Part of Starbase Bravo: Q3 2400


Starbase Bravo, Officer's Rec Room
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The officer’s Rec Room was speckled with various games. There were tables for card playing, billiards/snooker/pool tables, hoops for shooting balls, cases along the far wall housing many board games, an area equipped with many old Earth video game computing devices, and of course a few holo-tables in the event a desired entertainment amenity was not otherwise available. In this case, Heriah wanted to get better at Plek’et, a little known Trill board game.

Though meant to be two-player, Plek’et was able to be played by an individual. Before her were two boards. Both were set up identically. In traditional Plek’et, both players would play both boards at the same time. Seeing how Heriah was playing alone, each move she made on one board, the holoprogram would mirror that move as her invisible opponent on the other board where she would move to counteract the move she made on the previous. And then that move would be mirrored on the first.

All too often, Heriah realized that simply explaining the rules was confusing to others, to include Trill who were unfamiliar with Plek’et. One had to play to fully understand and appreciate the simplicity and complexity of the game. All in all, it was truly a mental exercise in attention and focus as well as symbolical of the duality of the Trill, especially those who were joined.

Heriah, after many moves, found herself becoming a little frustrated as she found little opening to adequately attack or defend on either of the two boards. Then again, her invisible opponent was only herself. Trying to get the upper hand upon herself and besting herself proved a dilemma. She knew all of her own moves and would have to make a sacrifice somewhere if she hoped to find an advantage over herself or to exploit one of her own weaknesses.

“Come on,” she said barely audible, “you have to make a mistake some time.”

Many moves later and still the boards seemed in a stalemate.

From over Heriah’s shoulder a voice asked, “Who’s winning?” His voice was smooth as caramel, just on the edge before burning.  Zig-zagging around the table, Elegy Weld presented himself to Heriah as her interloper and game-interrupter.  It was the first time he had crossed paths with Heriah out of uniform, which meant Elegy was clad in a sleeveless tunic and overly-complicated boots he’d imported from Betazed.  He had a drink clutched in one hand; it looked fizzy with a sliver of citrus peel in the glass.  From the way he was shuffling, it didn’t appear to be his first glass of the evening.  Elegy placed his drink on the table and he knelt down on the deck to examine the Plek’et board close up.

Out of uniform herself, Heriah was simply in a shirt and a pair of leggings. Nothing special or meaningful in any way. Her clothing appeared mismatched; like she threw something on and left her quarters.

Her eyes danced back and forth between the two boards, wondering how she was going to get the advantage against her opponent; herself.

Those dancing eyes added a step by looking at him a time or two. “I am. I think,” she answered.

‘Perhaps I am winning.’

“Shut up,” she said. Heriah’s eyes then stopped their dance and she looked intently at Elegy. “Sorry sir…er…Elegy. Not you. I was not telling you to shut up. I was…” and she glanced down at her torso ever so briefly. “Telling myself really.” Those eyes returned to the boards and she finally made a move and the invisible opponent moved a piece on the other board, again mirroring the move she made on the previous.

“Have you ever played Plek’et, Elegy?” she asked whilst contemplating her next move.

Looking up at Heriah, Elegy shook his head and he frowned.  “No, I can’t say I have,” Elegy answered.  He stood to his full height and he continued his meander around the table to examine the second game board.  He waggled a finger at a couple of the game pieces, tracking the similarities between the two boards.  Tilting his head, Elegy asked, “What’s it like?”

“It is not too dissimilar from the Earth game of Hnefatafl. Only you are playing both games at once. There is supposed to be a mathematical equation you can apply to help you play the perfect game and win, but I cannot see it.”

As Elegy listened to Heriah’s answer, he invited himself to slouch into the chair opposite her.  He stretched an arm across the table to reclaim his drink and place it down within his reach envelope.  Squinting at the boards, one corner of Elegy’s lips turned up in an unconscious smile.  “I think my grandparents used to play it on hot summer days…” Elegy said aloud, at the same time the memory came to him.  Clearly suspicious of a game that required mathematical equations, Elegy dubiously asked, “Do you find it more relaxing or stimulating?”

