Too many drinks
The dual form of Val Seran sat at a table in the lounge, slightly out of the way from the main traffic. In front of her were four glasses filled with a faintly glowing blue liquid. Probably a Dalacari booze.
The table directly next to her's was soon approached by the resident Thux, Cor Cordale. He gently placed a tray down on the table containing three glass tumblers filled about a third of the way with a deep amber fluid. While it wasn't odd to see the Thux up to his wrists in booze, what made the setup odd was he placed two of the glasses in front of two of the chairs at the table, as though expecting company. The third glass was his. He sat, and with a deep breath he started up, "Well, it's been a wh.." and he stopped when he noticed the resident Dalacari one table over.
"Oh, sorry. Just sharing a drink with some folks who can't drink anymore." he paused, and noticed her drinking layout. "It's bad luck to drink alone..." and he offered her the fourth seat. "You can take Cal's seat too. He's always late."
The twin forms looked up simultaneously, every movement in complete sync. She seemed to consider for a moment, before deciding. "It would be rude not to accept - " " - the invitation." she mused, heading over with the four glasses.
Cor gave a nod, and waited for her to be seated before he made the creepiest introduction in the history of space. Perhaps.
He motioned to each of the two other tumblers one at a time. "Sil Cinban, Cal Mondalle, meet Val Seran. She's good people, far as I can tell, and according to her species briefing in the computer core reference, she's not actually twins. So knock it off Cal." he actually admonished one of the tumblers. "Don't mind him, Patch was always the goofball." he spoke to Val, then took a good swig of the scotch in his glass.
Val flicked an ear, both bioforms simultaneously. "Absent friends?" she asked, raising a glass to both Sil and Cal when introduced, a swig when Cor drank. Her own drinks ofcourse, not the spare ones. "It's always absent friends. I'll listen to your story, then I'll tell you - " " - mine. It's only fair, and maybe we'll feel a little better after."
Cor gave her a smile, though as per usual, no teeth.
"Sil, Cal, and Cor. Three Thux assigned to Tunnel Cor Ban. That's One Six in Ferengi." he clarified. "Our task was to mine latinum. All day, everyday. Payday was each ten days, with taxes and tips and fees and fines and duties and tariffs already taken out. Back then, I just thought the Ferengi were too greedy for their own good. Now I know better. They paid us next to nothing so that if they ever got called on it, they could claim we weren't slaves."
He paused, to take a calming breath. "Sil and Cal... basically my two brothers. We'd goof off where we could to make the day go by faster, but never where an Overseer could see us. On our meal break, we'd scrape together what we had and invent games. Sil invented a great one called What'cha Got. It involved a deck of cards, see. And... and everyone got a bunch of cards and you hold them like poker cards, but backwards. And you had to guess what you had based on what everyone else had." the Thux took another drink. Memories were more painful than any injury... and his memories were leading up to his worst injury ever.
"We were in a side tunnel off sixteen. Hit the rock wrong, and the whole side shoot started to come down. The three of us we ran like we were on fire. Sil made it and checked for an Overseer. Cal made it and kept running. I... I almost made it." Cor's icy blue eyes moved to glance to his left. "My arm was pinned under, oh I dunno, a few thousand tons. I was going nowhere, but if the Overseers saw that I couldn't work, it wouldn't end good. So Sil got one of the mining tools with a good working heating element, and Cal got some of the cheapest booze he had on hand." a pause, "A.. and Sil cut me loose."
"I woke up in the mine's infirmary. With this." and he brought his prosthetic to prominence. "It's been replicated, repaired, refit, and respec. But never replaced."
The Val Seran still with both her natural arms pulled them a little bit closer as Cor spoke and she intently listened. "That explains the arm, and - " " - that explains the arm." she offered, the same sentence twice, covering multiple meanings. "How'd you get out of there? Knowing the Ferengi, they probably didn't just send you off just because you'd lost your arm."
"We saved up every scrap of pay they gave us, looking to buy out our contracts. It's something they offered us, as an incentive to work as hard as we could. The dream was to buy our all three of our contracts but..." he paused, "... every now and again, they'd hold a promotion ceremony." there was a malice in that word.
