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STSF Jorlis

Kurahj Lo'Ami



The door to Arphazed's quarters slid open, admitting a short, elderly Bajoran male.  He wore the blue uniform of a medical officer, a long earring that had been passed down through his ancestors, and a warm, comforting smile.


"Doctor Merel."  Arphazed said, grinning.  "I was wondering when you were going to show up."


Doctor Merel was one of the ship's xenobiology experts.  He picked up his standard medical knowledge when he was a doctor and a priest in the Bajoran resistance.  When he joined Starfleet a year after the end of the Cardassian Occupation, he expanded his studies to include the biologies of every one of the Federation's major non-human species.  Trill anatomy just happened to be one of his particular specialties.


"I couldn't resist the temptation."  Merel replied in his soft voice.  "I've never actually seen a Zhian'tara, let alone participated in one.  It was simply a matter of wrapping up all the new crew members' physicals.  I hope there are still vacancies?"


"Of course."  Arphazed replied with a chuckle.  He motioned to the couch.  "Have a seat and we'll get started."


Erko moved over to the Bajoran doctor and began the telepathic transfer.  "Your mind to my mind.  Your thoughts to my thoughts."


Arphazad watched as the change washed over Doctor Merel.  The usually jovial face was twisted into a grimace.  The Bajoran's head snapped around the room, absorbing the strange surroundings.  For those brief first moments of the transfer, Merel radiated a disturbing aura of panic.  Finally, his eyes locked onto Arphazed's.  The hair on the back of Arphazed's neck stood up.  He could almost feel the fear that had evidently been pouring out of this host...


"Hello.  I'm Arphazed Lo'Ami."


Merel's eyes narrowed for a moment, then he nodded slowly.  "Mmm.  Zhian'tara.  So Lo'Ami's alive.  And I'm dead."


"And you are...?"


"You don't know?"  Merel raised an eyebrow at Arphazed.  "You honestly can't tell?  No.  Of course you can't.  Zhian'tara.  You can't remember a thing.  In that case, it may have been best for you to not summon me."


"I had no choice.  Please, I need to know who you are."


"Fine, fine."  Merel sighed.  "If you insist on calling this back up you'll have to reap the consequences.  It obviously won't do me any harm, because I'm already dead.  My name is Kurahj and I am... I was an archaeologist.  When you're in my profession, there are two places you can go... down or up.  That's underground or outer space if you need it spelled out."


"I see.  And which way did you go?"


"Before Lo'Ami, down.  We Trills have been around a while, so no matter how much our archaeology advances, there's always plenty of depth to burrow.  Good times, back then.  I was one of the leaders in the field.  I was in charge of the teams that managed the Varance and Outer Minaz excavations, maybe you've heard of them.  Made some preeminent discoveries about Trill evolution.  But none of that mattered in the end.  I was happy, living a good life, doing something that I enjoyed, on my home planet.  That was until Lo'Ami.


"The Symbiosis chose me because I was a leading scientist on Trill... and I agreed because it was the opportunity of a lifetime for any Trill.  It could only rocket my career, right?"  Merel let out a deep breath and shook his head.  "Yeah, it rocketed my career alright.  Right off the planet.  It turned out that Lo'Ami had already developed space legs from previous hosts, and he had curiosity enough to drive him to use them.  He didn't want to be shackled to the homeworld and I was in no position to shackle him there.  I purchased a shuttle and took off for the stars.


"Archaelogy remained my true passion and, as fate would have it, the path that would await me in space.  I didn't get very far, maybe four or five stops, before I arrived at Starbase 12.  There, I met up with a band of journeymen who were heading for the rim of Federation space.  They said they were pursuing a rumor.  John Vance, the leader of the party, had been told about some ruins on a planet beyond the rim, ruins of a really advanced civilization.  He was in it mostly for the potential profits involved, but his comrades all had their own reasons.  Most were either in it for the riches as well or for the potential scientific discoveries, but there was one guy who fancied himself as a collecter of alien artifacts, and another who was just looking for ideas for a book.  I joined my knowledge with the other two archaeologists in the group because a signficant discovery could make me famous even by galactic standards."


"Is that why you became an archaeologist?  Fame?"


Merel looked annoyed by the question.  "Of course not!"  He snapped.  "I'm an historian.  Like any historian, I thirst for knowledge of history.  But that knowledge does no one any good when you're dead... unless it's shared with others beforehand.  Preferably a lot of others."


"So were you able to share anything about this mystery planet?"


