Previous Next

Checking on the Charges

Posted on Sat Jan 27th, 2024 @ 2:08pm by High Priestess An'Dalus & Sovereign T'handu & Captain Mattias Richardson [Reece]

Mission: Season 6: Episode 4: Memory Lane
Location: USS Elysium, Ambassadorial Suites
Timeline: MD 05 / 1034 hours
2746 words - 5.5 OF Standard Post Measure

After finishing all of his assorted administrative work, Mattias checked on the small Diplomatic Security armory. After word came down that the ship would be traversing the Slaver's territory, he had ordered each of his agents to remain fully armed and equipped with the latest line of armor suits, which thanks to nanotechnology, stays stored in a belt worn over the uniform. Upon activation, the nano armor extends to cover the agent's entire body in less than three seconds. The armor itself it rated to withstand prolonged blunt force attacks and nearly 15 minutes of high-power energy weapon discharges, before requiring replacement. The idea behind the armor being that the agent would be better equipped to both act and survive being a shield for their respective protectee.

Once he was satisfied that the secondary weapons and armor units were charged and ready for deployment, he made his way to the Ambassadorial suites. Earlier, High Priestess An'Dalus had sent him a summons to come see her in her quartets. She didn't state why. Mattias had politely told her that he would come see her as soon as his other duties allowed him.

So now, he was standing outside her quarters. After checking the terminal next to her door, ensuring that the transporter scramblers were working, he pressed the door chime.

Mattias barely had time to pull his hand away from the controls when the door hissed open, hitting him with a cacophony of sensations.

The humid and hot air. The myriad of smells intertwined with one another as incense burned all around, wafting their smoke and soot into his lungs alongside pollen from exotic and tropical plants from Sequella.

It was enough to make even a Borg drone feel uncomfortable.

But the strangest of all was the complete lack of light, even as T'han stood before him, draped with a thin veil over his face and little else.

"My Mistress thanks you for coming," He nodded with one eye firmly closed. "Please, come inside." He motioned as he walked back, gently and slowly stepping over the small barrier that prevented the sand that filled the suite from spilling into the corridor.

"She will be with you in a moment." He added, waiting for Mattias to enter.

At first, Mattias felt the assault on his senses as the aromas attacked him as if a physical opponent. However, as he was no stranger to being in dense jungles, which were filled with powerful smells all their own, he recovered quickly. He was also not surprised to see that T'han was practically nude. Keeping his eyes up, aimed at the fellow warrior's face, he carefully stepped inside, lifting his feet over the barrier that was holding in the sand. "You know, the computer could easily erect a low level forcefield at your door, to keep the sand inside. Then you wouldn't need the physical barrier to step over."

"Forcefields hum... it's not a frequency you can hear, but we can."

Nodding silently, Mattias quietly kicked himself for not realizing that fact and sounding like a fool.

The door shut soon after, leaving Mattias blind as he was plunged into near-total darkness, the faint glow of what might have been candles flickering just out of sight.

"Stay here momentarily, let your eyes adjust... and watch your step."

Using an old trick that David had taught him, Mattias closed his eyes tight, until he could see flashes of imagined light behind his eyelids. Then, he relaxed his face and slowly opened his eyes.

While still dark, the candlelight was making things easier to see now. Looking at T'han, he asked, "Have you and your mistress received your transport inhibitor tags yet?"

"I have," T'han replied, motioning to his right wrist. "However, my Mistress has not... it is one of the reasons she called you here."

"One of many." The High Priestess called out from somewhere within the vast inky blackness the candles had not touched with their light.

Turning to face the direction of the voice, Mattias dipped his head respectfully towards her. "Your Highness, with respects, the order, that my Matriarch issued, was for every member of the Elysium's company and crew, yourself included, to receive a transport inhibitor tag injection. This is for your safety, Ma'am. Should the Thaih'ea detect us, they will attack and capture all sentient life that is not properly camouflaged. Now, as you gave your word to my wife and Commanding Officer of this ship, I am directing you to get the injection, today."

"Bring him over." Her command overlapped with his own, seemingly as if ignoring everything Mattias had just said.

It was then he felt the strong grip of cloven fingers around his upper arm, physically dragging him forward and into what appeared to be the centre of the room.

"Sit with me." An'Dalus spoke from somewhere in front of him as a second cloven hand clasped his shoulder, insisting that he obey.

