What Do You Remember?
Posted on November 30th, 2020 by Emilaina Acacia and Kathryn Harper
by Emilaina Acacia and Kathryn Harper
Emilaina was distracted as she made her way down the hallway, bag slung over her shoulder and uniform top already unzipped. She pressed the panel for the holodeck and stepped in without even thinking about it, the door swishing shut behind her at the same moment she realized the deck was already in use.
The Doctor froze, looking around slowly. She found herself in a library, one that she felt like she’d seen once before, which planted an itching confusion in the back of her mind. She took a tentative step, and then another, examining the shelves as she called out into the false building, “…hello?”
The program was not perfect, as it had been created from Kathyn Harper’s memory, but it at least properly captured the environment it set out to portray; the abandoned library on the Gencodian world where several members of the Atlantis crew had been stranded twenty thousand years in the past. Illusory dust hung in the late-afternoon sunbeams that stabbed through the windows into the otherwise-unlit interior, casting long shadows from rows of bookshelves that silently waited for a patron to browse their offerings. The patron would never come, but the books were empty anyway, since it would not have been possible for Kate to program their contents from memory.
Acacia’s greeting echoed through the cavernous chamber, and Harper looked up from her studies of a Gencodian datapad, received as part of a reward from the Free Fleets for dealing with a pirate. While ostensibly at home in a library of its creator’s culture, the datapad looked out of place sitting on an ornate wooden table in the unpowered stone building housing mostly paper books. Next to it was a PADD containing Harper’s notes on her studies, adding to the technological disparity, along with several empty coffee cups and a full one. Thinking that she recognized the voice despite the echo, the Captain answered, “Doctor Acacia? Is that you?”
Emily jumped, but took another step forward before she’d thought too much about it. She found the table the Captain was at easily, the holodeck only so large and the image only an estimate. She felt compelled to stay as much as she felt compelled to run, gripping the strap of her shoulder bag with both hands as if to steady herself somehow. She still couldn’t quite place what she was looking at, but she found herself glancing at the shelves near the back every so often as if they were familiar—the shelves where the medical texts had been found.
“I, ah… don’t let me interrupt, if… if you’re busy. Didn’t realize it was you in here,” the Doctor babbled, seeming a bit on edge. She didn’t want to meet the Captain’s eyes for too long, as it seemed she hadn’t since the time travelling incident. Though she’d been slowly improving since they got back, it was obvious to Harper that the whole ordeal had shaken her up, as the relationship they’d built while away wasn’t enough to make up for what was on her mind.
“Pay it no mind, Emily,” Kate answered while checking her PADD and realizing that she’d overstayed her allotted time slot. With a creak from her wooden chair, she stood and started to gather her things, first carefully placing the Gencodian datapad into a protective sleeve. Offering a polite smile to Acacia, she continued, “My apologies for losing track of time; it is startlingly easy to do when studying here, but I find that this place puts me in the right frame of mind to learn about the Gencodians. Anyway, the holodeck is yours.”
On the mention of the Gencodians, Emily stiffened a bit with recognition. She gave the library a new look, one of curiosity rather than unease—it was quite well done, being from memory. She glanced at the PADD, then the shelves, and then Harper. Against her better judgement she tentatively asked aloud the question that had been on her mind since she’d spotted the coffee cups, “What are you looking for?”
“Answers,” came the captain’s quick reply. Gesturing at their surroundings, she continued, with a hint of frustration in her voice, “To any of this. Clues that could help figure what happened to us and why.” Kate gently placed the datapad on the table and rested the fingertips of one hand on its smooth black cover before concluding, “But, aside from adding some new words to our Gencodian dictionary, this datapad was of no help in that regard.”
Emily gave a slow, thoughtful nod. She took her time coming up with the right words, still afraid she might say the wrong thing. She offered a half-smile, sliding somewhat back into the comfort they once shared in each others’ presence, “I had already given up on the ‘why’. I can’t say I envy your curiosity.”
