Seventeen years ago...
"Are you scared?"
This wasn't a question she'd really considered before this point. A sense of duty, not fear, had been the major factor in her final decision. For years she'd followed the writings of Doctor th'Traal, her concern for the future of her people growing more and more as time went on, but not once had she thought about the personal risk she'd be subjected to. Especially not when she'd volunteered that morning.
"No," she replied after a few moments had passed, managing to flash an infectious smirk at the other woman behind the glass. They'd escorted her to an enclosed room the moment she'd finished filling out the necessary paperwork. It was small but well lit, with a curved transparent viewing window on one wall that stretched almost completely from floor to ceiling. The only furniture was a single chair in one corner and a small computer terminal beside it. The chair, she'd already figured out, was not all that comfortable, and the few media files that they'd supplied her access with held little interest. Instead she'd spent the last few hours of solitude contenting herself by slowly pacing. A leisurely sort of movement that wouldn't have made anyone suspect anxiety from her... And yet the Lab Assistant behind the glass had asked if she was scared. Moving closer, she leaned a shoulder against the window, inquiring in an almost indifferent tone, "Why? Do I look it?"
The assistant shrugged and shifted her weight from one foot to the other, her voice filtering through the room's intercom as she spoke. "No, not exactly. I was just... wondering." sh'Ralla could detect a slight accent in her words, possibly from one of the more cultured Uhenzei Provinces of the north. The mere thought made her smile even wider. The northern provinces were always looked on as the hub of the social elite on Andoria. This zhen, who couldn't have been any older than 20, would probably go back to find that not only had her family disowned her, but any prospects of a future, or even marriage, had dried up completely. But then again, she would've known that going in... This experiment that they were both now a part of wasn't exactly backed by public approval. Quite the opposite in fact. So, sh'Ralla thought as she looked the other woman over curiously, she was either a true-believer or a rebel. Someone who was either absolutely devoted to their cause, or who was simply acting out of spite against what most would consider 'normal behavior.'
Her gaze quickly turned from curiosity to admiration however as she noticed how snuggly the Assistant's translucent lab coat hugged her waist, showing off the curve of her figure and, at the same time, hiding enough to spark the imagination. It wasn't exactly designed for looks... and yet sh'Ralla couldn't help but admit that she wore the damn thing well. "Hey," the girl interjected, tapping on the window that separated them with an embarrassed chuckle, "My eyes are up here!"
"You know, I don't think I got your name..." sh'Ralla stated almost immediately, without even missing a beat, glancing back up into the other woman's deep blue eyes again.
The Assistant's antennae perked up and then curled inward slightly as she shook her head. "I don't think I gave it," she said with a mock air of aloofness just before turning to walk away, unable to hide a bemused smirk from tugging at the corner of her lips.
sh'Ralla watched her go, waiting a few minutes to see if she'd come back before inevitably accepting her solitude once again. She wasn't exactly sure how long she spent in that room. She'd see people pass by now and then, looking rushed and busy. She even saw a couple of orderlies escorting, what she could only assume, was another volunteer like herself down the long hall her cozy 'accommodations' looked into. Finally, after pacing for what seemed like an eternity she just couldn't take it anymore. She plopped herself down in front of the computer terminal and waved a hand over the screen to power it on. This elicited a beep and, as the holographic display faded into view, the first thing that caught her eye was a news article... Local Clinic Bombed. Sighing and shaking her head, she swiped to scroll through the rest of the news feed, trying to avoid any of the more graphic pictures of the attack. Suspects in Custody. Riot in Zhaieu Province. Doctor Murdered. Protests Shutting Down Traffic Through Freedom Plaza. Headlines like this had been popping up all week, ever since Parliament had come out in favor of legalizing th'Traal's research.
"Idiots," She muttered under her breath, sounding more sad than angry really. To her, what th'Traal had proposed made perfect sense. The issue her species was facing became more and more critical according to each year's census, and yet most simply ignored the problem. Ignored the numbers. Blindly blamed it on 'the great and noble sacrifices that Andoria had made during the war with the Dominion.' She felt frustration rise up inside her at the thought, her antennae slowly flattening back against her skull. The truth was simply that no one wanted to see reality... Custom and tradition had become so important, that even survival had to take a back seat. She would not be so foolish. That was why she had volunteered for Doctor th'Traal's experiment in the first place, even if risks were involved. She would not just sit idly by and watch as her entire race, the Andorian people, slipped down the whimpering path to extinction. Maybe, in some small way... she could help avert what was, in her mind, the inevitable.
sh'Ralla had just come across another article, detailing a riot that had broken out in one of the western provinces last week, when she felt a very small tremor in the floor beneath her feet. She wasn't even sure it was real for a moment, her antennae perking up as she stared down at the ground, waiting for it to happen again. Instead... the observation window to her room... exploded. The first thing she felt was a burst of hot air whipping at her face, stinging and burning, dozens of tiny little shards of glass slicing into her exposed skin, making her raise her hands reflexively to cover her eyes. The next was the shockwave. She was blown off her feet and she felt a crack as her spine collided with the back wall, knocking all of the oxygen out of her lungs.
Things became a blur after that.
She could barely hear. There was a shrill high-pitched noise in her ears and it seemed to throw all of her senses off as she struggled to open her eyes, to get some idea of what was going on. The harder she fought though, the more difficult it seemed to get. She could barely breathe. She could taste smoke and blood in her mouth and she choked on both in equal measure, coughing and gagging, trying to roll onto her side with little success. Her arms felt raw, as if someone had run them through a meat grinder. And her legs... her legs she couldn't feel at all. It felt like days passed as she lay there, struggling desperately for air, biting and clawing for a few more precious seconds of life... but in the end, all of the willpower she could muster proved useless. The heat was oppressive and she could feel sweat dripping down her forehead... or was it blood? She wasn't sure. The whining in her ears died down incrementally as time went on, replaced instead by eerie silence, broken only by the sound of her own heartbeat growing weaker and weaker. Fear began to creep in. Then panic.
The final moments weren't noble. It wasn't a good death, like in the stories. She wasn't risking her life to aid her species... she was dying alone, lying in the middle of scorched debris and shattered glass, pathetically begging for help.
And she was terrified.