The Dreams We Dream Alone
Location: Paradise Casino
= Ignatius =
One moment Iggy had been standing at the side of the Casino Auditorium stage, watching Warp Nine featuring Raven playing to the rapturous crowd. Zo had struck the chord of the Sonic Harmoniser and it was like his whole body was filled with warm, comfy energy. Ignatius had closed his eyes, feeling the sensation tingle gently throughout his entire body like a wave of pleasure. After a few moments, when he opened his eyes again, he was suddenly backstage at an entirely different event.
It was a catwalk for a fashion show; he recognised it immediately. There was a large screen at the back showing a whirling display of colours, with a long runway down the middle of the room illuminated by rotating spotlights. A captive audience was seated around the walkway, cameras flashing throughout the show. Models were strutting past to the sound of pulsating house beats, and Ignatius was struck by the designs. The outfits were all glowing neon silk, which shimmered in an array of colours. The fabric seemed to defy physics as it was both a light sheen material that also radiated colours in bold blues, bright greens, shocking violets, and lush oranges.
At one point, the spotlights on the walkway flickered off, and it was just the clothes glowing in the darkness, as if walking themselves down the runway. The crowd was loving the show; they applauded with rapturous hands as each design came past. The show director on the apron of the stage had been calling out the model's names and she finally shouted, "Finale time! Everyone on stage!" Each of the models came past again, filling the walkway as the crowd got onto their feet for a standing ovation.
The show director then turned to Ignatius, who had been standing there watching in amazement, and she said with a smile, "It's your turn, Iggy. Have your moment."
Confused, he looked at her, "What?! Me?"
That's when he noticed it. The name on the program, the clothes they were wearing, the show he was watching - it was his. It was Fashion Week, he was the headlining act, and his new season collection had just brought the entire fashion world to their feet.
As soon as he realised this, Ignatius did not waste a moment more. He immediately turned on his heel and strutted out onto that stage. The crowd roared in applause as he did, cameras flashing in eager unison. Iggy waved to the crowd as he walked, seeing all of his old colleagues from New York and Paris in attendance. There were other designers, magazine editors, celebrities. He couldn't believe they had all come to see him!
As he took in his victory walk, Ignatius kept noticing everyone in the crowd. Now there was Marie Antoinette on the sidelines, throwing gold Louis D'or coins at him. The legendary Karl Lagerfeld was trying to get an autograph. Anne Wintour, the famed 21st century Vogue Editor, had thrown off her sunglasses and was relentlessly weeping with joy. KoKo Blox from the House of Chanel was being restrained by security for trying to steal the clothes. It was everything Ignatius ever wanted.
Ignatius made it to the end of the runway and titled his head up high. He did not smile; Ignatius never smiled. He just stood there posing for the cameras, which continued to flash eagerly in front of him. After a few moments, he became aware of someone standing very close next to him.
It was Pleg from Paradise Outpost. "You're not smiling." The Ferengi said, as he stood by Ignatius' side.
"It's cooler." Ignatius remarked, tilting his head so the photographer from the Federation News Service could get a better angle. He ignored the fact that Pleg was on the stage speaking to him, despite how odd that should have been.
"So many people here." Pleg said with a frown, looking at the adoring audience.
Ignatius shrugged, "Of course. It's my moment."
"Not everyone's here though." Pleg commented lightly. "I don't see Raven. Or Terrekal. No one else from the Pandora even."
"They're probably busy." Ignatius tried to dismiss the thought, and he continued to pose for the cameras. "They'll catch me on the news."
"Is that what you want?" Pleg asked seriously, looking up at the clothier. "To be alone?"
"My friend, I am not alone." Ignatius laughed, indicating around at the crowd of adoring fans. "Look around you."
Pleg gave a slight noise, an unimpressed "ah-huh". He shrugged as he started to walk away, "If this is what you want." He said cloyingly as he disappeared into the crowd.
Ignatius flinched a little, but another flash of cameras made him turn. There was a camera right in his face and the flash went off in his eyes, blinding him with a bright white light.
= Mindo =
First there was the darkness, then warmth. The memory of music, now far away. Mindo must have been dreaming.
He immediately remembered where he was; it was his cabin back on Fesaria. The warmth was Caradan, a Changeling in its true state, wrapped around him like a warm cocoon. No, Mindo thought, not on Fesaria. This was the holodeck simulation of the cabin. He was still aboard the USS Tornado.