With a shrug, Kate conceded, “We will probably never know why, beyond whatever conclusions we can draw from that reactor we found at the end. But, I started my career as a scientist, and some of that drive still remains in me, so I must try.” She picked up the cup of black coffee and took a drink before returning the half-smile and continuing, “If nothing else, along with the updates for the translation matrix, I likely have enough material for another book on the Gencodians, though I am no anthropologist.”
The Doctor’s breath hitched, her fingers drumming against her bag. Once again she paused longer than her usual, finally managing, “I’ve been more worried about the long-term effects on the crew. For example, how the Captain hasn’t been sleeping very well,” she raised an accusatory eyebrow at the coffee.
“Oh, that?” Kate waved dismissively at the white porcelain cups. “It is nothing; I am simply fond of coffee, especially while studying. I assure you, doctor, that I have been sleeping well, but I do appreciate your concern.”
Emily stared for a long moment, rather obviously not believing her. She shook her head, sighing. She spoke up to the ceiling, “Computer, run program Acacia Fire.”
The room beeped, the library disappearing and being replaced by a beach with black and white sand, with a fire pit crackling next to a towel laid out for lounging. The island was Betazese, the Doctor’s part-time home, but the jungle and its people were just a distant backdrop to the scenery, waves gently lapping up the shore just a few feet away.
The Doctor offered a meek smile, tentatively adding, “You can stay if you like. I was just processing our time away as well. I find nature somewhat more relaxing than books.”
As she took a deep breath of the salt air, a smile spread across the captain’s face. “Are you sure?” she asked, her tone hopeful. The idea of a little time on the beach was appealing to Kate, especially to contrast her frustrations in the ancient library. Wondering if Emily might have offered only out of politeness, she continued, “I mean, I love the beach — after all, I grew up on one — but if you need the time to yourself, I understand.”
“Of course,” Emily replied, waving a hand to dismiss the notion of impropriety. She gestured toward the lush green jungle, smiling lightly, “This is my half-home, I recall you being upset you didn’t have time to see it, no?”
The Doctor plopped down on the towel, calling up to summon another, “Computer, generate a second towel.”
“Thank you, Emily,” Kate answered as she sat down on the towel and spent a few moments taking the place in with a long look around, immediately feeling at home on a beach. “And yes, I wish that I could have accepted your invitation to join you here during our shore leave. This place is lovely!” As the warm tropical air made itself known, Kate doffed her uniform jacket and shirt and, now more comfortable in her sleeveless undershirt, set them aside with the rest of her things. “Were you planning on swimming, or maybe just sunning? Or none of the above?” she asked with a grin and a shrug.
“I was planning to sit in the sun and think,” the Doctor began slowly, taking in deep breaths of the salty air, watching the fire that was just close enough to warm them against the wind whip its flames in different directions to follow the gusts, “It feels like losing a year of memory, but more complicated.” Emily couldn’t look at Kate as she let her thoughts drift, remaining fixed on the fire and hugging one knee to rest her chin on, “It seems everyone has a lot to… Process.”
“Definitely a lot to process,” Kate agreed, her tone softening from casual to empathetic as she followed Emily’s gaze into the fire. “It does feel somewhat like lost memory to me, too. I realize that we have not been able to talk as much since we returned, but if there is anything you need, I am here for you.” Turning away from the fire to face Emily, she added, “After all, I remember making a friend during that time, whether it truly ‘happened’ or not.”
Emily’s shoulders slumped a bit, her smile softening as well. She paused a moment to think, then looked to Kate, “I remember that as well. We spent a lot of time together—you teaching me Gencodian, I was translating… medical textbooks.”
The Doctor chuckled, reminiscing on the good parts now, the darker thoughts taking a back seat, “We ended up like a family. It really showed everyone’s true character; the small things add up, I suppose. I see everyone in a different light, like I know them so much better even if it didn’t—well, I think it really happened, for us at least,” she rambled a bit, appreciating the chance to get it off her chest.
