Shara sat in her quarters, staring out the porthole, wishing she could lose herself in the dark, cold empty space beyond. After her encounter with Karissa, she felt as if she were falling apart, and in essence, she was. She was having to tear herself down in order to rebuild herself, but it was too painful and she wondered if it were truly worth the effort. As a child, she had wanted to be loved. She remembered one day in particular when she was six years old. She had picked several flowers in the backyard and had her favorite doll with her. The sun had been shining brightly. There were a handful of clouds in the sky, and Bylee Beasts flew high above her, making their haunting cries. She loved Bylee Beasts. They were large, much like Earth Eagles - birds of prey, only, they had a combination of fur and feather, and they were bright in color. But they were renowned for their haunting calls, as if calling to a loved one they couldn't find. She use to dream she was a Bylee Beast, calling out to the parents that she never knew . . .
This day had been such a wonderful day . . . Until she had gone inside and had seen her uncle. As soon as he had seen her with the flower chain she wear as a crown and carrying her doll, something dark entered his eyes.
"Hi, Uncle," she had smiled timidly. She could feel this emotions brew and instantly wished she could run away from him.
"And what were you doing today?" he asked, gazing at her with his cold, gray eyes made of ice.
"I was playing outside . . . Viana and I were having a picnic, listening to the Bylee Beasts . . ." Viana had been her doll's name, and the picnic had just been pretend.
Suddenly, without warning, he had approached her, took Viana out of her arms and pulled her head off, breaking her. He then took the flower chain off her head and tossed it to the ground. In the back ground, Miss Lupea Andreas stood shaking her head. Tears had immediately sprung into Shara's child eyes, as the doll was placed back in her hands.
"You will learn, one day, that strong people, do not play . . . That if you are not strong, the things you care about will be destroyed . . ." he had said.
He didn't even flinch as the tears
steamed down his niece's face, though she didn't make a sound. She had learned
long ago, not to make noise when she cried. Without another word, or look, he
walked away from her into another room. It was then, she let out a sob. Lupea
was by her side
and had taken her gently in her arms.
"Shhhh . . . Its all right, little one," she had said, with her lightly accented voice, just above a whisper. She had to be quiet or get reprimanded by Shara's uncle. The woman took the doll and looked at it. "I bet I can fix this . . ."
Hope had gone into Shara's eyes,
and in the end Lupea had fixed Viana. After that day, Shara was very careful
to hide her favorite dolls. Her uncle never saw her carry another toy again,
and never knew what toys she favored. Lupea had been the one person she felt
had truly loved her
. . . Two years later, Lupea mysteriously disappeared . . . How she hated her uncle . . . He had taught her lessons well . . . Not to trust, not to love . . . Not to show weakness . . . Not to ever be vulnerable . . . After Lupea, she never allowed another person to get emotionally close to her . . .
Suddenly, the door sensor chimed, and she turned around.
"Enter," she said, trying to push away the pain coursing through her.
As she watched, Karissa entered, smiling gently.
"I thought I'd see how you were doing . . ." she said.
They had agreed to make Shara's counseling
unofficial. They needed to build their own rapport with each other and had done
so successfully. They both had similar interests in holodeck programs and reading,
though Shara's was a bit more limited. But she found that as she tried new
things at Karissa's urging, she liked them . . . When she could feel anything at all . . . Lately, all she felt was pain or a hollowness she couldn't explain.
"I'm all right, I guess . . ." Shara replied quietly. "Just stuff going through my mind is all . . ."
Karissa nodded. "I understand . . ."
"I just wish . . . I wish that I had friends like you do . . . That . . . That I could learn to trust people and that they could learn to trust me too . . ." she said.
"You can have that, Shara," Karissa replied, taking a seat next to her younger counterpart.
"Yeah, right . . ." she replied cynically. "After what I've done, no one is going to ever trust me. They'd have a reason not to . . ."
"You know, given a chance, most people are quite forgiving . . . You just haven't experienced that yet," Karissa explained. "Maybe we can give you that opportunity, and it would be therapeutic for you too . . ."
"Making an apology to someone . . ."
Shara raised an eyebrow curiously.
The mess hall was quiet. It was the slow part of the evening. Ming sat alone at a table, eating a late dinner. He faced the porthole, gazing out, but not really seeing beyond the darkness. His mind was pre-occupied with some tests running in the lab.
Suddenly two women entered, but he didn't notice them. Suddenly, a gently hand touched his shoulder. He turned to see Karissa smiling gently at him. Shara stood a few steps behind. She looked unsure and hesitant.
