Too Many Merus
Captain's Office, USS Portland
2391, MD06, morning
Authors: Lt. (JG) Delainey Carlisle, multiple Alenis' (all played by Alenis Meru)
"...and it's strange, I still have feelings for him, but I'm not sure if they're real feelings." Holo-Meru took a deep breath. Even though she didn't need oxygen, she was programmed with holographic lungs and what were to her perfectly normal Bajoran responses to stress. She looked up at the woman across the room from her. Normally ship's counselors didn't make house calls, but without holo-emitters in Delainey's office, she had to come up to deck one. They were using the captain's office because it was guaranteed to be quiet, and because it was at least in some way familiar to Holo-Meru.
"You know, it's funny, doctor, the real Meru would never volunteer herself to see a shrink," continued the hologram. "Well, except maybe Arvel, but that's a different story. Anyways, I'm actually finding this session to be a lot less painful than expected."
Delainey smiled. "I'm glad to hear you say that because it's what I aim for. Certainly, depending on what people are going through, it can be painful to talk, but I believe talking things through is preferable to keeping them inside." She chuckled. "Contrary to perception, therapists aren't motivated to pull out people's most traumatic thoughts and feelings for their own amusement."
Truthfully, it was just as strange for Carlisle to hear holo- Meru speak about the other Meru as it was for the rest of the crew. Delainey had never had an opportunity to meet the organic Meru as it were, but at the same time, she felt as if she knew her all the same based on people's stories.
"That's good to know," replied the hologram. "It's nice to have someone to talk to, especially with all that has happened over the past week. I'm still not totally comfortable with the idea of being a holographic copy of someone."
Delainey smiled. "I'd worry if you were," she answered honestly. "Try to keep in mind your emotions just are," she added. "There is no right or wrong when it comes to feelings."
Suddenly, they were interrupted by a chime at the door, one which startled both women. Neither of them were expecting to be interrupted in here.
"Are you expecting someone?" Delainey asked.
"No, I..." The hologram froze as the door opened, revealing a Bajoran woman who bore a striking resemblance to both herself and the late captain.
The woman froze in her tracks. "Meru?" she asked, a look of shock on her face.
"No, I'm..." The hologram sighed and swiped her arm at the computer monitor, it harmlessly passing through without interruption, to show she was a hologram. "It's a long story. But I could say the same about you. You bear a striking resemblance to her."
"Oh, no, I'm... Tylo Nerys," replied the Bajoran woman, the door closing behind her. "I'm... very close to the family."
"I don't remember a Tylo Nerys," countered the hologram, her eyes narrowing. "Unless..." the hologram froze for a split second. "I know who you are, Doctor Silverton mentioned something about you. You're Ina--"
"I'm Tylo Nerys," said the other woman in a firm voice, asserting her new identity.
Delainey was utterly confused. "May I help you?"
The hologram looked up at the other woman and saw the pain and exhaustion in her eyes. "It's okay. Dr. Carlisle here can be trusted."
The mysterious woman simply nodded and opened her mouth, but no words came out.
"This is Inaji Narale," added holo-Meru. "My... I mean, Meru's, half-Cardassian half-sister. We found her on Gamia III and gave her a new identity and a new life. There... were people after her."
Delainey wasn't sure what she expected to hear, but she decided it certainly wasn't *that.* At first, Carlisle was beating herself up inwardly for not having the first clue about such events. Granted, she had come aboard mid-mission to Gamia III but it seemed she was destined to forever play catch up where that planet was concerned.
Carlisle said the only thing that seemed appropriate under the circumstances. "Hello. It's nice to meet you."
For a moment, Inaji froze.
"Don't worry, she's cool," said holo-Meru as she stood up and walked towards Inaji, giving her a big hug. "And you're safe here."
"I..." Inaji froze for a moment and wrapped her arms around the hologram. Whatever she was, she was the closest thing to her late sister. As the hug ended, Inaji looked over at the doctor. "It's... nice to meet you too, Doctor Carlisle."