“I think it really happened, too. We all remember it, and our perceptions of each other have changed from those shared experiences. That is all that really matters, is it not?” Kate leaned back onto her hands, digging her fingers into the warm sand as she closed her eyes for a moment and stretched, arching her back and offering a sunlit smile to the sky. Once she relaxed again, she added, “Besides, I thought I had a good understanding of temporal mechanics until this. By all rights, we should not remember it, and there should not be an ancient Gencodian hair brush in my quarters, but we do, and there is. So it must have happened, yes?”
“Those things remain strange to me,” the Doctor agreed, “But I barely passed temporal mechanics, so that’s not really my department. I’m mostly worried about the emotional effects on the crew,” she went on, perhaps projecting a bit, her voice quieter with each thought in this direction, “It will manifest, no doubt, as a form of trauma in those that remember it, “she sighed.
Settling back down onto the towel, Kate turned toward her friend; the meaning beyond her words did not take a telepath to pick up on. Her voice almost a whisper, she wondered, “And how is it manifesting in you, Emily?”
Emily’s rehearsed response was immediate, and genuine, if vague, “A number of ways. And I know I’m not the only one.”
“Undoubtedly so, but right now, I am asking about you, not anyone else.”
There was a long silence as Emily stared into the fire and weighed on the options. She had come here to think about this, but she still wasn’t sure how much Kate was ready for. She finally took a deep breath and began with something small but vulnerable, “I woke up with the uncanny sensation of being… you. I’m mostly over it now, but it threw me for a bit of a loop—especially when I bumped into Lexy.”
Kate’s green eyes widened at the revelation and, as she opened her mouth to answer, her breath caught in her throat. Following a moment of fruitless processing, she finally managed to quietly say, “You experienced being… me? How is that even possible? Is it some empathic… weirdness?”
“Exactly so,” Emily replied, “as if I had your memories, and your… future,” she was quiet, slow, and thoughtful, “I believe it had something to do with how our year ended, but I wasn’t too worried about it because it’s been fading.”
The Doctor gauged her Captain’s reaction carefully, dark eyes glinting in the firelight as the sun was beginning to set. She didn’t want to say too much, but Kate wasn’t someone Emily could hide much from to begin with, especially something she may even have her own memories of. The two had become close enough that Emily could almost predict Kate’s reactions, but on this she couldn’t be quite sure, so she was still holding back.
“How that year ended…” Kate’s eyebrows narrowed as she tried to recall anything beyond that wonderful flight on Kuari’s back, but there was only darkness, as if everything faded to black. Attempting to press through it, her mind seemingly bounced away, as if striking a barrier, and after a few repeated attempts, Kate sat straight up and clenched her fists in frustration. With a sharp epithet in her native tongue, she let out an exasperated sigh and slumped from her bolt-upright posture, then met Emily’s eyes.
“I am sorry, but I just cannot remember anything beyond flying to the reactor to help. Perhaps whatever happened there caused… whatever this is.” After a pregnant pause, Emily’s comment about her wife actually registered in Kate’s mind, causing her eyebrows to raise as she realized its implication. Covering one of Emily’s hands with her own and offering a comforting squeeze, Kate sympathized, “If you experienced my feelings toward Lexy then being around her must have been incredibly difficult for you.”
Emily’s nose scrunched, emotion running through her with a visible intensity. Then, as Kate offered her sympathy, she couldn’t help but burst out laughing. She snorted, remembering just how she felt when she first saw Lexy after the jump, and how much it disoriented her, “Yeah, no, yeah—it was,” she cackled, then half-jibed, “like living someone else’s puberty. Unexpected, to say the least.”
Emily’s laughter faded in slow heaves. As she wiped a tear she apologized with her eyes for her shifting moods. She slid down to lay on her own towel across from Kate, meeting her eyes before looking away. She coughed, managing to strain out her admission with a note of finality, “I… remember.”
“You do?” Kate asked in a hopeful tone. She had spent a lot of time trying to recall the end of their time stranded, but was always met with what seemed to be her own mind repelling her from the knowledge. However, Emily’s body language, combined with the revelation of empathic weirdness surrounding the event, made another connection in her mind, and any sense of hope was absent when she spoke again. “Emily… when thinking about the end of our time there, I have, on occasion, felt a dim sense of pain… but not my own. Could… could that be from you?”
