Tasha came to just as the world went white, and the frustration almost choked her. She knew that light. She wasn't supposed to be here again. She'd meant to go down fighting in this time.
The sound of her groan–part fury at the universe, part busted left leg–filled the lifeboat. It should have had half a dozen people crammed in with her, and felt huge with just herself. She couldn't believe she was the only one to get off the Enterprise C. Again she searched her memory, but all she could recall were the flames and alert lights as the ship pitched under another Romulan barrage. She'd told Castillo they couldn't survive another hit like that. Clearly they hadn't. Someone must have packed her in here and fired her at the time rift.
The lights flickered, and the little craft pitched, throwing Tasha into her crash harness. She tried to call up some kind of display, but the sensor panel wasn't working. A lot of things didn't seem to be working. The air tasted stale already, even though it should have kept a single survivor alive for years. She wondered if the lifeboat had taken damage before launch or while escaping through the temporal rift. It probably didn't matter in the end.
"Damn David Castillo, anyway," she said, but couldn't put any feeling behind it. If he wasn't dead by now, the Romulans had him, which was well and truly damned.
Growling, she clicked free of the harness and pushed across to the far wall. These old models hadn't bothered with artificial gravity, which made things easier. She could worry less about her leg supporting her.
The far panel had some life. It didn't respond to commands, but a string of status lights ran across the display, most of them red. No air recycling, no thrusters, no sensors, no communications, no subspace beacon. Yes inertial dampeners, yes local emergency beacon, yes heat. That was something anyway. She'd never cared for the cold. The compartment under the floor took some wiggling and a hit to her leg to get open, but held enough air canisters to last a week. She used the auto splint in the first aid kit to immobilise her leg, and patched the worst of the bleeding.
In the hours that followed, Tasha wished the lifeboat had a window. She wished for a lot of things, most of all to know what was going on. She'd seen her Enterprise go down fighting the Klingons, and apparently lost her adopted ship to the Romulans. Had one cancelled out the other? If it hadn't, she seemed just as likely to run into rescuers she didn't want to see. She'd heard about how the Klingon Empire treated its guests, and knew that she was better off suffocating in deep space. Even if a friendly ship found her, if anyone found her, it might come to the same end soon. The senior officers kept quiet about the state of the war, but she knew the smell of defeat when it filled the air.
The maintenance manual didn't provide much of a break from worry. The lifeboats were supposed to survive almost anything, and if something hit hard enough to do this much damage, there really wasn't much a non-engineer could do from the inside. "Hope for a speedy rescue," the manual implied, but didn't outright say. The first aid section depressed her.
She took a painkiller and tried to get some rest.
A sudden shift in the hull's vibration startled Tasha out of a drifting sleep, and the whine of a tractor beam jolted the last reserves of energy through her body.
She braced herself against the wall facing the hatch and drew her phaser. The emergency beacon's signal couldn't have gotten more than a few light hours. Whoever had heard it had to have either been near by or left relay. The Klingons who'd destroyed her Enterprise could still be around, sweeping for survivors.
It seemed to take her longer to pull her in than it should. She pictured the tractor beam drawing the lifeboat into a cargo bay, and wondered if Klingon ships would have changed much since the latest security briefing. Lately, it had felt like Starfleet Intelligence was always two steps behind.
When the larger ship's artificial gravity kicked in, Tasha made sure to land on her good leg. She raised her phaser and held steady aim on the hatch. It clicked and whirred as it cycled open, then jammed half way. A pair of brown hands wrapped around the edge, and Tasha heard a low grunt as the hatch the ground the rest of the way open. A face came into view, peering into the darkened lifeboat. Its Klingon brow ridges stood out clearly against the glare of the cargo bay lights.
