Near-Fatal Reflections

Around her, there was darkness.

She was the only point of light in her pitch black surroundings, a beacon in the endless night she found herself inhabiting. She didn’t know how she came to be here, only it’s transition. An impulse, in the heat of battle, to reach out to comfort after a particularly gruelling engagement, an admittance of falling short of expectations, a plea to make her case that her efforts were peak, just not enough.

“We did the best we could.” Those were the words she recalled, dejected, defeated, yet holding onto the last glimmering piece of defiance. “We did the best we…”

Then the darkness.

With no guide, no compass, and no points of reference, she wandered, her SERE training too ingrained to allow her to walk aimlessly. She would go straight, and then spiral, taxing her memory to remember the course. It was difficult to do as she’d had no landmarks, only the rhythm and counting of her steps. Still, she held the spiral course.

Then she saw another light.

Overjoyed, she ran to it. The point of light grew and grew, until she saw the outlines of a room, a neatly arranged bed with pastel covers, curved furniture with a light wooden tone, a vidscreen, and scattered toys across a polished wood-panel floor.

And a child, her back turned to her, eyes and antennae locked on the vidscreen.

To any of her kind, the vidscreen was humble, it was the rest of the furnishings that were opulent beyond belief. There wasn’t much wood on her home moon; any of it would have represented a fortune. In her family’s possession, it was a flex on their incredible wealth.

But to the little child in the room watching her vids, it was just her bedroom.

And more importantly, it was her bedroom too. She recognized the toys. Her Snow Maiden action figures. An entertainment console. Several isolinear chips full of programs. A PADD with a reading primer. And the vidscreen, showing a lanky, tense, fearsome human man with a wild mop of hair and a bright, yellow and black tracksuit.

She’d seen fight vids before, from the bloody epic battles of Klingon fantasy to the frentic excitement and lame soap-opera plots of the her native vids, but this one left an impression that, in the child’s young mind, never let go, not even well into her current adulthood.

In it, the human in the yellow tracksuit faced a towering man. Height, weight, reach, strength. Even by alien standards this much larger human was an imposing sight, looming over the hero in an act of raw intimidation.

But the hero wasn’t shaken. Every move countered as fast as a serpent, every strike cracked like a whip, and in his howls and screams projected his fearsome fighting spirit, a Frost Lynx facing down a much larger Icebear, and not backing down.

In the end, the larger opponent succumbed to the rapid blows, his spirit waning as the hero’s rose, and eventually, he went down.

She recalled something in the child, in her, of the impression it left. Here was the child, smaller and slighter than all the others, a practical miracle to have been alive, but marked as a coddled weakling. Her own bullying peers, her belligerent parents, her domineering sisters, everything in this world had command over her. Everyone seemed bigger and stronger than she. And everyone wanted her to grow up just like them. But how, when they did nothing but order her and keep her down?

Then she saw the human in the yellow and black tracksuit take down a man twice his size.

She had to find out more, so she put in the next vid. And the next.

By the time she saw her hero perform the cockiest flex by tearing the chest hair off an even more intimidating fighter and blow it in his face, she’d irreversibly set the course of her life.

“I want to be a hero, just like him!”

“So, how’s that working out for you?”

Miki jumped in surprise. How’d she not sense the other person coming, shouldn’t her antennae have caught some flicker of her EM field? In pivoting around she lost sight of her old room, but caught the source of the voice.

Her voice.


Looking back at her.

While she looked down and saw her own Starfleet uniform, complete with the white shoulders marking her as a starship Captain, her doppleganger wore the tracksuit. Her tracksuit, her favourite suit and her fighting colors from the time she begged for Wing Chun and ever since. She had her hair, wild like her hero, but trimmed just enough to squeak within Starfleet regulations. There was still the cute, rounded face, the glimmer of intelligence in her glare to offset the irreverence of her body language, and the same slim, wiry build she worked years to cultivate on her petite body.

There was something agitated in the way her mirror image looked at her, a profound sense of disappointment topped by a flash of cockiness she saw in her old hero.

“Great.” She said, sarcastically. “I’m trippin’ jhorblochs.”

“You totally are.” The doppelganger mocked. “Doc’s got you on some pretty heavy meds.”

“Frell.” Miki hissed. “There goes my sobriety.”

