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((Level 34 Medical Isolation Ward, Deep Space 9 ))

Geoff waited for the doors to seal behind them before crossing his arms over his chest.  The room looked like fairly standard guest quarters with a few extra machines bolted to the walls and corners, but aside from that and the crackle of an isolation field over the window, there was little to distract them.  The ideal setting for Alieth’s promised ‘discussion.’  Something was buzzing within Teller’s skull and, the more time went on, the more it was going from a distraction to a fullscale assault on his conscious mind.  

Teller:  Doc...what the hell is going on with me?

Alieth: It is not easy to explain, but I suppose that you would agree with me that a sudden enthusiasm for zhar-kur tei and an encyclopaedic knowledge of Surak's teachings is not something you can acquire in an ordinary temporary anomaly

Teller: So it’s probably a bad time to mention that I nearly flunked basic Vulcan philosophy at the Academy?  

Alieth: The fact that you were right only makes it worse 

Geoff shrugged expansively, still completely at a loss.  

Teller: So are you going to tell me what’s going on or do I need to guess?  transporter duplicate?  Changeling?  Are you a hologram?  ::Geoff poked her shoulder, then himself in mock panic:: AM I A HOLOGRAM?! 

She uncrossed her arms and averted her eyes. For a split second, she nibbled on her lower lip, till it took on a deep green hue.

Alieth: Lieute-.... ::She did not finish the word, but closed her eyes and lowered her head a bit. The moment she looked into his eyes again there was an elusive expression on her countenance. And yet, an expression.:: ... Geoffrey John... I could explain this. Or I can just show you. I think that the latter will be more convenient.

 She made another short pause, and when she spoke again, she stressed her words.

Alieth: It will be the most beneficial for the three of us

Geoff’s total number of questions kept increasing.  

Teller: Show me?  Wait, what do you mean the three….

One look at Alieth’s expression told him this situation was of the gravest importance to her.  Geoff trusted her, as an officer and as a friend, and something within him encouraged that trust - a sense of deep agreement.  

Geoff sat in the chair indicated and waited as Alieth closed her eyes, quietly centering herself, before extending her fingers towards the side of his face. Geoff heard words, first in his ears and then within his mind, before a flood of images began.  

((Five years ago, Flat complex 26, first floor, Chi-ree, Xial, Vulcan ))

The wind rustled the soft gauze of the curtains. There was a storm looming. However, not a spring storm, that would bring water and life to the thirsty oasis on the outskirts of the city, but a sand and lightning storm, that would threaten to cause havoc in its wake.

Exactly like the storm that was brewing within her.

At the foot of her bed, Mu-kur emitted a low, anxious, bothered snarl. The female sehlat smelt the tempest, both inside and outside, and neither of them pleased her.

The irritable animal rose to her feet and leapt up to the bed, right on top of the elaborate wedding dress that Alieth should be wearing at that moment.

The young Vulcan sat down next to the animal and ran a hand over her coarse fur. Under her fingers, instead of the familiar affection and the simple and sincere mind of the animal, she found nothing but irritation.

That reaction was understandable and, nevertheless, she was extremely upset for it.

She caught a muffled sob struggling to leave her chest. Her soon-to-be husband's condition began to percolate through the bond that had tied them since childhood and her control of emotions was, to say the least, imperfect.

Alieth: I do not like it either, Mu-kur, ::she said as she took the massive shaggy cheeks of the animal and placed her immense head in her lap:: But what it  is, is, and we can only accept it.

Sern: And yet, acceptance is not always the way.

Alieth: SERN!

He took a step closer to the door frame, folding his arms and leaning against it as he stood in profile. She gave a small, humourless snort, yet the corners of her lips curled into an improper little smile.

She didn't care, if anyone really knew her, it was the man resting under the lintel.

Sern: You delay.

Alieth: And you mention the most obvious things, as usual.

Although her words had a harsh quality, her tone was soft. This was a conversation they had shared a thousand times, both familiar and reassuring.

But almost immediately, this little joy sublimated in the presence of the impending storm.

Alieth: You know it is already too late to cancel the engagement. 

She stroked the sehlat's heavy head again and buried her fingers in the long  fur.

Alieth: I just wish I had had more time for... :: shaking her head: It does not matter any more, musing about implausible futures is pointless

Sern: You know there is another way. You are not bound yet.

Another snort echoed in the small room, even more bitter than the former. Alieth searched for Sern's eyes, but he still had his sight somewhere in one of the jambs. This only made her more frustrated, and the predator on her lap snarled in annoyance, echoing her emotions.

Alieth: For that matter, we might as well be. Every alternative available is either overdue or foolish.

He turned his head to study her face. Her behavior was… most unusual.

Sern: Please - enlighten me as to where, exactly, the logic lies in that decision, Al’rig-pseth.

