The memory of an old source of pain that was now fusing with something in the present. He felt the anger well inside of him even as his Vulcan techniques autonomically tried to suppress the emotions. He was furious that Ovrora was wearing those glasses...

"Take them off. Now," Sturnack said, his tone icier than the jagged mountains of the Oo'thahalan range outside the window.

Ovrora reached up in confusion, cool blue fingers gently grasped the the two arms of the eyeglasses that framed her face and pulled them off. She turned them around so that the lenses she had just been peering through were facing her. Curiosity splashed across her features, lighting up her face as if she were looking at a puzzle and not at a pair of eyeglasses. Her eyes narrowed slightly as she held them, fingers tapping the hinge where the arms of the spectacles folded inward.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, a look of joy and surprise flashing across her face as the color of the spectacles shifted to a shade of bubble gum pink and then a tortoiseshell pattern across the frames.

She looked up at Sturnack, still standing, his body tense with anger and stilled.

"Sturny?" she asked, as if speaking to a cornered animal. "What's wrong? What's going on?"

She held out her hand, coming closer so she was within a few steps of her friend. "Are these yours? I don't remember putting them on."

Put them on, a voice called out from somewhere again. sure to line up the edges with the gel perimeter.

Where was that coming from?! Sturnack -- tensed and ready to spring like a tika cat -- looked upward, as if he could see through the roof to whoever was speaking from all around him. His eyes found only the graceful lines of the sloped roof, however. The unseen source of the voice remained hidden to him, frustrating the Vulcan even further. And then there was Old-vrora, who was now approaching him with the color-shifting glasses and pretending she didn't know anything about them. How dare her?!

"What's wrong?" Sturnack knew he should be cold, unemotional; detached from the sensory triggers. But here in this place where the past mingled with the present, his own mental barriers and controls failed him. All the powerful emotions he worked so hard to control in his waking life were given free reign now, though not because Sturnack wanted such. The emotions were simply beyond his ability to tamper and stamp out. "Everything is wrong! You're dead, Ovrora. You have been for many years. And these..." he strode forward like a man possessed.

"These are not yours," the Vulcan sneered, snatching the glasses out of Ovrora's hand. "You have no right touching them. These belong to her, not you." Her? Her who? And why did Sturnack find himself so protective of the glasses? He didn't even know who they really belonged to in the moment; just that it was a 'her' and that 'her' was not Ovrora. "Why are you even here, Commander?" he asked the woman, using her rank to infuse some distance between them.

The Andorian woman paused where she stood, her hand falling back to her side. The emotion on her face morphed--a charicature of the expression she had worn the day he walked away from Starfleet when she had tried, one last time, to convince him to stay. "There's the irrational young Vulcan who swore his emotions had absolutely no sway over him even as he stormed out of our quarters too hurt and angry to think straight. I recognize him so well. Think Sturny. Think. If I'm dead then who are you really talking to?"

She gestured at the glasses clutched in his hands. "Of course those aren't mine. I never wore glasses. Who else could possibly have gotten you this worked up?"

It was a fair question. Two fair questions, actually. If Ovrora really was long dead-and-gone, who was he talking to now? A spectre of his own past? She wasn't memory, of that he was sure. She might be cloaked in the trappings of memory but events were discordant; her age kept changing and her appearance wasn't consistent. As Sturnack considered this further, the world shifted yet again and now, the Vulcan was positive that his own mind was driving whatever it was that was happening.

Ovrora lay in a hospital bed, those same mountains once again visible through her window. But this time, she was at least twenty years older. She seemed so...small in that bed. Small and withered, as if she'd been on the vine for far too long and become desiccated by the sun. The Vulcan remembered this day. The day he'd held Ovrora's hand and promised her he'd return to Starfleet. The day he'd met the rest of her family as they all crowded her deathbed. It was the day he'd allowed himself to reconnect only to forever lose her. He felt himself losing her again, even now. The more Sturnack thought about who owned those glasses, the further away and dimmer Ovrora in her bed became.

"No, don't go! I...I don't want you to leave. Please stay with me?" Sturnack asked, feeling small and scared as the blackness began to coalesce around him again. "I don't care who these glasses belong to. Please just stay, Oh." Logic should have been the death of emotion but here, in this place and at this time, logic was nowhere to be found.

Against all reason the light of the scene brightened as if the Vulcan was holding it in place by sheer force of will. In this memory the room should have been full, but, as he had surmised, the memory was merely a trapping. They were alone.

"Sturny," the woman rasped, her voice dry. She held out her hand for him. She'd done that on that day too, but on that day she had looked tired. Ready. This woman's eyes still held the warm mirth of the 27-year-old woman he had confessed his love to so many years ago.

Not pausing he took her hand, feeling the paper-like quality of her skin against his palm. "You promised me, Sturnack," the Ovrora in his head said. She took in his face, gauging his reaction, and shook her head lightly. "Not the promise in this memory. No."

Turning her head away from him she coughed, her blue antennae twitching as she did. Her chest rose and fell in a wheeze, tightening--holding--and releasing. When she turned back to him, though, it was that same look. "You promised me that you wouldn't let our story be the only one that defined your relationships. You promised you would try. You promised you wouldn't just survive, you'd live."

The lights in the mental room flickered, a pulse flowing through them both as if an EMP had been set off next to the hospital bed.

The whole world had flickered; shuddered; sputtered. It was as if time were running out on a clock somewhere and he was in a spatial fold that was collapsing in on itself. Sturnack wasn't ready to let the fold submerge and fade, though. Again the room brightened, everything stuttering and fluttering with sparks of energy. Everything wrenching itself into solidity in time with the grunts and gnashing of teeth coming from the Vulcan. He refused to let Ovrora go and, in his refusal, strained against the confines of his own mind.

"I...I did promise," Sturnack groaned, sweating with the effort of keeping Ovrora anchored in his dream-state. He felt as if he owed her the closure of knowing he would make good.

"Then get to it already," Ovrora quipped. "Find 'Glasses' and do something about it."

Another pulse, this one stronger shot through the room and the image of Ovrora quivered as if she were a hologram going out of phase. The whole room, in fact, thundered now, flickering in and out of the blackness like a viewscreen on the fritz. The burning of his body suddenly felt cold in conjunction; so, so cold. And with the cold came relief; relief in his body, relief in his mind -- relief of such sweet succor as he'd never known. But in that relief, he knew it was time to finally let go. Let go and let himself breathe again, no longer caught between the space of his own heartbeats, locked in a frozen moment of half-formed memory and time run amok.

"I promise," Sturnack whispered even as he woke.

"He's responsive," came the voice, no longer so far away now. "Let's up the kelotane by another 5cc. Sturnack," a face swam in the Vulcan's vision, "I'm Doctor Aphra Ch'lanti. You're at Starfleet Medical. You..."

"Dead. She...she died," Sturnack mouthed, his throat dry and his voice raspy as the air escaped.

"President Patel is just fine, Admiral," the Doctor replied, placing a soothing hand on the Vulcan's non-burned arm. "She didn't die and you're going to be fine, too. I promise, OK?"

"I promise," the Vulcan whispered again, his mind a hundred years away.

=/\= A joint post by... =/\=

Fleet Admiral Sturnack
Starfleet Command


Commander Ovrora Sh'rholok
Face from the Past
USS Ulysses and Beyond