Mattias had no choice but to do as instructed. T'han's grip strength made sure of that. Of course, all that the actions succeeded in doing was to piss him off. "Enough!" He barked as he tried to stand, only to be forced back down again by T'han. "You've got one chance, bub. Take your hooves off of me or things are going to get messy. This is your only warning." There was a dangerous tone to the human's voice that indicated he was being very serious.

"I doubt that very much, Captain," Anne said, her tone somewhat amused by his outburst. "You lost any authority the moment you stepped onto the very sand you sit on..."

She fell silent for a moment, only the sound of shifting sand to accompany the emptiness before Mattias.

"But if you would entertain me for a moment you might get your answers, and then some."

For several beats, Mattias glared towards the sound of the Ambassador's voice. Phoenix was going to get an earful about this later. Finally, however, he replied. "Instruct T'han to release me, and I'll consider your request." The last thing he wanted, was to have an incident with one of the Ambassadors on Phee's ship; even if he was, technically, on Sequus soil, diplomatically speaking.

She stared back in kind for another few moments before T'han let go and stepped back, if she had motioned him to do so he had not seen it.

"Tell me, Mattias, are you a superstitious man..." Anne said softly as her hands moved about unseen, her hooves clinking and clattering.

Relieved that he was no longer being held down, Mattias rolled the tension from his shoulders. "It depends. I've certainly seen my fair share of unexplainable occurrences out among the stars. Why do you ask?"

"We'll get to that In a moment," Anne replied as a long match was struck off to her left, briefly illuminating what Mattias thought was her silhouette before dimming into a calm and restrained flame.

"What are your thoughts on death," She asked as she moved the struck match slowly to her other side, lighting small but well-used candles, their tiny flames illuminating the hand that had given them life, it was not a hand he recognised.

"How do your people define such a thing, if you even can..." Anne continued as the match burned along its length.

"Some believe that there is life after death," he began. "Others feel that once you're dead, you're gone forever." He took a breath and added, "The Buddist monks of Tibet believe that their leader, the Dali Llama has been constantly reincarnated for the last two thousand years or so."

She watched as the match burned away between her hoofed digits, sputtering and dying as if contemplating life from its very existence.

“What about you? What do you believe?” Anne asked softly as she raised the charred stub towards Mattias, its last dying flicker defying physics as it reignited brightly. She held it there as she waited for an answer, the flame illuminating the bone and aged linen wraps that held her ancient hand together.

The sight raised questions of its own, distracting him from hers… was this real? or was he hallucinating from the smoke that filled the air?

Normally, Mattias might've replied that he didn't know how to answer that question. He wasn't a true man of any particular Faith after all. However, in a flash of memory, he was back on Trill, falling to his death, and he heard the Mountain Spirit's warning again. Should you reveal my existence to anyone, not only would you return to this moment and perish, but those you care most about will also suffer extreme hardship.

Finally, he replied. "I believe that such matters vary from individual to individual and that they are sacred to each one. It is not something that is spoken of lightly."

“No?” Anne remarked as she pulled back the flame, briefly revealing an equine skull in flickers of orange light.

From what he could see it appeared old and cracked with its mouth wrapped shut, and where her eyes should have been, empty sockets sat, covered in loose straps of cloth that had once fit snuggly against flesh and skin.

“Would you say it’s because it’s misunderstood?” She asked before turning to look at the small flame in her fingers, snuffing it out and bathing her mummified visage back into inky blackness.

If Mattias was disturbed by what he saw, he did not let it show. "It all depends on the individual, I suppose."

"I like to think I have a rather Intimate understanding of death," She mused as T'han moved about unseen, lighting more and more wicks around Mattias and the High Priestess.

"What with being dead and all." It sounded like she was smiling when she spoke, he was sure of it. But what sat in front of him had no smile, had no features at all beyond cloth and bone.

Mattias arched an eyebrow as he replied. "With holotechnology being what it is, am I supposed to be impressed?"

"No, you're simply trying to rationalise the absurdity of the situation before you..." Anne remarked with an amused tone before resting her hands on what would have been her lap.

"But please, do instruct your wonderous machines to deactivate if you feel it will help." She finished as T'han suddenly appeared and kneeled beside Mattias.

"May I offer you a drink?" He asked politely, his eyes never leaving the sand.

Mattias didn't take the bait. Instead, he decided to keep an open mind. It wasn't like he was in any danger here.

When T'han knelt beside him, he nodded. "Thank you."