Tasha shot the Klingon in the face. As the body fell away, she dove free of the lifeboat. She landed on her good side, and rolled to a crouch, keeping her craft at her back. The Klingon lay unconscious at her feet. She knew better than to try take him hostage. Klingons didn't do hostages, either taking them or negotiating for them. Tasha blinked as she took in the bay, which was full of Starfleet shuttlecraft and security officers. Their mustard yellow uniforms matched her own in colour if not cut. So did their phasers, which were pointed at her head. She could see a glimpse of blue behind two of the guards: a medical officer shoved out of the line of fire when the shooting started. Two other details came together then: first that all the shuttles had 1701-D emblazoned on their noses. Secondly, the Klingon she had shot also wore a uniform that very nearly matched her own, right down to the rank pips.
She stared at the security staff, who gaped at her as if she'd stunned them as well.
"Identify yourself," a junior lieutenant demanded, clinging to protocol.
"Lieutenant Tasha Yar, USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D," she snapped. "Who the hell are you?"
"Lieutenant Si–" the guard started, but broke off as the medical officer elbowed past her.
"Tasha?" Beverly breathed, eyes wide. At the same moment, the cargo doors cycled open, admitting a breathless Deanna Troi with Commander Riker close on her heels.
"Tasha!" Deanna didn't break stride until she dropped to her knees on the deck beside Tasha and flung her arms around Tasha's neck.
Tasha let herself have two long breaths to fill her lungs with the scent of Deanna's hair, abundantly curled on this ship, not hidden up in the bun as it had been when Tasha had known her. Then she pushed free and rose to her feet, drawing Deanna with her. "Yes. It's me," she whispered.
"What happened to Worf?" Riker was asking Lieutenant Whateverhernamewas. She had tried to intervene in Deanna's headlong rush, but Riker had collared her for a status update.
"'Lieutenant Yar' shot him, sir."
"He's only stunned," Beverly added. She'd come into their little corner of the shuttle bay without Tasha even noticing.
Tasha still had one arm looped around Deanna's waist. This piece of the universe she had changed; she had saved Deanna. "I guess it worked," she said. "We stopped the war. Are the Klingons part of the Federation now?"
Beverly frowned in confusion. "What did you say?"
Riker's body tensed, and, following his cue, the security team's phasers crept up again. "Careful, Counsellor," Riker said tightly. "That might not really be Tasha Yar."
"No. It is. I feel it."
Tasha felt Deanna's hand cover hers, fingers curling under her palm. She took another slow breath before saying, "I think I should talk to the captain."
Captain Picard met Deanna and Will in sickbay just as Beverly was saying that this new Tasha's DNA matched with her records. When Picard raised an eyebrow, she glanced across to the transparent walls of the isolation ward, then down at her padd. Deanna could feel his confusion, frustration and, under everything, a sliver of hope. "However, I've found several old injuries that don't match my medical records," she added. "And I can't find any trace of the fractured ulna from Kalindra IV."
The Captain's gaze followed Beverly's before returning to a study of Deanna herself. His mind was guarded, more so than usual, wrapping in every stray feeling. Deanna still got the impression that he too didn't quite want to hope. "Counsellor Troi seems convinced that this woman is genuine."
Will and Beverly exchanged looks; a glance that seemed to include Worf's unconscious form on the neighbouring biobed.
"I can't explain it, Captain," Deanna said honestly. "She feels like our Tasha. Even before I entered the cargo bay, I recognised her." She fell silent, not sure how else to describe the wave of familiarity that had cascaded over her as soon as the lifeboat doors had opened. She had embraced Tasha without hesitation.
"You knew her that well?" Will asked. He wasn't quite jealous, but felt some other kind of hurt.
"Yes." Deanna didn't see any need to explain that Tasha had spent far more time in her office than mandated for psych evaluations. Sometimes it helps to have someone to talk to, she'd said after PSI 2000, and Tasha had taken her up on it.
Picard moved on, though he too considered his unconscious security chief. His brow furrowed slightly, and Deanna caught a flicker of irritation. "What does Lieutenant Yar have to say?" Deanna thought she was the only one who heard the faint hesitation before he said her name.
"She wanted to talk to you, sir," Will said.
"She asked for me by name?"
"She said, 'the captain,'" Beverly amended.
Deanna watched Picard take a sharp breath, tug his shirt down, and push his shoulders back. "Counsellor, if you would accompany me." He took in Will, Beverly and Worf with a tilt of his head, excluding them from the briefing. His feelings stayed wound tight and secret.
