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Part of USS Dvorak (Archive): Turnabout Imposters

A Recess is Declared

Camus II and USS Dvorak in orbit
Stardate 77165.8
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Lieutenant Junior Grade Yuulik waved her tricorder, vaguely, in the direction of the life-entity transfer device.  For all the ancient artefact’s import, the sensor readings on the tricorder couldn’t hold her attention.  After her own life-entity had been transferred into the body of Kellin Rayco, Yuulik had prided herself on how quickly she was adjusting to walking in his larger body.  Frankly, she had been the very first among the away team to learn how to walk without looking like a drunken sailor.  She had changed into a science teal uniform that fit Kellin’s body in a vain attempt to feel more like herself.  Before beaming down to the archaeological site on Camus II, she had also applied cosmetics that matched Kellin’s skin tone and flattened Kellin’s hair in a middle-part to evoke the symmetrical stripes of her own body’s hair.

Unlike the fine motor control, Yuulik continued to be confounded and disoriented by the visual and auditory information she was receiving through Kellin’s eyes and ears.  There was something about the visual spectrum Kellin’s Trill eyes perceived that was different from her own Arcadian biology, and yet she couldn’t quite describe the difference in words.  It was like that ancient thought experiment, questioning if any two sentient beings could confirm they both saw the colour teal as, objectively, the same colour.  Any descriptors they might use to describe the colour would always be relative to their own experiences.

It was through Kellin’s eyes that Yuulik found the life-entity transfer device far more fascinating.  Despite the way its mind-transfer abilities outstripped modern technology, the construction looked far older than the remains of structures left behind by the extinct people of Camus II.  The platform, and the stone facing against the wall, looked to be haphazardly carved out of rock; however, the composition of the stone was unlike any of the other materials in the caverns.  The differences looked all the more stark through Kellin’s eyes.  Large chunks of stone had crumbled from the device in the damage sustained before Dvorak’s arrival, and half of the hieroglyphic light elements were spitting sparks from further unseen damage.

Entering from a side chamber, Ensign Melchor Dolan closed the distance between him and Yuulik.  Given Dolan was inhabiting the body of Captain Taes, Yuulik withheld a flinch at his arrival.  Dolan’s gait was nothing like Taes’ gait; looking at him was like looking at some evil alternate universe doppelgänger.  “The other away teams have checked in, lieutenant,” Dolan reported.  He shook his bald head.  “We can find no remnants of the control panels Doctor Lester wrote about using to operate the device.  The Cardassians may have taken the control panels when they left or they were destroyed in the effort.”

Leander Nune padded cautiously towards the life-entity transfer device, brandishing his tricorder like a talisman.  The engineer gestured at a chunk of the stone facing that had been crumbled or removed.  “Doctor Lester’s notes say one of the control panels was here,” Nune said.  He frowned at his tricorder and he gave it a little shake. “I can find no evidence of what it was supposed to control.  There are no wires or crystals or fluid in the rock, nothing that would have transmitted instructions from the control panel.  I’m picking up no wireless transmissions either.”

“Between the tantalum shielding and the celebium radiation beyond,” Yuulik said, “I’m not surprised.”

“Then how are we going to operate the mechanism if it’s nothing but stone?” Nune asked.  “How can we get the engine started again?”

*   *   *

“I respect you too much to prevaricate, ensign,” was the first thing Captain Taes said when she came face to face with herself.  After the away teams had returned home, Taes had located Melchor Dolan sitting at the bar in the Orchestra Pit lounge.  Since their body swap, Melchor had changed out of the captain’s uniform and swapped into a uniform that better reflected his position as a staff archaeologist.  Captain Taes, meanwhile, hadn’t changed out of Dolan’s own science uniform since she had started wearing his body.

Taes made eye contact with Dolan, which was terribly disorienting because she could recognize those eyes as being her own eyes.  It was like she was staring in a mirror, asking permission from herself to behave badly.  No matter the discomfort, she wouldn’t be dissuaded from her mission.  She couldn’t think about much anything else.  Her mission would be all the easier given Dolan’s prototypical Zaldan brutal honesty.  Taes perched herself on the barstool beside Dolan and she crossed her legs.  She asked, “Melchor, can I have your consent to proposition Leander Nune?”

Dolan reacted with a rictus grin expression that Taes hoped she had never, in her entire life, made with her own face.  Dolan looked away.  He searched the room with his eyes, eventually spotting Leander Nune sitting alone at a table beside a viewport.  Returning his gaze to Taes, Dolan assumed a befuddled expression that looked more familiar to Taes.  “Why are you asking me, captain?” Dolan asked.

A little stridently, Taes replied, “I would never seriously consider it without your consent.”

“My–” Dolan started to say until the satisfaction of understanding dawned across his face, Taes’ face.  “You,” Dolan said, pointing at Taes, “want Nune,” he said, pointing at Nune, “to spend the night with me,” and he pointed at Taes again.

Her expression placid, Taes nodded once.

A quick laugh escaped Dolan, from deep in the diaphragm.  “I don’t know how to feel about that, captain,” Dolan said, his eyes widening.  He took a swig from his tumbler, and he took another.  “I’m equal parts shocked and disgusted and aroused and afraid.”  Dolan shook his head and he asked, “That must be inappropriate for a captain to do, no?”