"We'd all be called into the main chamber, and someone out of our big group would be chosen to become the foreman of another mine. We'd even get letters from the previous foremen but, after a while all those letters really started to sound the same. We all knew, but we kept quiet and let the show play on. Who knows what they'd do if we all rebelled." he was silent for a moment, "It was two or three meetings after I got my prosthetic, that the Overseer called Cal and Sil to be promoted. We had to applaud. We had to be happy. I ... I had to clap as my two brothers walked off to their death."
Cor finished his drink, then turned and took the tumbler in front of Val. "He's a light drinker..." the Thux muttered. "The Overseer concludes the meeting, but I had a trick up my sleeve. We didn't have enough to buy out three work contracts... but I had enough after their promotion to buy out mine."
"I'm sorry." spoke both, as the form still with two natural arms gentle placed her hand on his. "That's a lot of weight on your shoulders. More - " " - than any one person should carry." she spoke, ears slightly wilted. She didn't rightly know what to say that would sound honest instead of like a meaningless cliche platitude. He'd heard them all before, she figured.
He gave her a nod, and didn't move away as she put her hands on his. "Took me a while to really get hit by the weight of it, and it took a lot of really good doctors to help me through it. I don't think I'll ever be 'over it', but it sucks less every day." he gave another nod, "Every now and then, I come down to the mess hall and have a drink with them. Keep them up to speed on what I've been up to. Let them know I'm not wasting the freedom they helped me buy."
He ran his living hand over the forearm of his prosthetic, over the plate that bore the marks of what would ordinarily be ritual scarification. "I carry their memory with me, etched in steel."
She didn't speak or read Ferengi, but she was keen enough to put two and two together. "That's their names, isn't it." one form spoke, as the other motioned at Cor's arm. "I know I've only just arrived on this tub called Antares, but if - " " - you'll have me I'll be your friend." Val offered, both forms sitting back again and taking a synchronized swig of their drink, making a face as they did. "I know a thing or two about loss."
He just gave a nod.
"I can always use more friends." a smile, but after everything he had to just remember it wasn't fully realized, though he took another swig of his scotch. "If you're ready, I believe it's your turn." a pause, "By the way, what are you drinking? I haven't had any booze that glows in the dark, without additives."
"Bokma. A Dalacari drink. Here." She offered Cor one of the two extra glasses she'd brought along. "As for my turn ... " Val trailed off, considering for a moment. "We Dalacari are twin bioforms, but one mind. There's a low - " a focus shift " - level telepathic field between the two forms, keeping us synchronized. Thoughts are shared between them, senses, emotions - "
And back again, without missing a beat. " - everything. As long as both forms are awake and in range, we are whole. We are functional. We stand in the universe as one person, one personality, one consciousness, just - " " - shared between two bodies." She watched him, checking for signs that he was still with her or if she'd lost him. "Now imagine half of that falling away."
He accepted the drink, but waited for her story to begin. He didn't want to risk missing anything because of some rogue boozohol. He was following her story, though it really helped that both of her were on the... no no, not the right way to think about her. Both of her bioforms were on the same side of the table. He didn't bother asking any of the simple questions that she had no doubt been plagued with.
At her statement of loss, though, he gave the matter an honest thought, then looked down at his prosthetic. "I can't imagine. I can sympathize though, I think." he looked back at her. "I read the primer after our first meeting, but I think I just learned more about your people in two minutes than in an hour of reading."
Well it wasn't reading, he had the computer read to him while he worked on his models.
"That's... I mean... Just imagining half of *my* life just up and gone... damn." then he took the shot of Bokma, and made the same face everyone makes when they take that first shot. His sinuses cleared, his ears perked, and if he suffered from asthma, he just swallowed the cure.