Emily nodded slowly, twisting her towel in the sand. She chose her words very carefully, “I believe so. But if you can’t remember I might… suggest… that you accept that. Sometimes things are best forgotten.” The Doctor set her jaw, fighting back tears, deadly serious and visibly guarded.
Once more, Kate opened her mouth to speak, but could summon no words. She had never seen Emily like this; even when giving grim news from sickbay, the doctor was still able to deliver it, despite its emotional weight. Now, seeing the doctor who had become one of her closer friends hesitate to tell her about an event that she had ostensibly lived through was enough to sound warning sirens in Kate’s mind. Her trust of Emily’s judgement was enough to tell her to heed them, but she wanted to clarify, just to be sure after much effort she had spent trying to remember. When speech returned to her amidst unnoticed tears welling in her eyes, Kate finally was able to ask, “You… are saying that whatever happened, whatever caused this empathic… connection between us, was so traumatic that I am better off not remembering it?”
A tear glinted in Emily’s eye as she slowly nodded, avoiding Kate’s gaze now. She was reminded of the feeling of being cooked from the inside out, the horrible sickness, and found herself hugging her stomach. The memory itself was painful, her voice cracking, “It is not something worth remembering. If you are curious about my empathy, perhaps I could explain…” she trailed off, thinking for a moment before shaking her head, “but that may be too much, for now, so another time. If it helps you to know, I think I understand why I felt like you. It won’t… It definitely won’t happen again.”
Whatever had transpired to elicit such a reaction in Emily must have been awful, and Kate started to understand why her mind would shield itself from the memory. That understanding didn’t make it any easier to see her friend in such pain from it, and she still had no idea why Emily had to carry this burden in her stead. With tears starting to escape and make their way down her cheeks, Kate moved to Emily’s towel and pulled her into a hug. They sat together in silence for several minutes, with only the lapping of the waves against the shore as a soundtrack, before Kate finally spoke up.
“Alright,” she began, the usually quick, clipped cadence of her speech much slower and quieter than usual, “I trust your judgement, Emily. And I am sorry that you are going through this… seemingly because of me. Even so, you are still trying to protect me, so… thank you. If you need to talk, about anything, please reach out… if not to me, then to Counselor Endilev.”
Emily breathed a visible sigh of relief, rested her head on Kate’s shoulder, then gave a slow nod. She was just as stiff as Kate, but slowly relaxed into the hug. It was a familiar comfort, even if it hadn’t really happened before. Each of her words followed careful contemplation, “It’s okay. Really. I’ll be okay,” she assured both Kate and herself, “And so will you, so everything can go back to normal… as it can be.”
Pulling back a bit from the extended hug, Kate wiped at her face and eyes, adding to the redness that already colored her freckled cheeks. She was uncertain that she could keep herself from needing to know what had happened despite Emily’s warning, and the long-term consequences of this were certainly daunting, but a stray sardonic thought surfaced, eliciting an involuntary snicker. Attempting to lighten the mood, Kate smiled and quipped, “Whatever normal even is for Atlantis, yes.”
Emily caught the snicker, almost smiling, “Yes, that will be nice,” she looked up at the stars, and let a long pause follow before acknowledging softly, “I’m glad I bumped into you,” before waving a hand to the sky, “You at least got the chance to see the moons.”
Despite the ominous revelation and her uncertainty as to whether or not she could heed the warning, Kate was also glad that Emily came along; she had at least learned something about the nature of the strange way things had ended in that long-ago place, and she found it heartening to confirm that they shared a view on the friendship they had developed there and to see it carry forward.
Kate looked up at the moons of Betazed, and even though she had been here before, she had never seen them from this island, far from any city lights. Even so, the sight seemed oddly familiar to her, and with her new understanding of why that would be, she turned toward the source of that familiarity wearing a contented smile. “I am glad, too.” Turning her eyes back toward the moons, she added, “This place is comforting… like home.”