Alieth: What else is left to do? Resort to a ritual that has not been practised for decades? And at what price?

Sern: Precisely. The ritual would not exist were it not intended to be used. 

He stepped further in, pausing to run a hand through the thick fur on the sehlat’s back.

Alieth: Asenara… you cannot be serious about that.

Sern: I assure you - I would not have extended the offer if I were not.

She moved her from the feline's fur to Sern's countenance, looking for...something. A teasing expression, hesitation, doubt... whatever, something that suggested that he would not take the risk that his previous words entailed.

What she found was quite different.

Alieth: You are aware that what can happen if...

Sern: I am - and if this is the way it must be done, then the risk is one I choose to accept. If you wish to continue with Spahn, then I will not stop you. But I know as well as you that this is not the future you planned. I simply seek to provide an alternative - the only alternative available. 

She sat in silence and listened carefully to his words. His hands remained motionless over Mu-Kur's spine. As he finished his speech, they looked at each other for a brief moment... and before Alieth had a chance to think what she was doing, she found herself hugging tightly to her closest friend.

((Temple. Vulcan Forge, Xial, Vulcan ))

The Temple grounds had been there for innumerable generations. Desert sands had ravaged them for endless centuries, until the original building shape had become diffuse, reduced to a succession of arches under high pillars. Behind the veil that covered her face, Alieth deemed them as a crown of fangs.

Or, perhaps, the bars of a cage.

The small procession that escorted her made a final turn to meet the group that was waiting there.

The Matriarch T'Mihn, sat on the platform that dominated the temple, on her right, the relatives and supporters of her future husband gathered in a small circle around him.

Alieth turned to seek Sern's gaze, hesitation plain in her face.

Then, she moved forward to her right and, with that simple step, the ceremony began.

The matriarch recited the words that had been repeated so many times, that comes from the time of the beginning without change, the very heart and soul of Vulcan.

The audience rang the bells and Spahn proceeded to walk towards the gong, holding the mallet with trembling, pale hands.

The storm raged, thundering on every metal instrument as invisible raindrops.

The mallet drew a wide arc and rose to the sky to strike the copper plate…

...and she ran through the open space to block its path and declare with a shaky voice.

Alieth: Kal-if-fee

Spahn stared at her for a while. At first, there was confusion on his face, then frustration that grew into furious anger as he turned to the crowd in search of the one who would challenge his right.

The storm kicked up whorls of dust from the temple ground, the tempest reflected in the black pools of Spahn’s eyes. There was rage there, rage and desire percolating dangerously, ready to explode on the challenger. Sern set his jaw and raised his gaze to meet those wild eyes. Untamed.

One might even say, frightening.

He did not hear Alieth’s words as she crossed back, through the rush of wind and the thunderous beating of his own heart.

T’Mihn: Alieth, thee will choose thy Champion

If there was judgment or surprise in the old woman, her voice didn't reveal it.

Alieth: As it was in the dawn of our days, and it is today, as it will be for all tomorrows, I make my choice.

The traditional words fell from her lips like a litany, with the weight of tradition and what was to come.

The subsequent break, though, was all but too long.

Alieth: This one.


Her arm extended forward, finger outstretched, naming Sern as the challenger. The fabric of her sleeve snapped and whipped around her arm, shifting the appendage with the changing winds. Disguising, perhaps, her own trepidation.

Holding her gaze now, he stepped forward, further isolating himself from the others.

A marked man.

(A little theme music)

Up close, the pulsating green veins showed through Spahn’s skin - the plak tow running full-force now. Targets. The two stepped three paces apart.

The weapon’s shaft sank into Sern’s hands - heavy, ceremonial… Impractically weighted for ordinary use, but lending just the right amount of gravitas to the ritual that crossed a thousand generations.

Kill or be killed.

Sern adjusted his grip to better suit the ancient, oversized lirpa. He widened his stance, digging his heels into the dirt. Standing ready.

T’Mihn: Fal’i’kal!

Careful steps, left over right, moving through the space as a circle. Never turn your back, never take your eyes off the blade… Sern shifted the lirpa to his other side as he and Spahn continued to circle…

Suddenly, Spahn’s blade launched forward, slicing through the air with an audible whung - propelled by an energy completely primal, devoid of all strategy beyond kill. Sern leapt backwards, narrowly dodging the fattest part of the curved blade. He countered the swing with a hard whack from the shaft of the lirpa, knocking Spahn off-balance with the force.

As Spahn staggered backwards, Sern raised the weapon over his shoulder. He thrust forward with it as he advanced one step, then two… finally catching the other man in the shoulder with a heavy blow from the blunt end.

The final strike forced Spahn to the ground. Sern advanced one final step, pure raw anger coursing through his mind to match Spahn’s. He raised the lirpa, blade poised to deliver one final, deadly blow from above…

...

