Juliette Sri was apologizing. Again. Weaving, and apologizing. She could tell from D’Shyv’s stiff responses she wasn’t doing a very good job.
“I thought you wanted some space with Tran.”
Sri frowned. The storms of Andoria were bone biting cold. Sri herself had nearly frozen to death hiding in the secondary hull of an ancient starship. Sunny days compared to the frost responses of an irked Aenar. Blind as D’Shyv was, she briskly maneuvered and angled herself through the traffic of Deep Space Nine’s promenade. A pale, aloof ghost haunted by the living. Sri felt her own peevishness at chasing after the D’Shyv creeping growing, and persisted with the verbal, if only because she knew it irritated her.
“I did. I thought you’d have something in common – talk about the homeworld—“
Homeworld? You know nothing of us, Lieutenant Commander. Her use of Sri’s rank dripped with contempt, and Sri bit back anger. We may share a planet, but we are different worlds.
“All the more reason to get to know him. You wanted to find out more about the universe. Perhaps starting closer to home –“
Not wanting to be around them is not the same as not knowing them. I know all I need to know of Andorians, thank you.
“I find Tran reasonable company.”
Then you be his Shen.
Sri paused. “Shen? Wait, what? I thought there needed to be four…”
Two is fun, three is practice, four is a child. D’Shyv replied with a singsong in Sri’s mind. Sri blushed despite the privacy of her telepathy.
You’re the only other telepath on the ship, and inerts are so … so loud. Why do you bother with vocalizing? Your mind is such music while your voice is-“ D’shyv’s words glowed contemptuously in Sri’s mind.
Sri stammered incredulously at D’shyv, groping for the words to respond to D’shyv the lonely, D’shyv the bigot or D’shyv the mean spirited. She had no words for any of them. She stopped letting the verbal fail her and reflected D’Shyv’s words back at her, repeating them from each angle. D’shyv pulled her presence away from Sri a little – ashamed.
In that moment, a presence slid between them so delicately Sri barely noticed it until it suddenly burst against her awareness so suddenly she barely had time to make her mind a rock for the wave to crash against. The deafening roar blasted her with a cold spray of understanding. As it ebbed, she followed, leaving D’shyv dumbfounded.
Sri? Did you feel that? Sri?
But Sri was already gone.
Sri arrived at the primary sickbay just as they docked the stretcher into the bio station. The figure within was small, cocooned in blankets. Medial attendants buzzed about like ants. They were speaking, but Sri didn’t hear them with her ears.
The patient was Matron Karissa Sheldt of the Eighth House of Betazed, Keeper of the Sacred waves, Guardian of the Eye of Dran. Hero of the Dominion Occupation. For the truest of believers, she was a scion of the slayer of the Demon Agonaretes. Sri had long since stopped believing in demons, but if she had, the matron’s presence was exactly the kind of terrible magnificence she’d expect of one that slew them.
Sri was vaguely aware of the attendant hand on her arm, his voice slow and dragging as he asked her to step back. She was more keenly aware of the Matron’s bodyguard’s hand on the technicians elbow, and his articulate statement that Sri was not only wanted, but necessary. The technician had the uncertain expression of one who couldn’t quite tell what they were feeling, but knew enough to release Sri’s arm, leaving her to proceed.
Her skin prickled as she passed through the veil of the Matron’s presence. Once fully inside. Sri remained quiet both verbally and mentally, as she waited for the Matron, whose presence was far less intrusive than the contact on the Promenade.
You are Juliette, the Second Scion of House Sri.
Feeling the title awoke a familiar ache in Sri. House Sri, 433rd of the Pentahectat offers its very best to House Sheldt, eighth house of the Decadat.
House Sri is 417th now. Your Matron has served your house well. The mantle of second scion gives you pain?
Sri took a deep breath. My sister was to be second scion. She passed in service to Starfleet.
So much pain for a loss so distant.
She was dear to our entire house.
You awoke to your abilities very young and were ranked highly.
Not as high as you, Matron. Sri replied respectfully. Few ever rated as high as the Matron of House Sheldt. Not without complications. My skills came with a price. Sri lightly rubbed her gloved fingers together.
You were on Vulcan several years. I am pleased they served you well.
Sri glanced at the bio bed monitors which were turned discretely out of Matron Sheldt’s view. She kept her expression clinical as her momentary glance became a careful read, and realized too late that her connection to the matron let her see as well.
