Contains major spoilers for Gul Re'jal's The Shadow of the Order; won't make much sense without it. Please read Shadow first! This story was originally written in response to kes7's prompt, "I won't let you do it," over at Ad Astra, but not published at that time. Posted here with the gracious permission of Gul Re'jal. I read The Shadow of the Order as it was originally being written, and was so overcome by the horrors taking place that I had to write this story, so that in at least one universe there might be a chance. Her story had not yet been finished when I wrote this. Curious to know what happened in the canon story, though? Be sure to check out Gul Re'jal's amazing work in The Shadow of the Order. ------------- The point of divergence for this universe is early in chapter 12 of The Shadow of the Order, just prior to the introduction of the Vulcan crewmember. Prior to that, while we can assume there was an additional member of the Karamazov away team, the changes had little to no effect. ------------- Gul Re’jal’s Shadow of the Order “The Spear in the Other’s Heart” An alternate-universe story by Nerys Ghemor I won't let you do it. That's what I'm sure everyone, including him, would've said, if they had known ahead of time. But sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission. I had to be a part of fixing this—not standing around absolutely fucking helpless with someone dying by inches, crying so close to me and me contributing exactly nothing to make it stop. I had stolen something—if you can call it "stealing" when the owner is dead. And I had taken some scans before all hell broke loose. What I had stolen should be enough to do the work by itself without any further modifications. Assuming it wasn't violently incompatible with humans. Or violently incompatible with life in general. I shuddered. But that's why you are going to stop thinking about it and DO it before someone sends a search party after you. Maybe I was going to fry myself from head to toe like a kid sticking her finger in a plasma outlet, drive myself insane, or get torn from head to crotch in a tug-of-war like the child in Solomon's court might have been if no one had relented. Yet somehow I doubted that theory. There were separate domains here, and if you were on the right side of the line, you were in good hands. Most of the people out there would probably think that was paradoxical...we were the ones in the superior position, judging by appearances. But I knew it was working both ways. No one should have to do that. No one should give a shit, after everything. Hate makes sense—but compassion...that's why you are not going to wuss out. I thought I knew where the line was—the replicator in the alcove-like quarters was cooperating, so I was already fairly sure I was on the correct side, but I could still be wrong if I tried to do this at a remove. Actually, the replicator shouldn't have been cooperating, not if the rumors I'd heard from DS9 about rationing were true. I am on the right side of the line, I suspected. But I still had to be as certain as I could get. I snapped out the list I needed quickly, mechanically, trying not to think too much about what I was about to do, or I'd lose the nerve. It was the order for dry ice and a few containers to put it in that almost broke my resolve. Almost made me think someone had put two and two together and was trying to stop me. Then I realized it was a translation error. "Frozen carbon dioxide," I restated, describing the custom container I wanted it to be in, adding the dimensions, and the replicator provided. It shouldn't have. And I had the feeling that if anyone was really watching all that closely in this moment, regardless of whatever side of the line I was on, they would act to stop it. In the case of one, it made sense: the enemy is here. In the case of the other... Better to ask forgiveness than permission. This is all on me. The guilt is not yours. The monofilament knife I had ordered was sharp enough to cut through a diamond like it was nothing. That was exactly what I needed. I couldn't worry about trying to bring the knife down from midair and possibly miss catastrophically. Not to mention I didn't have enough time. Someone might see soon, either my colleagues, or other interested parties that I really hoped wouldn't choose that moment to look in here. Don't think about it. DO. Set the blade exactly where it needs to be—press gently—done. I don't know how I didn't scream, that time. There was no pain, but the thought of it was horrifying enough—there's a scale of horrors, kid, and this isn't even a one-pointer compared to the reason you're doing this. Maybe it was the monofilament, slicing through so cleanly that my body was still in total disbelief that anything was different. Hurry it up! I thought. I'd already taken a couple extra-strength 8-hour painkillers I'd always kept around for away missions, but it was a pretty pitiful preventive measure. I'd thought about ordering a local anesthetic, but deadening the area would probably defeat the purpose, not to mention probably trigger some kind of high-level protocol