Still, on both boards, Heriah saw no avenue for a move to provide her with the upper hand against herself. “Frustrating actually,” she said. “I mentioned the Earth game of Hnefatafl. Well the game had uneven sides for the players. And each of the two players has a different goal to achieve. It is customary for the players to play two games, switching sides after the first. With Plek’et, the players are playing both game, both sides at the same time. He who can win both games is considered the Plek’et master. I…” she say back in her chair with a sigh, “…I am playing myself and cannot seem to get the upper hand, one way or the other.” She looked at the boards then away. “It is also supposed to be a contemplative exercise for us joined Trill.”

Heriah shrugged, not wanting to play anymore. “I must not be in a contemplative mood right now.”

Mirroring the expression, Elegy shrugged back at Heriah.  “I’m not even joined,” he said.  There was something sheepish about his delivery, but that, in itself, appeared to be performative.  “I should hope we unjoined are capable of contemplation too,” Elegy said sardonically.  The apparent humour in his eyes couldn’t quite hide the chip on his shoulder about this topic.

“Oh yes,” she said in a start of realization. “I was…”

‘Speaking without thinking.’

“…speaking without thinking. I’m sorry, Elegy. Yes all are capable of contemplation.” She looked at him, almost envious.

‘Beginning to wish you had never joined with me?’

“I sometimes think…back to that time, before my joining. Things were simpler then.” She waved a hand over the holotable and the Plek’et boards wafted away to nothing. “If I may ask,” Heriah seemed a little nervous to ask this, but, “what are your views on joining? Do you see yourself seeking a joined life?”

Elegy didn’t really need to think about it.  “I don’t want to be joined,” he said, shaking his head with an apologetic sneer.  Although he didn’t say the words, his green eyes widened, almost pleading with Heriah not to be upset with  him for dismissing such a pivotal experience of her own life.  Elegy explained, “I understand it’s a fusion.  I don’t fear being overwhelmed by the presence of the symbiont exactly.  But if I were to become Elegy Rex,” –he waved a hand at Heriah, only using her symbiont as a conversational example– “then what becomes of Elegy Weld?  Would I be gone?  Consumed by the new being I become?  Maybe it’s foolish of me, but that sounds like a kind of death.”

Heriah had no words at first. She did not her understanding and a similar smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “It is…as you say, ‘kind of.’ But it is also a kind of birth. And you are also right. Elegy Weld would be gone.”

‘Convince him to seek joining. Then he would not be a shrink anymore.’

“So, I perfectly understand your position. I…”

‘…was grabbing at straws to make something of yourself. Because you didn’t have the strength.’

“…only have my joining with Rex to go on, so I have no basis of comparison. I could tell you how things have gone for me.”

‘Only if you are honest with him, with yourself.’

“But I would not dare tell you that you are missing out.”

Looking to Heriah, Elegy nodded at her offer to tell him about her own experience, in her own words.  There was only curiosity in Elegy’s eyes.  Heriah had never spoken quite so frankly about herself, in the weeks Elegy had known her.  Without the sardonic edge he’d used earlier, Elegy genuinely asked, “If it’s like a birth, a different way of being that I’ve never experienced, aren’t I ‘missing out’ by definition?”

“By definition,” Heriah repeated, “yes. But it has been my experience that when someone says, ‘you are missing out,’ it is their way of indicating that the way they have taken is more advantageous. In the case of joining with a symbiont, it is more of a road-not-taken scenario. Both are advantageous, but in different ways.”

‘What of the ‘Book of the Joined’ where your name will forever be displayed? The name of Elegy Weld will pass away into oblivion.’

Heriah threw away Rex’s shallow and petty thought. “For myself, I saw it to be more advantageous to seek joining. I dreamed of it in fact and, for a time, that dream was denied to me until…” Heriah looked down at her torso then reconnected with Elegy’s eyes, “…until Rex needed a host. And…to be honest,” she continued. There came a thought she felt she needed to out before deciding against it. “…I did not see myself going anywhere without being joined. I did not see myself as anyone or anything special.”

‘See? You need me.’

“And Rex…Rex was my final opportunity to fulfill that dream of mine.”

‘That dream turned into a nightmare.’

“That dream turned into…more than I ever imagined. That is not to say this road is always smooth, fun and advantageous. It has its challenges.”

Had this been a counseling session, Elegy would have asked Heriah to elaborate on the challenges.  As a drink between colleagues, he supposed he would allow Heriah to share that only if she wished.  To some degree, he had already been informed of some of those challenges by Heriah’s previous counselor, Rikata Mol.  Taking another sip of his drink, Elegy followed his curiosity to ask, “In what way has it been more than you imagined?”