Merel gave Arphazed a quick appraisal.  He was young.  Maybe too young to relive a memory that was better off lost.  But the opportunity here was too good to miss.  He had made a significant discovery alright.  But he died before he could share it.  Perhaps, through this most recent host, that could change.  Would he be able, or even willing, to face the danger, though?  "No, I wasn't able to share anything, Arphazed.  Until now...


"It was a planet just beyond the Kandoru sector, largely masked by the remnants of an ancient nebula.  We never would have found it if it wasn't for the info John Vance had acquired.  It was an ugly mess, this planet--a barren, cracked, charred world, with streaks of red gas in the background.  The sort of planet that just screams 'go back from whence thou came.'  We didn't go back, though.  We were too hungry to explore the planet's secrets.


"We touched down next to a chasm that was giving off faint energy readings."  Merel gave off a morbid chuckle.  "We all left the ship to explore.  Not one person stayed behind in case things got sour.  And why would we?  We were all in it for ourselves, and we weren't going to let any of the others cheat us out of a discovery.


"We descended the chasm, homing in on the readings.  It got dark and chilly down there; would have been nice if the writer in the group had pointed out that that's a sure sign of impending doom.  I guess he was just too curious himself to say anything.  As we got farther down, we started hearing noises.  We heard the faint chirrup of machinery grinding deep below.  We expected to stumble upon artificial light at any moment.  But it just got darker.  And that wasn't the only noise.  We heard something else, very faint, but high pitched, a sort of screech.  It was very random... not machinery... this was a noise being made by a living thing, we were sure.  Still we descended.  If there was life down there, the potential for a discovery was only heightened."  Merel's head dropped and his hands rubbed together, as if he was in deep contemplation.


"... what did you find?"  Arphazed finally pressed him.


Merel looked back into Arphazed's eyes--that piercing stare that sent shivers up his spine, that conjured a deeply rooted fear that he could not explain.  "The first light we saw down there was when they emerged from the cracks.  They had been waiting for us... poised for the attack.  They were glowing a faint red.  They looked like... giant spiders... only with demons' heads.  They were terror itself.  And terror is what they unleashed.  They didn't kill by striking out with their limbs, or biting, or stampeding.  They killed by simply... looking at us.  Those of us who weren't killed in the first few moments could hear it.  It was the faint screech we had heard eariler, only much louder now. I tried to scramble away, watching, as, one by one, each of the group was stared down by those creatures, frozen with a look of pure terror on their faces before dropping down to the ground, dead.  Three of us got away from the initial carnage, climbing the face of the chasm, trying to escape.  But they pursued us.  I kept my eyes on the sliver of light at the top of the chasm, so I could only hear my two companions being pulled down and killed.  That awful, terrible screech..."


Doctor Merel took a moment to collect his thoughts.  A bead of sweat ran down his forehead.  Arphazed watched, wondering to himself.  After a long, silent moment, Merel continued.  "I finally made it out of the chasm.  I started running as fast as I could toward the ship.  I heard those damned things skittering behind me, but I knew that if I could just make it to the ship and close the hatch behind me, I'd be safe.  How wrong I was.


"When I got to the ship, I saw three of the things standing around it, probing it with their grotesque, hairy, slimy forelimbs.  I stopped dead in my tracks, not sure what to do.  The ones behind me caught up, signalled to the others.  I was surrounded.  There was no escape.  There was only one thing that saved me."


Arphazed leaned forward, listening intently.  Merel took a deep breath and pointed to Arphazed's stomach.  "Lo'Ami.  One of the creatures caught me with its stare.  Oh, the feeling.  I can't describe it.  Maybe when you're finished with your Zhian'tara you'll be able to remember it.  Best I can manage with words is... absolute terror.  If you could measure terror, the attack those things used would be... well, beyond measurement.  Every fear I had ever experienced was reconjured, and then some.  My knees gave out.  I was completely paralyzed by fear.  I knew I was going to die.  And then I felt Lo'Ami.


"I guess the creatures didn't expect that there was another lifeform inside of me.  As soon as he was aware of what was happening, Lo'Ami shielded me from the attack.  But in order to do so, he had to take the brunt of it.  He screamed to me to get back to the ship.  I was barely in control of my senses; the attack had damaged me.  I gathered what strength I had left, wove a path through the creatures and into the ship, slammed the hatch behind me and took off.  I still remember the sounds of the things scratching at the hull.  Their screeches were loud even from outside.  I could still hear them when the ship was well off the surface...


"When we got a safe distance from the planet, I felt Lo'Ami... shut down inside of me.  I knew that he was dying.  And..."  Merel took a deep breath.  "That I was dying too.  The attack had almost killed us both, and all we could do was hang on until the ship arrived at the nearest outpost.  I guess... I just didn't have it in me.  I wasn't as strong as Lo'Ami... and in his condition, he wasn't able to support me.