“Eh, technically you get a pass because, you know, kaboom.” The doppelganger shrugged, more irreverence that drove Miki to self loathing. “Besides, you do NOT want to feel what your body’s gone through right now.”

Miki sighed, “That bad?”

“Parts of us got literally blown off, so yeah, that bad.” The doppelganger paced around, smooth and patient were her steps. “We’re probably in surgery. Or about to find out what the afterlife looks like. Don’t know. Should be interesting to find out, huh?”

Panic welled up inside Miki. “No way! NO! I’ve got a family to get back to. I gotta pull through!”

“Relax, will ya? You’re too stubborn and stupid to die anyways, and even if you do, so what? You’re in a fever dream. It’s literally the waiting room between life and death here, and it’s not like you’re gonna perform surgery on yourself, so accept the fact that your fate’s somewhat out of your hands and hang out with me instead.” Her doppelganger sat crosslegged on the floor and patted a spot in front of her as an invitation. “What’ll be will be.”

“Alright.” Miki grumped, accepting the invitation, sitting crosslegged in front of herself. “But I’m gonna be super pissed if I don’t live.”

“You and me both.” The doppelganger joked. “But I’ll be more pissed if you go back as you are.”

“What?!” Miki sharply objected. “What did I do?!”

The Doppelganger looked at Miki skeptically. “Really? All those brains you claim to have and you still act like a stereotypical ditz who doesn’t have a frellin’ clue what’s going on? Bitch, that’s a disarming act thought up by courtesan trainers centuries ago, it’s not actually supposed to be a part of your personality! Wake up! Think for a damn moment!”

Miki said, more sternly, “Fine, call me clueless. Tell me what I did!”

Deeply, The Doppelganger sighed. “Fine, I’ll spell it out for you. It’s what you didn’t do that’s got me so pissed off. And because you didn’t do it, you almost died. Again! Seriously, how many times you have to repeat the pattern before you learn?”

“Learn what?!”

“Learn to be the bold frellin’ hero you admire so much, you stupid trel’lik!!!”

Miki bolted up. Indignantly, she turned her heels and walked away. “I don’t have to take this dren from myself! Frell you, I’m out!”

“Oh yeah, back in Zenas, when you pushed the Admirals for some accountability during the Admiral Desimone coup, did you keep pressing when you asked why nobody in the popular kid’s club warned you there was a killswitch on your ship? Or did you let it go until everyone forgot about it?”

Miki was about to object, but then she stammered, “They never found the truth.”

“No, they just couldn’t be arsed enough to find out. Because you didn’t get in their faces enough. You didn’t become so much of a pest that they’d have no choice but to give you an answer, and because you weren’t brave enough to feed them your fist when wouldn’t!”

“Whoa, wait a microt…”

“And what about your family? Did you speak up when your inheritance, your clan legacy, was taken from you? While your sister and her shelthreth was bold enough to seize it, you let it go!”

“HEY! I didn’t even want it!”

“Your capacity for self-delusion is incredible, you know that? You know you wanted it, you just couldn’t be bothered to defend the right to take what was yours! Bold, brave Miki, afraid to make waves!”

“So what?! It’s in good hands! I trust my sister!”

“And what about here, and now? When you let your old shelthreth dictate terms when you were the alpha partner. You just let them go away to Andoria while you did your own thing. Next thing you know, they upgraded to a better Shen, and abandoned YOU!”

Miki choked, “That was my fault. I let them go. Absence…”

“…makes the heart forget, I know, but in case you haven’t noticed, darling, you can make yourself unforgettable with your sheer obnoxiousness. You let your shelthreth passively go to waste, and you know what happened after that! Face it, you weren’t bold, Miki. You were passive. You were a coward!”

“Oh that’s it!” Miki balled her fists. She was ready to fight!

But The Doppelganger wasn’t ready to finish speaking. “And what about here and now, why you’re in Pegasus’ sickbay, slowly dying and slowly degrading Alistair’s combat effectiveness through sheer worry? You know how you ended up here? Hint, it wasn’t a ruptured EPS conduit that blew half your bridge into space and splattered you into a wall like a can of potted meat! What put you here?! COME ON, SPILL IT, GIRL!”




A long and awkward pause filled the void. Facing down her clone, Miki saw the face of her counterpart break into a genuine and warm smile.

“About time, kiddo, but you gotta take it a step further. What didn’t you exactly speak up about.”