T'han simply nodded back before standing once more to leave.

"You see we have a bit of a predicament, don't we... Mattias." Anne continued as she turned somewhat to her side, her bones making rough and unpleasant sounds as they moved.

"This Injection of yours... how's that going to work?" She asked, glancing over to him as she moved a book atop her crossed legs, its ancient appearance almost on par with her own as it sank between each femur and into the sand between.

Swallowing the knot that had started forming in his throat, Mattias finally realised that there was more going on than he had thought. "How are you here... if you're dead? Are you some kind of zombie?"

"I was dead, once... at least this body was anyway." Anne started as she slowly opened the book and began carefully flicking through the pages.

"However, I persisted... as so many of my Kin do." She paused for a moment, mid-turn of a page as she looked up suddenly, seemingly staring at Mattias.

"Stuck somewhere between the great herd and this, life."

She looked back down, continuing to flick through the book until seemingly finding what she had been searching for.

"I'll get there eventually, It's just not my time..."

"That's...impressive," he replied slowly as he started to realize more that what he was seeing was actually real. "I do have a question, Your Highness. Well, several actually, but just one for now. "If this is how you truly appear, why the subterfuge with your other appearance?"

“Your people can barely contain themselves when we walk around without clothes, how do you suppose they’ll react if I do so without skin? Hm?”

Mattias considered the question, then replied. "Honestly, I can't answer that. Every soul is different, Ma'am, as I'm sure you are aware. What one being accepts, another might find...disturbing."

“Yes well, it’s all entirely redundant… In truth I just want people to see me for who I was, not what I am.” Anne stated matter of factly, idly flicking another page over.

Nodding slightly, Mattias replied. "And if they choose to sin you for your deception up to this point? Speaking for humanity only, we do not appreciate being lied to. It makes us start to think that there is more being kept hidden. My advice is that you continue to retain your outward appearance when you step out of these quarters. If we were back home, things would be different. Right now? It would be too dangerous to reveal this truth."

His mind then circled back to the issue at hand. "As far as the transport inhibitor tag..." he took in a breath, then let it out thoroughly. "I would suggest that we ask Commander Sthilg down here. Together, we will explain the situation to him. As your doctor, he would be honor bound by his medical ethics to keep what is said private."

“I have no intention to reveal any more truths to your kind Mattias, Even if it is tiring to appear as I once was all those thousands of years ago.” Anne fired back, a warning shot to his earlier comments.

“However, this situation is beyond my ability to control. Which while incredibly vexing, I am open to your suggestion if it stops you from requesting the impossible of me.”

Mattias took a beat, realizing that he may have insulted her. "Your Highness, I am not asking you to reveal what you choose not to. All I was trying to impart was the fact that, while one human is generally calm and rational when given new information, a group can sometimes revert to our primitive mindset of fear. It's what has kept us alive all this time. We learned to embrace our fear. That's why I'm not reacting poorly to your appearance. While I am honored that you have decided to share this intimate part of your life with me, in another setting, you could seem....terrifying."

There was no reply from An’Dalus as T’han kneeled once more next to Mattias, a tray in hand holding a simple wooden cup, filled with nothing more than water.

Turning his head towards T'han, Mattias reached out and took the cup. "Thank you," he said politely and simply.

He nodded, withdrawing the tray before inclining his head directly towards Mattias. “Shall I inform Doctor Sthilg that he is required? Or will you be making the call?”

Taking a sip of the water, Mattias found it oddly sweet, but put it up to the various other aromas in the cabin probably altering how it tasted on his tongue.

Looking back up at An'Dalus, he replied. "That is your call, Your Highness. If you wish to do so, then go ahead. I can step outside when he is here if you wish to discuss things with him in private."

Again she said nothing, seemingly detached from the conversation as she slowly turned another page.

Even T’han had fallen deathly silent at this point, holding his breath as he stared at the sand.

It was a brief moment of silence, agonisingly stretched out to its utmost limit before she began to move, the old tanned linen that bound what was left of her form, dry and rough with age rubbed against bone as vertebrae shifted.

“Summon him to me.” She commanded with a frustrated tone, seemingly annoyed that Mattias had been unable to read her wishes like that of her Sovereign.

T’han wasted no time, determined not to let Mattias make another mistake out of human politeness; a gesture that was truly wasted on An’Dalus.

“At once, High Priestess.” He huffed, bowing quickly and deeply before trotting off into the darkness.


Previous Next