"I died about halfway to the starbase, terror still flooding my mind.  It was about 65 hours to the starbase, so I knew that Lo'Ami could make it in time without me.  What I didn't know was whether or not he'd let go, like I did.  I guess you're proof that Lo'Ami did make it.  He managed to survive."  Merel bowed his head.


Alces walked over then with a PADD.  He cleared his throat and looked at Merel, then at Arphazed.  "I got some information from Starbase 37, on the edge of the Kandoru sector.  In 2254 a shuttle arrived at the Starbase with a Trill... the host dead, the symbiont comatose.  They placed the symbiont in stasis and transfered it back to the homeworld.  They also went through the shuttle that had brought the Trill there.  The logged sensor readings were clouded by interference from the nebula, so they could not determine where the shuttle had been."


Arphazed looked up at Alces.  "What about the next host?  Did he report anything about this?"


Merel looked up at Alces too.  Alces shrugged.  "Not that I could find.  I accessed Targesh Lo'Ami's Starfleet record.  There was nothing in his psyche profile to indicate the effects of such a traumatic experience.  We can also send a request to the Symbiosis for extensive records on Lo'Ami, but that will take a while.  The sector Kurahj described, however, has been fully mapped and explored.  There are no inhabited planets, nor is there anything of interest to Starfleet."


Merel shook his head.  "If the next host didn't report this, then Lo'Ami must have been hiding it from him.  Or hiding it from himself... not wanting either himself or the host to have to face those memories."


"It's not like a symbiont to keep secrets."  Alces pointed out.


Merel shrugged.  "Then maybe he just forgot.  A blind spot in his memory created by the fear and then the coma.  If that's the case, your Vulcan friend over there succeeded in removing the blind spot.  I'm not sure this is a good thing for you, Arphazed."


Arphazed again felt the fear tingling deep within him.  Would it be unleashed fully when the Zhian'tara was complete?  "Mark my words,"  Merel continued.  "There *is* something there.  Deep beneath the surface, hiding in the darkness, doing... what, I can't imagine.  We never found our riches.  We never found our ruins.  All we found on that planet... was fear.


"Looking back on it... I'm not sure if I should be angry at Lo'Ami or thankful.  It was his desire to explore that brought me to that planet.  But when I was attacked, he shielded me, at great risk to himself.  I guess that in that moment, I learned how selfless Lo'Ami really was.  He was willing to sacrifice himself for me.  But the damage was too extensive and I just wasn't as strong as he was."


Arphazed nodded.  "Thank you, Kurahj, for sharing this."


"Don't thank me yet, young Arphazed.  For you don't yet know what the consequences of our exchange will be.  I have answered your questions and I have given you all the information I believe you'll need.  My time here is finished.  Good luck, Arphazed.  May your journeys among the stars be more fortunate than mine."


Merel nodded and another change came over his face.  The stern, alert expression of Kurahj disappeared, but the usually jovial expression of the Doctor did not replace it. It was, instead, a face deep in thought with, perhaps, the slightest streak of horror.  When the eyes fixed on Arphazed, the lips attempted a smile.  "Lieutenant.  What a... unique experience that was."  It was the softer voice of Doctor Merel, but there was a hint of uneasiness about it.


"Are you alright, Doctor?"  Arphazed asked.


"Oh, yes."  Merel stood quickly.  "Fascinating... experiencing the m-m-memories of another person.  I think I'm going to go and... rest."  He patted Arphazed on the shoulder.  Arphazed looked up at the Bajoran with a curious expression.  He had never heard the man stutter before.  And that worried expression...  "Good luck with the rest of your Zhian'tara..."  He nodded to the others and left Arphazed's quarters.


There was a silent moment in the room before Erko stepped forward.  "Fascinating, indeed.  The attack Kurahj described was clearly telepathic in nature.  It implies that the lifeforms he encountered were extremely advanced."


But Arphazed did not respond.  He merely leaned back in his chair and considered what he had just heard.. and felt.  The hint of fear inside of him was a hopeful sign that he was starting to reconnect with Lo'Ami.  But it was also a disturbing portent of things to come.  What would he learn of this encounter when his connection with Lo'Ami was restored completely?  What *would* the consequences be?

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Thanks, great log and great story.  Don't be surprised if I try to drag Arcadia to the Kandoru sector.   :D

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Nice read Jorlis.





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Yes.  Well done.   And why would any sane sentient return to that Sector?


Hmm ... sane?  It's been a long time since we've been accused of that.

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Yes.  Well done.   And why would any sane sentient return to that Sector?

You seem to have answered your own question.

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