The uncertainty returned. Miki stammered, “I’m… not sure.”

Then back to the mockery, The Doppelganger shrugged. “You’re me and I’m you so I can help you out here. You knew the Operation was a total gong show from the start, didn’t you?”

Offended, Mi’shune replied, “Yeah, but sometimes we don’t have the luxury of working with a well-practiced group. It was a scratch formation. Brought together with whatever was in the area. We never had maneovers with each other before. Of course we were gonna stumble over each other’s feet.”

“It was more than that.” The Doppelganger said. “It’s not like Taskforce Caboose. You know what Scharnorst and Pegasus would do, and they know what you’d do. The other ships? Not so much. It was a multi-ethnic force. Klingons, Romulans, and Federation. Not just different ships, different doctrines, more often than not incompatible. The Alliance is still new. We still haven’t learned how to play effectively together. We needed to practice together first, but we didn’t. That was our first mistake.”

“Yeah, well, hindsight’s a bitch, isn’t it?”

“You gotta stop making excuses and start finding solutions, girl, and it starts with learning from your mistakes. You knew the scratch-built battlegroup was flawed from the start, but you didn’t speak up because…”

“Because I trusted we could do it anyways.”

“Bingo! And the complacency set in until it got systemic, and that’s why you and many like you are either dead or clinging to life. Now what’s mistake number two?”

“Another one?”

“Yeah, and as a part of your subconscious you know it’s bugging you, you just haven’t put words to it yet. Now what’s mistake number two?”

Miki regulated her breathing to calm herself. It didn’t quell her anger, but like people of her species, it brought a certain clarity of thought. “Burov.” She stated. “It was his op. He was only a Lieutenant Commander. He saw rumors of an Azedi fleet, thought he’d be the big hero by bringing together a scratch battlegroup to rescue, and probably didn’t vette his information sources. He was in way over his head, and we got thrown into a Terran Empire ambush.”

“Close… what else?”

“Well, part of our op took us through enemy territory. We risked being cut off. So I thought that to decrease or chances of being detected we could call in a diversionary attack elsewhere to draw reserves from the territory we had to traverse…”

“And what did Captain Schmucky O’Hare say to that?”

Miki sighed, dejected, “He shot the idea down outright.”

“And what did you do about it? Did you press? Did you insist that it needed to be done? Did you tell that trumped up little strategic bitch that he needed to clear the road or else our op was gonna go tits up?!”

Ashamed, Miki replied, “No.”


“Because I was afraid to.” She confessed. “I didn’t want to mess with the unit cohesion, which was tenuous as is. Tyr’s already a loose cannon with a low opinion of the rest of us. And the Klingons and Romulans think we can’t pour piss out our boots without instructions. Last thing I needed was to tell the leader of the op that he literally was too stupid to do something as simple as to clear the road for us. We were lucky we weren’t detected at that stage. It would have skunked the op from the get-go.”

“Yeah, you saw it.” The Doppelganger nodded. “And why did you see it?”

“Because I’ve done this dren before.”

“Exactly! You could have planned a better op in your sleep! So why didn’t you?”

“Because I put my trust in him, thinking he knew something I didn’t.”

“Which turned out he didn’t, and here we are.”

“Yeah. Instead of railing against systemic Edsel-Like groupthink, I became a part of it.” Miki said, bitterly. “Hurray for us.”

“Eh, don’t be too hard on yourself, that’s my job. So next time you see some Lieutenant Commander too big for his britches trying to pull an op without the least bit amount of prep…”

“Tell him to stick it up his ass?”

“Not in those words, and you still can’t defy orders, but be sure to put your objections on record, ‘kay?”

“Okay…” Miki let out a big sigh. “Are we done?”

“Nope, got a little bit more for ya!”


“And you’re not gonna like it, but bear with me.” The Doppelganger soothed. “But this one has to deal with your own biases. Mainly, Alistair. Face it, hon, he frelled up too. Big time.”

“WHAT?!” Miki nearly shot out with indignance. “Now what did he do?!”

“Yeah, I know how you feel.” The Doppelganger said. “And trust me, we’re each other, so I love that handsome son of a trel’lik to bits, but face it, he gave an impulsive order at the beginning of the op which frelled up the entire thing. And as much as you’d hate to admit it…”

“You have no idea!”