Pulled from her surprise in large part by holo Meru's reassurances to the seemingly skittish woman before her, Delainey offered, "Please forgive my surprise. I did not mean to leave you thinking you weren't welcome. I don't know your circumstances exactly, but you are indeed safe here from me. I mean you no harm."
“Thank you, doctor,” replied Inaji. She offered Delainey a hint of a smile. “Sorry. I’ve been on the run for so long… it’s hard to remember what it was like to be able to trust someone again.”
Delainey nodded in understanding, though in truth it was the kind of understanding that came from only the general idea of being on the run. She had no idea of the circumstances that affected Inaji specifically, and the counselor was torn about whether she should ask. Suddenly, she felt guilty for almost giving into the impulse to start a brand-new therapy session with the new person in the room without finishing the previous session with Meru.
Not accustomed to being unsure of what to do, particularly under professional circumstances, she found herself turning to both women and offering a small smile. "It's my turn to apologize. I find myself wanting to lend an ear to both of you right now. Professional hazard," she added with a wider smile. "Still, I should probably just give the two of you some privacy."
“No, Doctor, it’s all right,” replied the hologram. “I--”
She was interrupted by a chime at the door. Inaji, a tinge of fear running down her spine as she knew she was cornered in this room, looked over at holo-Meru. “Are you expecting anyone?” she asked, a little nervous.
“No, I wasn’t…” Holo-Meru looked over at the door, hoping it was Tim or someone who understood their situation. “Come in,” she called out, not knowing what else to say.
The doors opened to reveal an older Bajoran woman. One who bore a certain familial resemblance to Inaji and the hologram. But she was older, with a number of grey hairs and lines on her face which told a story. One of the struggles of raising a child under occupation, of living as a refugee, and of years over a grill in the kitchen of the little hole-in-the-wall Bajoran restaurant on Earth which she ran in order to provide her daughter with everything she needed to succeed in life.
“Mom!” exclaimed holo-Meru, her jaw dropping.
“Mom?” chimed in Inaji.
“Meru?” Alenis Kendra rubbed her eyes; not only did it look like she was seeing double, but she was seeing double of her late daughter. “I…” she stumbled forward, her legs turning to jelly, she leaned on the desk for support. “I...” she glanced over at the one woman in the room who she didn’t recognize. “This… can’t be. I came here to gather my daughter’s things… what’s happening here?”
Delainey wasn't sure she knew, but it was clear the new arrival was in shock, and Carlisle acted quickly. "Here," she offered, rushing forward to gently lead the older woman to nearby seating. This was certainly not how she imagined meeting anyone's parent for the first time, but the symptoms, if not the circumstances, were familiar to the doctor and therapist in the room, and for the moment, Delainey's focus narrowed to the older woman. She didn't like her color, and though she wanted to do more, Delainey thought it wise to at least introduce herself and explain before putting more hands on the new arrival. "I'm Delainey. I'm a doctor here. I know this is very upsetting and very confusing, and I will explain everything, but first, will you take some slow, deep breaths for me?"
A million questions flew through Carlisle's mind and she wanted nothing more than to turn to the other women in the room to explain, but there would be time for that later, she hoped.
Sitting down, Alenis Kendra took a few deep breaths and held her head. Confused, she didn’t know what was going on when she felt someone hold her by the hand. It was a familiar feeling, it was just like that of her daughter, but a little different. There was something missing about the way she touched her.
“I know you’re confused right now,” said holo-Meru, taking the elder Alenis by the hand. “A lot has happened over the past week. I…” She froze, not sure where even to start. “Can I get you some tea?”
Alenis Kendra nodded in the affirmative. Delainey chose to remain silent for the moment. The fewer people vying for the clearly upset woman's attention, the better.
"Doctor, perhaps it would be best if you were to give us a little privacy," stated the hologram as she headed for Meru's tea kettle. "Family matters, I'm sure you understand..."
Capt. Alenis Meru