DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2002 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Echoes and Voices
I look in the mirror and I see him. I see both of them. Shinzon. And Locutus. They live, warped and twisted and always there. On the other side of the mirror. On the other side of my soul. They will never leave me. They are me.
I close my eyes. I don't want to look at the reflection. Don't want to think about Shinzon impaled on that rod, pulling himself closer to me. The sound of flesh tearing, the smell of blood, the feel of his breath—my breath on my cheek. Such hatred. Such passion. The echo he called himself, but he was vivid, more vivid perhaps than I am, than I have ever been. More alive. His hatred for me, for humans, for Earth animated him, gave him the energy to go on even as his body destroyed itself. He would bring down an entire planet even if it was the last thing he did. And it would have been.
I see Shinzon's face in my dreams. He stares at me with red eyes and nostrils flaring with the pain he refuses to acknowledge, and I stare back. Unable to move. Then I see his face suddenly tear open as a Borg implant erupts out of the wound and another rips through his chest. An assimilation tube emerges from his hand, a hand he holds out to me. As the tube pierces my artificial heart, I hear in my mind the voice of the Collective, Welcome home, Locutus.
"Welcome home, brother," Shinzon laughs, even as his tortured skin changes to the mottled gray of the Borg. "We are ever one."
It's a nightmare I've had since the Collective took me. But in the past, it was my face that the Borg hardware pierced through, my hand that reached out for my friends and assimilated them as they screamed. I thought it was the worst nightmare possible. That I might still have Locutus inside me, that the Borg had not been driven out as completely as Beverly thought.
But now the nightmare is worse. Locutus may have always been inside me. The destroyer that Locutus was, the architect of Earth's destruction—of the genocide of the human race—perhaps he wasn't brought by the Borg? Perhaps he was inside me already? The potential for him carried within my DNA. I looked at Shinzon and I saw Locutus—and I saw myself. Was I a killer? Was I the driven, hate-filled man I saw crawling inch by tortured inch on that stake? Have I been Locutus all along?
It paralyzed me then, as the seconds went by, and I stood and stared at Shinzon's body kept upright only by the heavy metal rod I had put in his path. His body nearly touched me, would have touched me if I hadn't pressed myself against the wall. I couldn't move, couldn't make myself go find my phaser. I just stared as the computer counted down to annihilation for me and for all those I held dear. I stood and waited, and wondered which of us was indeed the echo. What if I was? What if the voice was meant not to speak in the measured tones of a diplomat but in the strident commands of a dictator? What if I was meant to usher in Armageddon? What if Jean-Luc was a fluke and they were the real voice?
I would have stayed that way forever. Catatonic, frozen in self-doubt, in horror at what I had come up against, at having to kill my echo even as I realized the sound of his voice would never leave me. I was weak—or perhaps I was strong enough to want to die. That might have been better. Who knows what the next manifestation of the destroyer could look like? Who knows how many might die under the hands of one that echoes my soul?
But I did not die. My friends didn't perish. Most of them didn't but one man did. Man—I use the term accidentally, then deliberately. Man. Data the man. Data had become a man to me. Like some fine, tall form of Pinocchio that the blue fairy had turned into a real boy. And until that moment I hadn't realized it. As he slapped the emergency transporter on me, I couldn't find the words to tell the man before me to stop, to beg him to stop. If I had, what would I have said? Would it have been along the lines of: "You go back, Data, the universe needs you more"? Would I have resisted, if I hadn't been so weak? Would I have thought of a way to save him?
Data thought I was worth saving. I must make sure that he was right. But how do I know I can do that? How do I know that Shinzon isn't inside me right now? Isn't working with Locutus? Both of them whispering to the part of me that sleeps in the deepest, darkest corner of my soul. I can feel Locutus now, closer than I've felt him since those days after I was freed from the Collective. I hear his voice inside me. I hear the voice of the Queen, lulling me into that fugue state from which only evil will emerge. I must resist.