Taes wasn’t shocked by Dolan’s reaction.  Her pleasant facial expression didn’t move a millimetre.  In fact, she had been prepared for this.  Taes said, “I’ll admit, a Captain fraternising with a crew member is morally complicated, but it’s not absolutely forbidden.  There are no regulations against it.”  Taes snatched up Dolan’s drink and took a swig for herself.  After giving the glass back, Taes touched the single pip on the collar of the uniform she was wearing.  She said, “In any case, I’m not the captain.  I’m an ensign, don’t you see?”

Dolan shot her a dubious expression at that.

“I can’t imagine,” Taes supposed, “you’ll ever remember what happened.”

Dolan’s expression changed.  Taes didn’t recognize that look on her own face.  Dolan asked, “Are you sure about that?”

*   *   *

“I respect you too much to prevaricate, lieutenant,” was the first thing Captain Taes said to Leander Nune when she slinked into the chair opposite him.  “And frankly, I probably don’t have the time for niceties.”  

As Taes settled into seat, her knees touched Nune’s knees under the table.  At that slight moment of contact, Taes could feel her heart-rate rising rapidly.  Nune had never elicited such a primal reaction in Taes’ own body, but she would be lying to herself if she believed she had never noticed how neatly he maintained his beard and fingernails.  Now in Dolan’s body, Taes’ physical reactions to Nune had become all the more intense.  By her reckoning, Nune possessed a curious mind, a chiselled jawline, a passion for life, and he always watched out for Kellin with such deep care.  Taes hadn’t been able to stop imagining a moment like this since she had locked eyes with Nune in the observation lounge.  Feeling lightheaded and giddy, Taes started to giggle.

Nune narrowed his eyes on Taes; his black irises cutting right through the heart of her.  Taes could imagine his Betazoid senses were picking up on her erratic emotional reactions.  Nune didn’t appear afraid of whatever he was sensing, because one corner of his lips curled up into a curious smile.  “I appreciate that, captain,” Nune said.

“You may not,” Taes said, tentatively.  She sad back in her chair.  The two of them were positioned beside one of the floor-to-ceiling viewports and she hoped the starlight made Dolan’s skin glow.  Taes didn’t leave Nune in suspense for another moment longer, when she said, “I’d like you to be my boyfriend for one night.”

“Huh,” was all Nune said at first, but Taes could imagine the gears turning behind his eyes.  Nune leaned forward and he rest his chin on his fist.  He kept looking at Taes, looked right at her.  Nune asked, “Would this be a double-date with your Oath of Celibacy?”

Taes responded in hushed tones, like she was talking about the tooth fairy while the children were out of earshot.  “The oath exists, largely, as a biological protection for humans and their ilk.   Betazoids aren’t as vulnerable,” Taes said.  “Besides, the exact language in the oath speaks about my body.  But this body has no such restraints.  Have you really… never… thought about this body?”

“It’s hard to say,” Nune replied evasively.  He leaned back in his chair, looking Taes up and down, as if for the first time.  Nune pursed his lips and then he said, “Dolan wears a uniform two sizes too large.”

Taes felt a sting of embarrassment flash through her.  Of course, a heartbeat later, she was dizzied by the idea of being rejected while inhabiting someone else’s body.  Why should it matter, Taes wondered, what Nune thought of Dolan?  Even so, she didn’t let it drop.  “Does that mean,” Taes asked, “you’ve never thought about it?”

Nursing his drink, Nune took some time to consider that question.  As lost as he became in thought, Nune never looked away from Taes.  “We’ve shared equipment at the gym on SB-72; we’ve shared a drink or two,” Nune admitted.  

Taes asked the question, as much as she made the suggestion, “You’ve never wanted anything more?”

Nune sighed a sigh of radical acceptance.  “I’ve never held his attention for very long,” Nune said, and he said it as a matter of fact.  “Since New Tenar, Dolan has become preoccupied with Trill spots.

Catching Nune’s meaning, Taes rolled her eyes.  “And heaving pecs, I’m sure,” she said knowingly.  During the long humid days of the archaeological dig on New Tenar, Kellin Rayco had always been the first to take off his uniform tunic and offer to carry away refuse that was in the path of the science officers.  He had a certain reputation among the crew now too, after he had stood up to Yuulik’s Machiavellian leadership style.  Kellin had always been open with Taes about flitting in and out of several overlapping relationships in the short months Taes had known him, but she had never heard him mention Dolan.  

Taes laid a hand atop Nune’s hand on the table, and she stroked his wrist with her thumb.  “If I’m honest with you,” Taes said, “this Dolan is preoccupied with you.”

“Is that wise, captain?” Nune asked, and he said it like a question.  There was no implication in his timbre of what the right answer would be.

“I’m not the captain, Leander,” Taes said, and she almost sounded like she believed it.  “Yuulik said it best: I’m an imposter in a red shirt.  I’m an ensign and you’re a junior grade lieutenant.  Believe me, this is not the time to be wise.  This is the time to make mistakes.  If I hadn’t been so baffled by Fedders back then, I would have spent those years very differently.

“Come back to my quarters,” Taes said.  “Make a mistake with me.”

Subtly, Nune tilted his head in the direction of the bar, where Dolan was sitting.  “I saw you talking to him first,” Nune said.  “What does Dolan think of all this?”

Taes scraped her teeth across her lower lip.  She smiled and she said, “He asked if he could watch.”