"Hi there," Karissa said, her dark eyes meeting his.
"Oh, hello!" Ming said, startled after taking a bite out of a humongous chimichanga. "Have a seat!"
Karissa sat down, looked toward Shara and nodded. Shara's dark eyes were filled with almost a fear. She shook her head, but Karissa motioned her toward them. Reluctantly Shara stepped forward.
"Is it all right if I join you too?" she asked, quietly. Like Karissa, her dark eyes reflected her emotions when her mask wasn't in place.
Ming looked a bit uncertain. More than that, he almost looked panicked.
"Its okay, Ming," Karissa said, gently place a hand on his. "Shara's here because she wants to talk with you . . ."
"Okay," Ming said, still nervous. "Have a seat."
Shara sat next to Karissa and looked down at the table top, before daring to meet Ming's stare. She knew that she had seriously hurt him. Though she had felt she had a reason at the time, she now knew better, thanks to Karissa . . . She didn't want to be like her 'uncle', if that's who he really was . . .
"This is very difficult for me . . . Something . . . I have . . . never done before . . . Not since I was a child . . . But . . ." she stumbled over the words, not knowing exactly what to say. She wanted to express her sincerity in this matter and was concerned that she was failing miserably . . ."Well . . . I just wanted to say, that . . . I am really, really sorry for doing what I did to you . . . There was no excuse for my behavior . . . I can only hope you'll accept my apology . . ." She was so afraid of what he was going to say, but Karissa had told her this was something that was necessary if she were truly sorry and if she wanted to start building bridges instead of burning them.
Ming could see the distress in her eyes and knew that she was hurting. Something very fundamental to her self-image had been irrevocably damaged, and Shara was still trying to cope with it. "It's okay, Shara. I accept your apology. I also want to see if I can help you if you'll let me. That's why I asked for Benson to be sent here: so I could get insight into whatever may have happened with Karissa. The fact that you came along was unexpected but still very helpful."
"What exactly is going on?"
she asked, as she looked at both Karissa and Ming. "I mean, I picked up
stuff scanning your mind about genetic engineering . . ." she looked away
for a moment and then back to the two, having to admit her motives. "That's
why I wanted your papers," she
said, looking directly at Ming. "To be honest, I just wanted to know what you knew about me . . . What there was to know about me . . . And how it was tied to Karissa . . ." Tears misted her eyes. Feelings coursed through her that she hadn't felt for years, and she wasn't sure how to reign them in. But with a deep breath, she pushed them away as best as she could.
"Should I let her in on this?" Ming asked. "Can she be trusted?"
Karissa looked at Shara and nodded. "Believe me, she can be trusted now . . . And since this involves her too, she might as well know . . ."
Ming cleared his throat. "There
is substantial evidence that you, Karissa, and Rob Benson were all the products
of illegal genetic engineering projects. The nature of the alterations indicates
that they were probably conducted by an agency operating under the aegis of
the Federation, if not the Federation itself. Benson, being the oldest of you
three, was most likely a prototype that went wrong. My research with him is
as much about mitigating or reversing the damage as it is
about finding out whoever did this, although I was able to obtain a solid lead from Benson's family on Earth," he explained, knowing from a transmission he'd received from his father that the Bensons had, indeed, traveled to Hong Kong and made a statement. Should anything happen to
Ming, his father, or the Bensons, news services throughout the Federation, as well as the Klingon and Romulan Empires, would release the story.
"The vast similarities between you and Karissa indicate that you were part of the same project, differing only in age. Karissa was more than likely the first, or one of the first, successful results of this experiment. "Having created a viable template, apparently they generated you from that template." As a scientist I am horrified by this unethical experimentation and intend to present my evidence to the proper authorities at the proper time. The Captain and Admiral Pike have been informed as well and are supporting this research."
Ming took a deep breath, and sighed.
"I know this isn't something you wanted to hear," Ming said. "I
didn't want to have to say anything, but to not say anything would be unethical
and to not do anything would be irresponsible. Among the alterations made was
a fail-safe mechanism
designed to automatically shut down the nervous system of a pregnant mutant. Karissa nearly died not long ago; it was all we could do to save her and her babies," he finished, casting his eyes downward toward the end.
Shara took a deep breath as she tried
to allow all this information in. She knew she had been different from other
people. Her uncle had made sure she knew it in subtle ways, though she had never
suspected that she had been genetically altered. He was a scientist, so perhaps,
had parents . . . Maybe he had made that up . . . She had simply been one of his experiments, which would explain his cold distance, she thought. She nodded as tears stung her eyes. She'd never had family before, now she knew she never did . . .