His blade sank deep - not into flesh, but sand. Sern growled, yanking the weapon back up and whipping around as he searched the shifting sands for his target.

A sudden blow to the ankle knocked Sern off his feet, landing flat on his back with a forceful crack. He tensed, expecting any second to feel the lirpa blade plunge into his own body.

Nothing.

Silence, if not for the howling storm.

Sern pressed the lirpa’s weighted end into the sand, climbing slowly along the length to his feet. The storm had only intensified since the challenge began - or perhaps it was his own adrenaline-enhanced senses drawing every little detail out from the background. He could scarcely make out the shadowy figures of the marriage party gathered along the edge of the ring, watching, waiting… The sound of his own heavy breathing filled his ears as he, too, watched and waited. Searching, wondering…

Had he struck a lucky blow?

A roar emanated from behind him. Sern snapped around with barely half a second to block a wild swing from Spahn’s lirpa as it came within centimeters of separating his arm from his body. He retreated quickly, blocking as blow after blow after blow rained down upon him. Finally, he managed to strike back, catching Spahn’s blade with his own and giving a hard shove to one side. Metal caught stone with a ringing clang - the reverberation suddenly silenced as the blade shattered.

Sern ducked low, scurrying out of the immediate radius to regain the upper hand. He advanced, the lirpa slicing through the air only to be met by his opponent’s blunt blocks. The jagged edge sliced past his ear, past his side - missing and missing again. Sern slammed through a few hard, quick rebuttals of his own, until…

They missed each other and found their marks.

A fountain of green poured from the incision across Spahn’s neck, slowing gradually to a rhythmic spurt that arced outwards under failing pressure. Sern released his grip on the lirpa, letting it fall to the sand beside him. The two men stared at one another for a moment, the deafening silence building.

Sern only noticed his own wound as Spahn collapsed to the sand, taking the jagged, green-stained blade with him. A sharp pain ripped through his abdomen.

And when touched, his hand came away green…

Before she even knew what she was doing, Alieth had crossed the sand, the vaporous dress shaken behind her in the storm.

By the time he reached him, Sern had collapsed. She dropped to her knees beside him as she ripped her sleeve.

Alieth: No, nononono

The patch of dress she was holding over the wound immediately dyed green and soaked with blood, which slipped through her fingers and ran down her wrists until it eventually flowed into the ever-thirsty sands of the Forge.

Alieth: No, please Asenara, stay with me. Do not leave me, please, stay with me.

All her knowledge, all the years of study, all the preparation had vanished from her mind, and she tried unsuccessfully to stop the river flowing from the wound, with only her hands and her despair.

Sern: I - I cannot...

There was nothing she could do.

Nothing.

She cupped his cheek in her hand and leaned to rest her forehead on his.

Alieth: (in desperate sobbing) Sern... Asenara, stay with me… do not leave me… not like this, don’t leave me, please.

His hand rose between them, the muscles of his arm spasming with sheer effort. His fingers aligned along her cheekbone and the edge of her face.

Sern: Vokau.

Her hand ran over his wounded body until her index and middle finger caressed his.

And just moments later, his hand slipped into the sand.

Nothing but dust in the wind moved for a long time.

((Level 34 Medical Isolation Ward, Deep Space 9))

(OOC - Only Teller can hear Sern. Telepathic communication is signified by ‘~’ marks.)

Geoff gasped and sagged backwards, the connection between them broken.  His hand reflexively went towards the wound that wasn’t there, but he felt a very real ache where the blade had cut deeply.  He blinked, his hand dripping with green blood one moment and then clean the next.  His headache, a deep ringing echo behind his eyes, had grown to nearly blinding proportions.  

Teller:  What...the hell...was that….

Alieth: That is what it was. And how I lost him, the one you carry now, the first time

Sern:  ~That is, until the Bond was broken. By you.~

Geoff’s eyes snapped open at the intensity of the foreign voice.  He looked around the room like a panicked animal, unable to locate its source.  

Teller:  WHAT?!  WHAT the hell are you doing here?

Sern: ~Ah - now you hear me…~

She opened her eyes, surprised by Teller’s words  and leaned forward.

Alieth: (speaking hastly)  WHAT-What do you mean you...? Standing up and getting ready to auscultate him:: Can you hear him? it is not supposed to be feasible for a psy-null alien to... 

Sern: ~I assumed you would have come to that conclusion on your own by now… Autopilot functions do not entirely extend to the beings actually piloting the vessel.~

Teller:  No wait stop you’re both talking at the same time… 

Alieth: Of course, of course. Allow me to replicate a relaxing infusion, sharing your mind with another person can be distressing when untrained.... Maybe a chamomile? Or tilleul? or…

Without waiting for an answer, Alieth jumped out of her seat and made her way swiftly to the replicator.