"We call it Ghosting. You know in those old horror movies with spirits and apparitions, they're always these semi-translucent, not-quite-there - " A focus shift, allowing the form that spoke first to take a drink, as the other seamlessly took over. " - quasi unreal things? It's like that, except you're real, and your environment is like those ghosts in those vids. And I'm sure you're familiar with phantom sensations. How sometimes you still feel like your - " And back again, allowing the second form to have a drink. " - arm is still there? How sometimes it feels like someone is touching it, or you can feel the wind on your fur?"
Someone just walked on Cordale's grave.
He just gave a nod, and was quiet for a second. "If I ... tell you something, you promise to keep it quiet? Not a lot of folks would understand, but you and I share something and I think you'll understand."
"Ofcourse." Val agreed.
"Sometimes, yeah I feel those phantom sensations. A twitch, a tingle... I got really stressed out once, a while back. First real posting on a starship, and I just felt like I couldn't handle it." a pause, "And then I felt someone take my hand. Like hold it." another pause, "The way Sil or Cal would." he said, but barely a whisper.
"So yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Sorry, I cut you off."
Both of Val's forms smiled. "That's a nice, comforting thought actually." she offered before turning more serious. "Only one in a thousand Dalacari that lose a bioform maintain their sanity, remain capable of functioning. The rest are committed to care institutes. They're good homes. Only the best trained Dalacari can become - " another focus shift. " - nurses there." A pause, as the one with the armband subconciously rubbed it. "My husband lost a bioform in the same accident that took my arm."
Cordale just shook his head, finishing his scotch before helping himself to Sil's tumbler. "I can't even begin to imagine, that's ..." and he took a small sip, mostly to give him a little more time to think of how to end this train wreck of a sentiment. "Humans say 'I'm sorry' to express a whole range of sympathies. I have no idea what Thux would say, but being one, I'll simply say..."
What will you say, Cor? Hope he gets better? Golly that sucks?
"I don't even know what to say."
"It's ok. Today is the ten year anniversary of our wedding. Well, ten - " " - Dalacari years. Closer to eleven Starfleet years." A pause, as Val finished her drink. "So, yeah. That's my sob story. And why - " " - I'm here emptying a bottle of genuine Bokma from home. Sometimes I wonder why I stay with him." She sighed, as the other spoke. "And sometimes I wonder why I didn't stay with him."
Cordale slid his solo shot glass over for a refill of Bokma. "Love, distance, regret." he offered, "I couldn't tell you, but I can certainly do whatever I can to help you make it through." After the refill, Cordale took the shot. "You didn't stay because you love him. You stay with him because you love him." he offered.
"I know I know, cliche, but sometimes it helps to hear it. If I stepped over a line, I apologize."
A chuckle. "Yeah. That sounds about right." She poured him another Bokma. "Don't worry. You stepped over no line." spoke one, the other taking over. "Takes a lot more to upset me." A pause. "So, tell me more about Sil and Cal?"
He gave a nod in thanks, and was relieved that he didn't upset, "Sil was brilliant. Always thinking, always planning. Buying out our contracts was an impossible option, but Sil was the one that came up with the concept of saving our money in secret. Cal was a goofball. See... he had this huge patch of blue right here around his eye. We nicknamed him Patch but we couldn't call him that in public because there was a non-standard naming fee." he let that set in, "So we would sometimes call him over, all urgent like, and when he'd get there we'd ask him to move a rock a few feet."
"He'd ask us what was that for, and we said it was nothing, just a patch job, and we'd have a good laugh." he chuckled, "We overheard the Overseers use the term, and we just thought it was funny." he took the Bokma shot, not quite hit as hard the second time but that was the nature of alcohol.
"Sil was level headed. Clever. He was the brain, Cal was the goofball, and I was the do'er. The heart you could say."
"And so you became a Starfleet engineer, where - " " - you have to be all three." Val chuckled. "Patch job. That's classic." She paused a moment, before taking the one remaining untouched glass of Bokma and refilling one of her own so both bioforms had a full glass, which she then rose. "To absent friends - " " - and memories thereof."
He gave a smile at her recognition, and her note of the caliber of humor. He raised the filled shot glass, "We drink today for those who can't." he said with a smirk, and clinked his glass against both of her's.