“Yeah I do! Anyways, as much as you’d hate to admit it, you know what he did wrong at the very start. Be honest with us. Where did he screw up?”

She had to think, long and hard, waiting for the minutes to scroll by. Then she remembered her past doubts, and the order, one she did without hesitation, out of pure trust.

“Those decoy ships were a dumb idea.” She replied. “Why did we need it? We already outnumbered the first escort vessel we encountered. Why did we need more decoys to confuse them? All we needed to do was gang up on the ship like it was a malfunctioning subspace fax transmitter! What I should have been doing, instead of using my power output to project fifteen starships, was to use that power to jam subspace transmissions throughout the entire solar system. It wouldn’t have been perfect, but it was better than this! And my ship’s made for that job!”

“So why didn’t you?”

“Because I was under orders.”

“Yes… but you also could have voiced your objections, couldn’t you?”

Once again, Miki felt like a chastised child. “Yes. But seriously, in the middle of a battle? We’re professionals! We can’t just halt everything, argue, and second guess everyone, not in the middle of a fight! The chain of command breaks down, then we’re really screwed!”

“But you could have put in your suggestion. And you did, when you noticed the reinforcing fleet wasn’t the actual reinforcements but a fleet that blundered into the fight. At least you did that one right when you told Alistair they were flatfooted and insisted we pound them to scrap. Remember your officer training! Respect the chain of command, but if you see an opportunity you go for the throat! That’s the Miki you should be!”

Miki hissed, “And then I overstep my bounds and it’s Court Martial City…”

The Doppelganger was quick to snap. “Stop making excuses. We already established, through multiple examples, how Starfleet officers giving you orders can be as stupid as dren. Trust me, trust yourself, when I say don’t be so rigidly wedded to the chain of command. It’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission! Savvy?”

Miki found herself slowly nodded. “Yeah… you got a point. Sometimes I get so frustrated with our orders. It’s like our brass has their heads firmly up their asses and no relevant hands-on experience since they got chained to their desks. I’m a Starfleet Officer with multiple years of combat experience and the best in Starfleet tactical training, and better still, my experience is the most relevant! Why should I listen to them when the reality on the ground is different?”

The Doppelganger smiled warmly again. “Well… look at you with that third eye! I think you’re finally learning! But you’re getting sidetracked. You’re avoiding the big handsome Al in the room…”

“Look, honey, I can’t fault Al for being what he is. If you think you’re hot dren as a tactical officer, trust me, you’ve got nothing on him. But he’s not a hero. No, far from he. He’s a soldier, just as prone to the inflexibilities of the chain of command as anyone else. Even then he goes rogue on occasion, but it’s always as a measured response. Doesn’t mean he can’t make mistake. And it doesn’t mean you need to be completely subservient to him.”

“I am not…”

“You’re married to him. Yes you are. But at the job, you sometimes have to tell him his fanciful ideas are half-baked and he’s a total moron for trying to be flashy at the wrong times. You should have told him his fake ships idea was stupid and you should have been on sensor jamming duties. And when he told you to mess up the navigational data for the system, you should have told him it was a dumb idea and stop wasting your time figuring out a way to make his high-as-frell orders work. No, not gonna happen. Should have focused on the plan you did anyways, which was to blind them silly. No distress signal, no second wave of reinforcements, we could have cleaned their clocks and come out as heroes.”

“That third wave did screw us…”

“Not much you could have done about it. But the way you insisted on blinding the reinforcements while everyone smoked them at the warp point? Brilliant.”

“Well, it was not like anyone else had any better ideas.”

“The Klingons did, but everyone else? It was just fire and hold the line. Real holovid stuff, but not the brightest ideas Also, you shouldn’t assume the others were gonna pick up the slack. Like you, others can be afraid to speak up. You know what that makes them? Total putzes. And you with them because you went along with it. You know what that is? Systemic! The very thing you hate. And all because you were too afraid to speak up!”

Mi’shune’s antennae swiveled and her eyes caught up with the movement to find a point of light returning. There, she saw in the distance, her old room, and her young self. She was clearing the toys off her floor to make room. Glancing back at the vidscreen, then to herself, she tried a poor imitation of the martial artist’s fighting stance. When his leg shot out in a yellow-and-black blur at his opponent, she tried the same, but slipped on the polished wood surface. She squeaked and cried out in pain as her bottom hit the floor. The initial shock brought tears to her eyes, but she stifled a cry.