Shinzon said it. Resistance is futile.
But I must resist. And the Queen is dead in any case. Or at least my Queen. Somewhere another lives on. I don't want to think about that. I tell myself that she lives only in my mind...that the voice of the Collective sings only in my head. Nothing more than the echo of what once was. Shinzon was the echo of what never was. The life I didn't lead. The hardships I never knew. He was me without the ease. My life turned upside down and colored black. And he hated me for it. Resented me. But he hid it well at first. And at first, I was captivated by him. Fascinated. Intrigued. How vain I was. I thought it was me. And it was. Just not the me I wanted it to be.
I suddenly understand Will's reaction to Tom Riker. The strangeness of coming up against yourself and finding that you aren't quite what you expected. The need to reach out, while at the same time feeling an odd repugnance that colors every reaction and makes you want to draw back. You speak and your own voice answers. Only not your voice—not my voice, for I didn't grow up in the Dilithium mines, I didn't breathe the corrosive vapor for so many years. I didn't live with broken bones; with a face so battered it bore little resemblance to my own. I did not live that life.
But what if I had?
The echo was deeper than the voice. More strident. Louder. And never louder than when he whispered our death, as he pulled himself to me. His voice rushed over me, overcame me. I could do nothing except stand mute as I watched my evil twin die. My evil self. Myself. I watched myself die. I killed myself. I killed. I am a killer.
I am not a killer.
Deanna is worried about me. She can sense the way my thoughts turn these days. She comes to me and urges me to talk. "I know what his touch felt like," she says. "I can still feel him in my mind."
I had hoped she was free of him. But her eyes are haunted and she's lost the spark of joy she used to exude. She's trying though, for Will's sake, for her marriage's sake. She tries to resurrect the old Deanna and to some extent she must be succeeding because Will acts as if nothing is wrong. She doesn't want to worry him, so she comes to me instead. She comes to me and talks and tells me what she feels because we share the fear that Shinzon will be with us forever.
I think, in time, the residue he left inside her mind will fade. I think she'll lose the terrible burden of his touch. And I envy her for I think that I won't. For how can I? His touch inside me is not foreign; his touch inside me is familiar. It's the touch of my own hand, my own mind, my own soul. It's the cold, hard sensation of the mirror when you lean your face against it and know that you touch something that is both the same and the opposite as your own face. When you get that close, you can feel everything, but you can't see anything, you can't make out the details.
I look out the viewport at the space dock and wonder when I will pull away from the mirror enough to gain perspective and again make out the features of my echo without feeling this sense of dread and resignation. I hope that I will someday be able to look in the mirror and see Jean-Luc Picard and not Shinzon or Locutus.
But until that time, I try to envision Data. I close my eyes and imagine how he must have looked when he destroyed the Thalaron weapon and the Scimitar with it. Cool, serene, emotionless but underneath perhaps there was a spark of resentment, a moment of yearning for the life he was sacrificing. I imagine in my mind that he waited till the computer had nearly reached zero before firing, that he wanted to squeeze out every possible second left to him. That he did not want to end his life at all. I imagine that Data spent his last moment not wanting to die. I try to tell myself he didn't know the meaning of despair. I wonder if that's true.
I asked B-4 the other day if he understood the nature of sacrifice. He gave me the sweet confused look that he has worn since Data died. He does not understand. He may never understand. I have to accept that. But somewhere in my heart, I want to believe he can become what Data was. That he can become more noble, more a man than the childish machine that I visit daily. I have to believe that it's his destiny to be more than the echo.
Just as I struggle to be more like the voice he's modeled on. More like the man who believed in me enough to risk everything to save me, to save us all.
I push back the despair I feel and try to be useful. I walk down the hall and smile and nod and pretend. I make believe I'm happy and every now and then, I am. I make believe that I look forward to the future Data gave me, and every now and then, I do.
And then I look in the mirror.