She nodded and followed him into the isolation ward, half a pace behind.
Tasha slid off the biobed and snapped to attention when she saw them coming. Not for the first time, Deanna wondered at the martial cut of her uniform. Even her Tasha, who had always held fast to Starfleet's military side, had never been so crisp. "Captain Picard, sir!" she rattled off, but something around her eyes softened when she looked at Deanna.
"At ease, Lieutenant." When that only moved her a few millimetres, Picard added, "Please sit. You look exhausted."
"Aye, sir." Deanna felt relief roll off of Tasha as she sank onto the bed. She either trusted this Picard enough to give up a height advantage, or she had become too tired to care. She'd let her adrenaline levels crash, at least; Deanna thought that was a good sign.
"How are you feeling?" Picard asked a second before Deanna could.
"Embarrassed about stunning your security chief, sir." Tasha folded her arms, in a way that telegraphed defensiveness more than chagrin.
Clearing his throat, Picard said, "I'm sure Mr. Worf will recover." After hesitating a moment, he guessed. "I take it that he was not a member of the crew in your universe."
"Timeline, sir, and we were at war with the Klingon Empire," she started, and since that seemed like a good beginning, kept going. She told her story with all the between-the-lines emotion of an official after-action report. The dry account of her embattled Federation and the presumed destruction of two Enterprises still sent more chills down Deanna's spine than any tears could have.
Picard nodded along as though he were listening to an asteroid belt survey, but Deanna felt wisps of his distress. When Tasha ended with, "Then I came to in the lifeboat, and you know the rest," he leaned forward and rested a hand on her shoulder.
"You did everything you could, Lieutenant." Straightening, his tone turned more formal, but still held some of its warmth, "If Doctor Crusher has cleared you, I'll have someone assign you quarters. You should rest," he said over his shoulder, "After all, you just saved the Federation."
Deanna found it interesting that Picard hadn't so much as glanced at her to confirm Tasha's story. He had, in the end, let himself hope.
Saving the Federation, it seemed, merited diplomatic quarters with a real water shower. Tasha had never gotten used to the things and used the sonics anyway. She washed her uniform too, even though cleaning only showed up the scorch marks and tears. It should go in the recycling, she knew, but found herself folding it to save aside.
The loose cut of this Enterprise's standard duty uniform felt unnatural. She replicated one anyway, wondering if everyone had unrestricted power use, or if it was only guest quarters.
Tasha figured that eventually she would get used to the luxury of peacetime.
Beverly had told her to get some rest, and she should. Captain Picard's encouragement had given her the fortitude she needed to escape sickbay, but now she could feel a weariness that drained the warmth from her bones and made her hands shake.
She sat at the desk and called up her own service record. The words seemed to swim before her eyes, not quite making sense, but she could see how the peace had changed her life. In this timeline, she'd escaped Turkana IV six years early, studied full term at the Academy, and served on the Zheng He before Picard hand picked her for the Enterprise's chief tactical officer. There had been no Potemkin on colony-world troop recruitment, no accelerated combat training or battlefield promotions. This Starfleet didn't seem to have any record of Ishara, either; Tasha hoped that meant her sister had survived.
She read her own history until the screen wavered, letters blurring into an unknown language, but kept circling around the record of her death. It had a video file attached, and she couldn't bring herself to pull it up. She'd seen everyone she'd served with die today; it was too much.
Keying off the computer, Tasha dropped onto the bed. The last thing she remembered thinking before she passed out on top of the covers was how odd it was that Deanna Troi thought she and this peacetime Tasha Yar were the same. How could we be? How could anyone?
The next day, Deanna found Tasha in a secondary mess hall in the Engineering Section. She had wedged herself in the far corner, facing the door, almost invisible behind the tallest pile of salad Deanna had ever seen.
"I've never seen you here before," Deanna said, sliding in across from Tasha when she nodded greeting. "Is this where you usually eat?"