"How long have I been asleep?" Mindo whispered. He felt Cara slide off his skin. A smooth sheen of warming liquid slid over his whole body and moved to his side. It streamed under his body, through every crease and crack of his anatomy and it all pooled and took the form of a humanoid woman snuggling beside him, holding him tight. Almost too tight.
“Not long,” she breathed.
Mindo could feel her breath on his neck and shoulder. Opening his eyes, he looked into Caradan's. As he did, there came a realization, more like a fleeting thought, that Cara had undergone some ordeal; something he only recently learned about. But that seemed impossible. This was now and not some long ago event being relived. It felt too real to be anything else.
“Tell me,” she smiled at him, “This house of yours.” Cara looked around briefly, dancing her eyes about the place as cast shadows similarly danced around, created by the fire popping in the fireplace. “Is this your place, back home?” She smiled at a more devious scheme. “Or do you bring all the girls here?”
Mindo brought the blanket up to their shoulders. The effect was similar to the way she had enveloped him, only this time they were both in the warm cocoon. He grinned. "You already asked me that," he said and kissed the tip of her nose.
“Yes,” she said as she moved about a little and curled up more against him. “I remember that now.”
Mindo went onto his back and looked up at the wooded ceiling. He let out a deep breath, and realized he'd been holding it in for a while. He relaxed himself. He let himself sink further into the comfy mattress and let his head rest on the pillow. "I didn't realize how tired I was," he said, closing his eyes again. He took her hand and kissed the palm. He turned his head and opened his eyes. She was even more beautiful now. It was almost like he'd forgotten her face. "It's been so long since we did this. With me a full-time Chief and you up on the bridge now, it sometimes feels like we're whole quadrants apart."
“Quadrants amount to nothing when you have this,” she said as she gave his hand a squeeze. “The Great Link would explode with envy if they could but sample what we have.” She kissed his shoulder. “Not sure if I even want to return. I think I might keep the memory of this to just between us.”
Cara propped herself up onto an elbow, petted Mindo’s head with her hand. The other, she laid upon his chest. Looking down to him, “This is everything you wanted,” she said matter-of-factly. “What can happen to you now?” She smiled. “Perfection.”
She made love to him, in her humanoid form this time, the way he had taught her. But it was different. This time it was more than passionate, as if it was for the last time.
"Tell me I'll always have you," Mindo said afterward. "Tell me our love is as real as this moment." He put his hand on hers and held it tight. "If you say it, I'll believe it."
"Say what?" Mindo turned around and saw Terrekal. Bright lights hit him from above. His sparkling suit was slightly disheveled, and his silk shirt was soaked in perspiration. He looked around and saw an empty auditorium. The moment of distortion passed quickly away and Mindo instantly knew where he was.
"Where is everyone?" Mindo asked Terrekal.
"Everyone's gone," Terrekal replied. "You're the last to wake up. Let me guess: it was you and that Changeling in the cabin by the river."
Mindo suspiciously eyed Terrekal. "How did you know that?"
The other Fesarian shrugged. "You're predictable."
Mindo scoffed. "Well, where did you go?"
Terrekal hesitated at first, before replying, "I'd rather not say."
"Fair enough," Mindo said as he made for the exit. Terrekal followed and the subject was dropped.
Mindo was silent as they left the casino on Paradise station. He was surprised that he felt so good. He'd awakened from that dream a thousand times, only to feel a great amount of loss and sadness. But this time, coming out of it had felt entirely different. He was at peace, comforted. Even rejuvenated. He concluded this was the desired effect of the Sonic Harmoniser. He wasn't sad that his moment had been so forcefully taken away. That he would never hear her answer. But dreams aren't answers. They're questions. And life is about the pursuit of questions. Mindo decided he could live with that.
= Raven =
Raven opened her eyes and only saw black. She knew she was lying down on a soft surface like a mattress, but she was completely covered by layers upon layers of blankets. She felt warm and cozy under the sheets, like she was in a cocoon of tight, embracing fabric. She wanted to close her eyes again and go back to sleep, comforted by the knowledge that she was safe and protected here. This was her bliss - being enveloped in a secure, cosy burrow.
But a voice called out to her from outside, "It's time to come out now." A strange voice, familiar but not quite identifiable. Not quite her own.
"Come on, Raven." It said. "It's time."