Why did she do that? Suddenly, Mi’shune remembered.

She was afraid the servants would hear, and they would put a stop to it right away. So she held back her tears, stood up, and tried the kick again.

She still couldn’t do the kick after multiple attempts, but she remembered the feeling, the reward of the act itself, and the mantra that pursued her to insist, no, demand, her parents find her a martial arts teacher so she could learn to be just like her hero.

“I want to be a hero, just like him!”

“Well… it’s not so simple, is it?” Mi’shune said to herself.

The Doppelganger sniffed. “Sure it is. I mean, you still gotta use better judgement and be careful, which I know you’re totally not, but that part of you, the part that takes the initiative, that fights for what you believe in, that chases your dreams no matter what, it’s taken a beating all these years, buried by cynicism, put to sleep by absorbing yourself into other people’s dreams and ambitions. You got too used to giving your all to everyone else… except yourself. And now look what’s happened. You’re fighting for your life! All because you were too afraid to speak up when everyone else around you was too dumb to see the obvious.”

“I know, but it’s not so simple.” She insisted.

“It is,” pushed back The Doppelganger. “you’re smarter than you give yourself credit for, trust me. You’re stronger than you think you are. And for all the love and loyalty you can give, you can’t forget that in the end you have something to offer too, and you won’t be able to give it if you’re too busy struggling under other people’s shadows. Especially when they’re wrong! So please, stand up for yourself, speak up when it needs to be said, fight when you know it’s right, and accept the consequences, not with dread, but with understanding, knowing you’ll learn from it regardless.”

The room disappeared. The darkness was dissipating, flooding with a steadily growing light.

“Don’t just be a good soldier. Be the hero you know you are, and you’ll be better than anyone.”

She woke up to the phantom pains of her injuries, and the real fog of the opiates coursing through her body.

That delicious feeling of nothingness, of pure relaxation. Several years sober of a major hypospray addiction and the feelings came back to her. How she missed it! She didn’t want to worry how much of a colossal struggle it would be to clean out her system again, and what was done was done. She let the sensation go over her like a wave, each bump reminding her that her body was wracked in, if muted, incredible pain.

She moved an arm to test some of these sources of pain, only they did not obey. She lolled her head over, One arm was clearly there, its outline on the sickbay blanket easy to see, but the other…

It was gone all the way below the elbow. For that matter, so was her leg, up to above the knee. She saw the outlines of medical monitoring equipment and quickheal regeneration bandages. That’s why she itched. Without the drugs she’d blind with pain from plasma burns.

She looked for a reflection because her head started to ache. When she found the bettle-black surface of a panel she turned to look. Her reflection, aside from a few scrapes, was still intact, but looking haggared.

Her body, from what she guessed by the immobility field, the missing limbs, and the sheer amount of drugs keeping her in a happier place, might as well have been turned into a ground meat byproduct. Yet her cute, deceptively youthful looking face was intact.

She marvelled at the sheer miracle of it all.

She remembered vaguely the mention of an EPS rupture from her Doppelganger, yet she couldn’t remember the events. So whatever happened to her also disrupted her memory.

“Wow… can’t wait to hear the story behind this.”

She heard a door swish and the shuffle of feet. Somehow, there was a musical quality to the sounds, a pleasant rhythm, accompanied with soft greys and purples that seemed to sweep past the corner of her vision.

“Trippy… must be the drugs.” Then, a thought came to her. Her Doppelganger, her lessons. She remembered all of it. Vivid, unlike her drugged reality. “So that was real too?”

Then she remembered the review. The op, how it went so wrong, so many things going wrong…

The nurse approached, and spoke with a pleasant, lilting voice hued with soft shades of violet. “Welcome back, Captain sh’Nimitz.”

“A PADD.” She croaked, softly. “Please.”

The nurse’s voice took on a more firm and crimson quality. “You can’t move. You’re still recovering from your injuries, and, quite frankly, thanks to your built up resistance, you’re on more drugs than an entire Orion snakeweed den…”

“Let me tell you something.” She croaked defiantly, “Half my career I was a functional alcoholic and stimhead. I was higher than the stratosphere most the time and I still beat more Klingon ass than Captain Kirk! Don’t tell me what I am and am not capable of. Give me something to dictate with while it’s still fresh on my mind…”