‘You did not imagine having to argue with me all the time.’

“I did not imagine the bureaucracy of being joined. My name gets written in a book. I have a level of responsibility to adhere to, yearly reports and…well I am sure you were clued in on the manner of my joining. You were given certain details. I do not need to know.”

‘I want to know. What information did the Mole give him?’

“I was aware of the game called Plek’et; had played it a few times prior to being joined with Rex. Never really understood the game myself…until after. I never imagined a joined life with Rex being so similar to Plek’et. A game with uneven sides where both players have differing goals, but playing two games at the same time with each player playing different sides on each board. On this side I am on the offensive, and defensive on the other side.”

Heriah looked at the powered down holotable and envisioned the two boards. “I never imagined I would be on the defensive as well as offensive with my symbiont. We are joined…yes…but it is like our goals are different. At first, Rex seemed to want to resist joining with another host. At the same time, he did not know why.”

Elegy considered Heriahs’ words with the same intensity he considered the bottom of his glass.  He took another sip, and he said, “I can’t be surprised about the bureaucracy.  My sister devoted years to the initiate evaluations and she wasn’t even selected for joining by the end of it.  It sounds like it would be frustrating, though, to be at cross-purposes with your own symbiont.  That practically defeats the purpose of the joining, doesn’t it?”

Heriah was minutely nodding her understanding and agreement. “Sometimes. The Joining Commission…has its ways. We never know the results of our tests. We simply take them and then are later called for joining…or not. I do not pretend to understand the methodology of their decision making. I do, however, know the feeling to devoting years to the evaluations and not being selected. I had actually given up, left Trill and went to Earth to join Starfleet. I had put my dream of being joined behind me and moved on. Then, one day, a call came from a doctor at the commission. I cannot say this will work for your sister, but giving up, putting it behind her and moving on may be the answer to finally, maybe, becoming joined.

‘You mean becoming stuck together; imprisoned together.’

“She took it very badly, being rejected,” Elegy shared, his voice going reedy.  He winced at Heriah.  “We don’t talk much anymore.  I always– maybe it was in my own head– but I always felt like she blamed me and my parents.  As if we said something we shouldn’t have done when we were interviewed, or if my parents hadn’t been disciplined enough in our education.” –Elegy shook his head– “I don’t know.  I probably sound foolish.”

“No, not at all. Family drama always has a way of making each individual member feel a certain way…on the inside. And they each feel they are the only ones. They also desire not to speak on it. The drama becomes dormant…and it festers.” Heriah started with a revelation. “Oh look at me! Jumping right back into counselor mode.”

‘To your boss no less.

“I apologize.” Heriah relaxed and forced herself out of that mode. But words were already spoken. She felt the need to finish. “It is no one’s fault and no one is to blame. My sisters and my mother refused interviews when the commission called. They each, in turn, threw up a hand,” she mimicked thus, “and told them to go away. My father, when they managed to find him…he just…made up stuff. Stuff like,” and she morphed her voice awkwardly into a male’s voice, “‘she is a prime example of a Trill ready to be joined’.” Returning her voice to normal, “My mother kicked him to the street before I can remember.” Heriah saw the same confused look in his eyes as she had in hers. “In the end, I find no sense, no logic the commission utilizes in its decision-making when it comes to who should become joined and who should not.” A realization came to her, perhaps a bit of knowledge from Rex, but from a source neither knew not. “Something tells me, your sister is perfectly able to be joined. The timing was just not in her favor.”

“Algorithms,” Elegy said in yes-and agreement with Heriah.  He up-ended his glass, finishing his drink.  Looking right at Heriah, Elegy went on with, “There’s no value judgment in the choice for joining.  It’s probably all algorithms that make the final decisions.  Managing risk and probability, in hopes of protecting both host and symbiont.”

“That is the best way I can think to explain it,” she said. “My counselor after my joining and at the Academy, Rikata Mol said pretty much the same thing after I continued to ask, ‘Why me?’ Even with that answer I sometimes wonder why and what-if.” She looked down at her torso and gave a small laugh. “What is meant to be will come to pass I suppose. If given the chance again…I do not think I would change a thing.”

‘You’re weird.’