Karissa could feel Shara's thoughts and emotions. She stood and took the seat next to Shara, gently placing a hand on her shoulder.
"You're not without family now . . . You and I, we might be duplicates, but that makes us sisters, doesn't it? If nothing else, in this universe, we'll have each other to call family. And eventually, you'll find the crew of this ship is very much part of our family as well . . ."
The tears fell from her eyes, though Shara barely made a sound. She couldn't look at anyway. Karissa pulled her into a warm embrace.
Ming looked on at the scene. "You are both my family. I see Karissa now as a sister; I will see you in no less of a light. This ship is our family, and will be for the next several years during this survey mission. We all support each other here!"
He placed a hand on Shara's shoulder. "Remember the other night, when we played Yahtzee with the rest of the group? That's why I invited you. We all need friends. They may not be the greatest officers Starfleet ever produced, but they are good people and they've helped me a lot. Captain Evans wouldn't have anyone who wasn't aboard this ship. My last posting wasn't the greatest, and my time here got off to a bad start, but because I had friends who cared, I've pulled through. If you need to talk, about anything, just let me know. I'm not just another researcher. I'm your friend as well!"
Shara tried to smile as she replied, "Thank you . . . Especially after what I've done . . ." The pain inside her was a constant dull ache. Karissa had told her in time that ache would start to disappear. She only wished it would happen sooner rather than later. She had been so use to feeling next to nothing until she had come aboard this ship . . . She knew that being transferred to the Ronin was the best thing that could have happened to her. But she now had to deal with herself and everything she had suppressed for years. It wasn't pretty . . . She wasn't pretty . . . In fact, she had been a horrible person.
"It's all right, Shara . . . Its just going to take time . . ." Karissa soothed.
Shara nodded. "I know . . . I just wish I knew why . . . Why we were created . . . Why my uncle made me cold and cruel . . . Why it took you both to get through to me . . ."
"Part of my research is to find out what possible motive someone could have to do this," Ming said. "Benson's family supplied me with a name, now all I need to do is find out who this person is and where he obtained his funding and material support. And, how he was able to operate successfully for a period of decades."
"You do have a name?" Shara asked with surprise.
"Yes. Dr. Bakar Mikori. He would have been active in Edmonton, Canada about thirty or thirty-five years ago, but that's as far as we've been able to trace him so far," Ming said.
It felt as if someone had suddenly gut-kicked Shara as she bent forward and started breathing fast. Her initial thought had been right. She had been one of her 'Uncle's" experiments! "Oh my god . . ." she said, just above a whisper. "I didn't think it was really true . . . " She didn't look at either Karissa or Ming, she stared at the table top in front of her, trying stop from being sick.
"What's wrong?" Ming asked, seeing Shara's reaction. Did she know Mikori? he thought.
Bakar Mikori . . . He's my uncle
. . . He's the one who raised me . . ." she said, still trying to calm
her breathing before she hyperventilated. Slowly, she was getting a grasp on
it. But she closed her eyes, shaking her head. She knew the man was as cold
as ice, but how could he do that,
she asked herself?
"Ancestors preserve us," Ming said as he took her hand. "I had no idea..."
"I guess he's not really my uncle, then, is he?"
Karissa shook her head. "Probably not," she said gently. "Which means he was probably also working with Helorian Drakara . . . Or was Dr. Drakara on Kritarus where I was found . . ."
"Anything's likely. The Bensons
reported not being able to contact Mikori, or Drakara, or whoever he is after
the problems with Rob became apparent. He probably left Earth to avoid the authorities,"
Ming said. Then, to Shara: "This doesn't make you any less of a person,
not in my eyes. Or anyone else's here. We're going to get to the bottom of this."
She nodded as she gazed out the window.
She wasn't sure how to feel. She hadn't felt like a full person before, but
it still shook her up. What she knew about herself was a complete and utter
lie . . . She would have to rebuild who she was from square one . . . But hopefully
become a better person . . . Only if this ache would go away . . .
Shara gazed at him, for the first time in several minutes. "I won't," she replied. "Not this time . . ."
With a gentle smile, Karissa squeezed her shoulder.
"Good," Ming said. "I don't want you to go through what we've been through already," he said, looking Karissa in the eye. "When you're ready, and if you're willing, come by the lab so Ciara and I can do a fullwork-up on you. We've already found a few things that are helpful."
"I'll do that," she replied,
with a soft smile.