With a sigh, Raven decided to see who it was. She started to push off the blankets and toss them aside, trying to free her body from the cocoon. She soon realised they were not blankets around her - but instead clothes. A pair of black trousers. Jeans. Shirts. T-shirts. All mens clothing that she recognised had come from her closet. She had been covered by all of her boy clothes. She saw all of her old fashion choices for "Robert", her biological male self. Still stylish, of course, but unmistakably mens clothing. It took Raven a while to finally break free from all the clothes, throwing the last pair of Robert's jocks across the room.
That's when she realised she was naked on the bed and something was... different.
Raven peered down at her chest and gasped in surprise. Immediately jumping out of bed, she raced over to her full-length mirror to confirm it. Raven had a completely female body. Not padding, not false breasts, and not just a drawn-on make-up illusion. Actually a woman. Actually the body she had always wanted. She had soft rounded hips leading to long feminine legs. She felt up to her neck and her Adam's apple was gone; no matter how she craned her head, it was not there. She traced up to her face and felt her plump, raspberry lips, with soft cheek bones, and thin nose. Her fingers were longer and thinner, with French cut nails. She had dark flowing locks of hair - and it was not a wig. She tried to pull at a strand of hair but it just pulled from her scalp, and she felt the real hair coming from her head. The rest of her body had been changed as well; which she gingerly spied with curious eyes.
"Oh my." Raven breathed. "I'm... me."
She took in the sight a few more times, posing at herself in the mirror like a model.
"You are." Came the voice again. Raven spun around and saw herself as Robert, sitting on the floor picking through the pile of men's clothes with a quiet, studious face. He still had all his boy parts and a five o'clock shadow across his manly chin.
"It's... also me." Raven replied with a laugh. She didn't feel embarrassed to be naked in front of her other self.
Robert looked to her with a stoic gaze, "And this is what you want, right? What you really want?"
Raven beamed with pure happiness. "It is." She was near to tears of joy looking at her body in the mirror. She didn't notice the downbeat tone of her male side.
Robert nodded, giving a sad little sigh. "I'm happy for you, Raven. You get to be who you want. Of course, that means I gotta go. You can't be me and you anymore."
Raven turned to look at him with a frown. "Oh. Right. You will go away.... I guess, I never thought of it that like that."
"Hey, I was only ever the outside layer." Robert smiled. "You were always this on the inside."
Raven knelt down on the floor, picking up an embarrassingly bright yellow t-shirt and laughing at it. She shrugged, "It was fun to be both and everything in between. I owe you so much for helping me to figure how who I am. You got me through high school, and dealing with my parents, and discovering drag."
"No more taping things down!" Robert said emphatically. "That's a bonus."
"Heck yeah." Raven smiled, "You put up with all of that, allowing me to explore the different sides of me until I was able to realise what I wanted. But you were never just a costume for me, Robert. You were my shield." She nodded, "And because of you, I'm strong enough to make the transition now."
Robert held out his hand to her, giving a smile, "Just promise you won't totally forget about me."
Raven took his hand and held it in hers, beaming, "I won't. Thank you."
They sat there together for a while, Raven feeling the pure joy of accepting her self and knowing what it was to be truly happy with her body.
Finally, Robert cleared his throat and nodded, "Okay, now it's really time." He snapped his fingers and a bright light washed over Raven. "Goodbye." he whispered as she woke up.
= Zo =
Zo awakened, but his eyes remained closed. The dream had been perfect. In it, the concert had been a huge success. It may have been the best performance he'd ever done. Of course, he knew it was all the effect of the Harmoniser. When Mindo had played his chord, Zo had entered a trance he had felt before, when he had seen the Qzarn on Risa a few years ago while on leave. His dream was the same as it was all those years ago. The rejoicing audience, the loud music, and him center stage, playing the Sonic Harmoniser himself.
Zo stirred and felt a presence next to him. He didn't recall taking anyone home with him, but he'd heard the Harmoniser could cause some memory loss. There was a cutie in the front row that caught his eye...
"Oh wow, that was something," he said, opening his eyes. "How much do you remember?"
He looked at the person laying next to him, and his eyes widened.
It was the Sonic Harmoniser. The dream... the Harmoniser was supposed to give you your greatest wish. But he realized, his greatest wish was playing the Sonic Harmoniser. Since that was the case, the effect must have been canceled out! How could you hallucinate a dream if it was already actually happening?
"Oh my god," he said, realizing what he'd done. Zo had stolen the most valuable, sought-after musical object in the galaxy.
"I am the luckiest person alive!"
He wasn't. But for the moment, that didn't really matter.