There is nothing there that I do not already know, Scion of House Sri. The war will have its due. So many lost, then.
Matron, I believe I could prescribe a course of Thorominds to reduce the cerebral seizures—
The Matron’s tone was patient. Dr. Barnett attempted a such a treatement before I left Betazed. They were ineffective.
Cortical Neuralizers have been known to have a multiplying effect— Sri cataloged a series of treatments, her mind searching through techniques and medicines until the mantron’s pull for Sri’s attention rang through her mind like a bell. She stopped, her hands demurely in front of her, her head slightly lowered, her focus entirely on the matron of House Sheldt.
What are our watch words, House Sri?
Look at the readings again. Be Compassionate. Be Honest.
Sri looked. She saw. You are – You have cerebral hemorrhages and the arterial walls are failing throughout your brain. As the arteries fail, portions of your brain will cease to receive blood flow. Your autonomic functions will stop.
Scion of House Sri, I did not call to you to be a Doctor. It is passed time for that. My House’s scions are on Terra. They will be days to reach this station. I do not have days, do I, House Sri?
The readings gave Sri little opportunity for good news. I am sorry, you do not. Matron Sheldt had a day, at most a day and a half before before total cerebral collapse and would die alone long before her family could attend her passing.
You are familiar with the ascension?
Sri briefly nodded, feeling a brief chill along her back. Yes Matron, although I have never--
When we pass, we travel back through the construct of creation to become part of everything again.
What is the construct?
The construct is there for the world to exist, it is highly allegorical, with basic symbolism to give a common understanding –
So clinical. The construct is a thing of poetry and beauty, House Sri. It must be felt to be understood.
Sri took a breath. The construct was meant to guide the elements to earth, in a way that the earth could exist in balance. The elements come from that which is everything, in a state so pure they would destroy everything. To prevent that, they flow through vessels which hold most of what comes in and rations a smaller portion to the vessels below. Each vessel has a meaning -- intuition and wisdom or submission and control. The universe is the vessel with that holds the final mixture in balance.
And what are the channels from Fire and Air to Earth and Water, House Sri?
The channels are Mercy, Severity, and Balance.
Very good, and do you know what happened to the vessels?
Sri thought, trying to remember her earliest schooling. Vulcan had their own older teaching, that in some ways were similar and yet. Vulcans were not Betazoids. I do not, Matron.
The vessels could not contain everything that came from the Entrance to All. They cracked and in turn those beneath them cracked as well, until even the chalice of the universe is broken – it suffers, but not from too little mercy and severity, but too much.
Forgive me Matron, but I do not understand the idea of too much mercy in the universe.
In time, you will. But for one who has not made the journey, you seem to know it well, House Sri. Ascension is not just comfort for those passing, but for those they leave behind as well. The journey brings them together as close as two minds can be, before separating until they also pass and are re-joined beyond the elements.
As she felt the matron’s presence press against her, she felt a cold moment of despair. Sri took a step backward, her mind flailing to contain a mix of emotions she didn’t easily understand. Her apprehension came from deep within and a mix of hidden truths – truths with teeth.
You can help, House Sri. Just because they cannot be here for me doesn’t mean I cannot be there for them. There are things I want my family to understand, things for them to experience. I ask you to hold on to my memories until they arrive, House Sri – you are strong enough to do so.
The words and the emotions behind them were disjointed. Sri took another step, passing through the aura of the matron’s presence. The presence felt syrupy and thick as it clung to her skin, tugging at her.
Matron, there are other Betazoids on the station. Together they could—
I have already felt their presence, House Sri. They are capable, but they are not strong and there are things I would share only with House Sri.
The words rang with foreboding. Juliette formed a diamond shell around her mind. Matron, I need a moment to think… but the matron could see the refusal underneath her words. She felt the bodyguard’s intent to grab her and she twisted out of his reach, and dimly heard the matron tell him to stop. She could only repeat. I’m sorry Matron. I cannot. I just cannot.
House Sri, please. I do not wish to go alone. It is…not natural for us.– let me feel a friendly presence before I go.
Sri pushed the matron’s words out as she stumbled out of sickbay, nudging her way past the nurses and attendants, her vision blurred with tears and panic. At the doorway, she broke into a run.