that would tell exactly who I did not want to know while there was still a chance to stop it. With my good hand, I picked up the objects I'd stolen (hah), and hoped my scans were right and it really was this easy, and they would do everything. Line it up...careful... "AAAAAAAAGHHHH!" Tiny, clawlike clamps grabbed into the insulted flesh of my fingers, hunting and fishing like they knew exactly what they were looking for—and when they found it, the result was fire, all up and down my arm. It hurt—it hurt like hell, but these things came on a different scale in the last few hours, and I was not about to be stopped. That's got to be a test pulse! I thought, and my heart raced as the lightheadedness hit. Fear? Joy? Revulsion? Anticipation? I didn't have time to pick it apart. After another quick moment, sitting with my head between my knees to get the worst of it to pass, I stood up. Out the door, onto the bridge. One foot in front of the other...left hand balled up despite the pain. This was it. Probably the end of my career. Or my life. But if it worked—I didn't give a damn...it would all be worth it. Breathe. Concentrate. I had to get ready to clear my mind...I wasn't sure why, but I felt like that was going to be critical for not doing more damage. Couldn't think about the reaction when someone figured it out. Couldn't think about the possibility of death. Couldn't think about failure. Could not—COULD NOT—COULD NOT—think about the pain, let it bleed into my awareness. I was a soldier on the battlefield. I had no place for pain in combat against tyranny and atrocity. No place... And somehow—adrenaline? endorphins?—it numbed away. "Where the hell were you? We were this close to sending a search team after you!" "I...had a...minor crisis in the corridor," I mumbled, quiet, hoping Cardassian ears couldn't hear. It wasn't a lie—just some creative phrasing, but even suggesting the possibility where everybody here could hear it would be the same as if it had actually happened the way I intended for my words to be taken. "Wanted to take care of it before I came in here and let everybody know about it. I'd feel like a total shit if I..." I cut my eyes in the general direction of the bridge's center—though in what I hoped would be a modest fashion or interpreted so—to make it clear who everybody was. "I get it. Don't you ever go off by yourself again. Ever. But I get it." A subdued tone I had never heard from my immediate superior before this moment. I bit my lip and nodded. Involuntary tears sprang to the corners of my eyes; I sniffed them back. No one questioned why. There was nothing to question. All right. Deep breath. Steady. Scope things out. Find a place...there. Step by step. Fast motion? Slow motion? Slow, I told myself. The urgency shouldn't transmit directly as it would with a telepath—not the way I thought I understood the scans; I didn't think there was enough bandwidth in these things to do it. But I wouldn't take that risk. Only a blank mind...blank save for calm and trust of a fellow being...was even remotely safe. Steady...breathe... —so dizzy...something's happening...something pushes me down to the floor as if a phaser beam has discharged over my head, though not in any way that makes any sense relative to gravity or touch or any other form of reality, because I am still standing...a vague sense of multilingual panic outside myself where it doesn't matter right now— Stay down. Stay here. You can't let the other one see you—he'll destroy you! A pause. For the love of...what did you do? Why?! Why would you—why would anyone ever...?! There is a rushing sound all around me, though it cannot be called a sound in the way I understand it...a sound in defiance of life; a white-noise waterfall. I know the world is around me and on some level I still perceive it. My good hand braces me on the console. I am standing, but I don’t know how much longer I can. My eyes are closed…and I am nearly deaf. I must! For you! My voice is so small here...I barely hear it in here—not the way I...I hear him. I am on my knees in some way I cannot define, and I am weeping. I can hear you...I can hear you...! I feel...that I am watched in some way, though the emotions themselves aren't transmitted the way I imagine it is for a telepath, only the sound of the words as they were meant to be. You don't hear them, do you? I can't. Too loud. I must be succinct—for I am deep, deep in an ocean I do not understand, and everything is inverted between us now. My ears can. They're afraid for you. Us. There is wonderment in his tone, as though the latter thought surprises him. And you...I can hear you in both ways. I almost think I imagine a strange, leaden sigh here, full of endless frustration and grief. Maybe one was just transmitted. You...are speaking every word out loud, but I take it you aren't even aware of it. My voice. Your words. Why?? I couldn’t answer. But somehow it became easier, when the words were not mine. “The spear in the Other’s heart is the spear in your own: you are he.” —Surak of Vulcan The original source of this quote is Diane Duane’s excellent novel, The Wounded Sky.