Sern: ~An excellent suggestion. That Klingon infusion you keep drinking is decidedly unpalatable, not to mention incredibly damaging to your digestive system.~

Teller:  NO I DON'T WANT HERBAL TEA DAMMIT!

Sern: ~I do not see the need for a reaction that strong, Geoffrey. I was merely stating the obvious.~

Alieth: (with admonishing tone) I really fail to perceive the necessity for such a strong reaction, Geoffrey John.

Geoff slumped back into the chair, hands on his temples.  It was like trying to sort through voices at a party, except somehow the party was happening inside of his skull.  

Teller:  Look, ok, uh….Sern...he’s...just...awake, now.  And talking.  Won’t shut up actually.  I thought Vulcans were supposed to be laconic.  ::Geoff groaned and rubbed his temples::  Can you just...ya know...take him back?  It’s feeling a little crowded in here ::Teller thunked his knuckles against his throbbing skull::  

Alieth: I tried when we shared my memories but his katra seems to have nested in your brain for some reason and I cannot get it back

Teller: What do you mean you can’t get him back?  Hey, buddy, really sorry about you getting killed but I’m pretty sure my brain is only rated for one occupant.  Barely.  

Sern: ~This was not my choice either, but it would be futile to complain about that which one cannot change.~

Alieth:I guess that means that we have to resort to an expert... on Vulcan. Which may be somewhat problematic given the prevailing circumstances

Teller: Vulcan!?  Wait, how can there be experts on this?  I have so many questions...

Sern: ~So, so many… Where to begin… ~

Alieth: First, the legal ones, naturally. From a legal point of view you are the depositary of a stolen asset and, thus, a felon as an accomplice.

Teller:  Wait, what?!  Not only do I have a ghost stuck in my head, I’ve got a stolen ghost stuck in my head?  Ok, look, I need some answers, and Chuckles in my head here is getting pretty antsy as well.  Ain’t that right Chuckles?  

Sern: ~ “Chuckles”? ~

Teller:  So let me see if I’ve got this all clear.  I’ve got your old, dead boyfriend stuck in my skull.

Alieth: ::slightly green dye striving to reach the tips of her ears:: My deceased  BEST friend is a more apt description

Sern:  ~Our relationship harbored no emotions of a romantic nature, I assure you.~

Teller:  Uh huh, he said that too.  I don’t believe either of you.  

Alieth:  (Accompanied by the most dreadful glare of the entire Vulcan repertoire) COMMANDER

Sern:  ~...While I understand that relationships between Human males and females often struggle to separate the platonic from the romantic, that is decidedly not the case between two Vulcans…~

Teller:  Ok, look Chuckles - you and I are going to have to come to some kind of an understanding if you’re going to be crashing on my cerebral couch for a while….

Sern: ~Indeed, perhaps I can be of assistance...~

Geoff’s headache had finally gone down to a minor throb.  It didn’t seem like Sern was ‘yelling’ anymore, and Geoff was feeling more like himself.  If himself was locked in a small elevator with a Vulcan looming uncomfortably close over his shoulder.  

Teller:  I’ll work it out with Fleet Captain Kells.  I bet you a slip of GPL there’s even a Starfleet form for exactly this kind of problem - might even be a procedure book.  Alieth...look, we’ll figure this out...somehow.  I don’t need a ghost in my head to tell me how important this guy was to you.  Start reaching out to whoever you need to on Vulcan and we can start getting the legal issues addressed.  It’ll be a fun one for the JAG corp to sink their teeth into.  We’re going to fix this - that’s a Good Job Guarantee.  

Sern:  ::slightly irritated:: ~You and I have much to discuss, ~

[TBC!]

((OOC: Some handy Vulcan translation notes:  

 vokau →  Remember

zhar-kur tei → Verbatim, orange tea. A widely consumed stimulating infusion from Chi-ree))

Fal’i’kal →  Begin

Kal-if-fee  →  act of challenge (high vulcan)

===============================

Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Teller

Executive Officer

USS Thor - NCC 82607

Fleet Captain A. Kells, Commanding

V239509GT0

&

Lt. JG Alieth

Medical Officer

USS Thor 

Fleet Captain A. Kells, Commanding

Author ID number:  E239702A10  

&

Sern of Vulcan

E239602QD0
 

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This was a lot of laughs to work on and I can't wait to see how it makes a mess of our upcoming mission!  Thanks for sharing it with the fleet, @Alora DeVeau and my sincerest thanks to @Alieth & @Quen Deena for helping make this story come alive!  

 

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Thank you very much for sharing it @Alora DeVeau !  It has been a wonderful journey to let this idea out into the world and for @Quen Deena and @Geoffrey Tellerto decided to join in and shape it, I think being able to share things with others and let them evolve on their own is one of the best things about this group. Along with the TALENT of these two, keep an eye on them, because they are really great.

Furthermore, a Vulcan in the XO's brain? I wanted to read that since it came out on the XD table

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