Tasha shrugged. "Guinan doesn't recognise me, and everyone in Ten Forward was staring." She shovelled a forkful of lettuce into her mouth and chewed until she could add, "Hardly anyone ever uses this room, not unless we're separated from the Transport Section." She took another mouthful, while Deanna repressed the urge to correct the term.
"Good salad?" she asked instead.
"I haven't eaten like this since–" Her eyebrows drew together; she stabbed at a cucumber. "I don't know, last leave planetside. Your Tasha didn't like salad?"
"She did," Deanna said carefully. She could feel walls spring up every time she phrased something as a question. "From what I've seen, you and 'our Tasha' are very similar people. I think some of the crew may find it difficult to remember that there might be a difference."
Light glinted in a drop of oil as Tasha nudged it along the rim of her bowl, poking it with a tong of her fork until it combined with another. When she looked up, a rush of insecurity heightened the intensity of her grey eyes. "Can you tell there's a difference?"
Deanna pursed her lips, giving the question fair consideration. "You wear your hair differently." Tasha raised an eyebrow, and Deanna smiled. "You're more confident, I think. The Tasha I knew always seemed like she had a lot to prove, especially to Captain Picard."
Tasha glanced down, edging the drop of oil into a third, which rolled back down into the bowl. Deanna's words seemed to have calmed her, though now she felt traces of regret. "Maybe I'm just older."
"Perhaps." Deanna regretted not replicating herself a hot chocolate on the way in. "Do we seem different to you?" She'd asked neutrally, but, even with her guard lowered, Tasha stiffened.
"I don't know."
Tasha took enough of a bite to keep from answering.
"Do I seem different?" Deanna asked.
"You're hair's different." Deanna smiled but didn't say anything. "You don't wear a uniform here. And–"
The regret was stronger now; a whole avalanche of it thundered over Deanna, almost making her lean away. "My Deanna Troi died in a hull breach about six months ago. A Bird of Prey decloaked right on top of us. You weren't even on duty."
Deanna shuddered, imagining the rush of air, the cold, the screams of minds dying around her. "You were at tactical?"
Tasha shrugged yes, then she asked, "Deanna, how did I die?"
Her hand was shaking, a fine tremble that showed through the fork as it jittered on the edge of the bowl. Deanna reached across the table to rest her hand on Tasha's, stilling it. "You died in the line of duty; you were trying to save me and another crew member from an evil entity."
"My Guinan said my death was empty, without purpose."
"It wasn't to me."
"But I didn't save you." Tasha said, as if that made any difference at all.
Deanna shook her head. "It mattered to me." Tasha looked down, and Deanna squeezed her hand.
Some kind of serenity came over Tasha then, and when she raised her eyes, Deanna could see it there as well. "I wanted to live," she said. "I'm sorry about David, but I wanted to live. I'm glad he put me in that lifeboat."
"I'm glad too," Deanna said. "Come on, finish your lunch and we'll go to Ten Forward and get dessert."
Guinan watched the two women walk in, arms linked and leaning into each other. The blonde said something, and Troi laughed into her shoulder.
She'd seen the blonde earlier, haunting the edges of the room, not talking to any one, while they all stared. It had taken a moment to place her, the security chief from the holos of the year before she'd come on board. By the time Guinan had matched the picture to a face to a name to the whispers rushing around the ship, Yar had already turned and slunk out. Troi showed up looking for her not ten minutes later.
Now Yar found a seat by the window, while Troi sidled over to Guinan.
"Two pieces of double chocolate fudge cheesecake," Troi said, hands pressed flat on the bar.
Across the room, Yar half turned to say something to Worf. Guinan hoped it helped; the Klingon had been sulking into his prune juice since he came off duty.
"I see you found your friend."
Guinan asked the question that had been buzzing around the room all morning. "What is she going to do now?"
"I don't know." Collecting her plates, Troi turned, eyes sweeping over the windows, the people sitting there, and the stars ahead. "We have all the time she'll need to decide."
As Guinan watched the women sit together–Troi's hand on Yar's wrist, Yar leaning toward Worf just a little now–she was sure that they did.
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