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Vitor S. Silveira

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Vitor S. Silveira last won the day on August 30

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About Vitor S. Silveira

  • Birthday 12/14/1974

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    USS Resolution
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    Tactical Officer

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    Portugal

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  1. Smug, our new Counselor @Arys edit: Changed the word for a synonym since the original was censored 😁
  2. I am sure most of you are aware of the wonderful story line that these talented writers have developed. Again, if you manage the time, please, read it all. It is still in progress, but it is so worthy of praise. I want to thank the three of you. Not only for this one, but for being in the same crew. I am honored to team up with you. A word of caution, this isn't an easy reading. It made a knot on my throat since I read it and as I am posting it now it still does. But I am grateful that you wrote it. Thank you again and wonderful job. IC: ((Etan Family Homestead)) ((Time Index: Three Days Later)) Rehr had not slept since that fateful night. Everytime he tried to close his eyes, the image he saw through the viewer of the binoculars haunted him, seared onto his mind like the charred flesh on the child’s dead mother. Everytime he looked at his reflection in the mirror, a stranger stared back at him. A stranger with bloodshot eyes and a guilty conscience. It was a man who knew that his days were numbered. A man who would soon know the cold embrace of death at the hand’s of a Cardassian firing squad- or at Moparu’s. A man who would never know the serenity afforded those who reached the Celestial Temple. A man who had taken innocent lives. He didn’t know who had been in that warehouse on that awful night, but he knew that it was not members of the Obsidian Order. The Cardassian secret police did not put children in harm’s way- one of the few decencies they abided by. His gut also told him that it had not been Central Command either. They had been civilians- a family, perhaps. Each time he came to that realisation he vomited, disgusted with himself. He had kept his distance from Oona, afraid of what she might think of him. He had busied himself in the fields, trying to use his farmer’s duties as a way to distract his tortured thoughts and to keep his wife from seeing the truth of how he felt. They saw each other at mealtimes but rarely spoke to one another. They shared their bed but the gulf between them felt wide and insurmountable. Passion had died. As he splashed cold water upon his face, he heard creaking on the stairs behind him and the tell tale footsteps of his wife. He did not look up as the frigid sting of the winter water hit his face. He just stood in front of the sink, limp from exhaustion willing her to leave him be. Oona: We need to talk. Rehr: No. ::came his simple response, as evenly as he could muster.:: He had perhaps managed an hour of tortured sleep: filled with horrific nightmares, too disturbing to describe. He had woken in tears and had wept silently into his pillow, wondering just who that child and mother were. Who he had orphaned. Oona: You aren’t sleeping, you aren’t speaking. You aren’t living. We need to talk. He went to respond when a knock at the door of their home rooted him to the spot, icy fear paralysing him. This was it. This was the day he died. The Cardassians had found them. Or Moparu. His breaths came quickly and shallow as panic set in. His eyes grew wide, fixated on the wooden, windowless door. His hands began to shake and a single tear escaped from the corner of his right eye. Oona: ::calmly:: We should answer that. He willed himself to move. Unsteady on his feet, he crossed the cobblestoned kitchen and reached for the doorknob. He twisted it with hands that would not cease to shake and prepared himself as best as he could for the end. It took him several seconds that felt like an eternity to realise that on the other side of the open door was a Vedek, not a Cardassian or Moparu. A Vedek in brilliant robes of purple and red with an orange sash draped across their right shoulder and trailing down to the floor behind them. Their earring was hidden by a hat bisected into five pointed segments, the tallest of which hung over their forehead in a sharp point of royal purple fabric. He heard Oona’s footsteps behind him. Vedek Ishi Aba inclined her head towards them both, before giving them a warm smile. Too warm, possibly. She was nervous about what she had been sent here to do. If their sources were correct, these two had killed. Opinions differed on whether they were accidental murderers or cold-blooded executioners. Rehr: Y-Yes? ::he stammered.:: Oona: Who are you? Vedek Ishi: Ishi Aba of the Vedek Assembly. May I come in? Never the best actor on Bajor, Rehr could not help but allow his paranoid fear from trickling into his voice. Rehr: H-How c-can we help y-you? Oona: Just tell us what you have come to say. Vedek Ishi: If my intelligence is correct, I am afraid you may need to leave Bajor immediately. But I do hope I am wrong. Rehr moved to one side to allow the Vedek to enter their humble abode. Once she had done so, Rehr stepped outside for a moment and looked around for signs of anyone else. It was still early in the morning, the sun barely having come up over the Holana Ridge and the fields were still empty of labourers. Even his mother, away visiting family in Ashalla, was absent. There was apparently nobody but he, Oona and Vedek Ishi for miles. He stepped back into the house and closed the door. The chill morning air did little to fortify his fraying nerves. Oona: You are wrong. Tell her, Rehr. Rehr: We d-don’t know what you’re talking about. Not only was he a terrible actor, he was an even worse liar. Vedek Ishi: I don’t believe that for a second, Rehr, is it? I think the deaths of an entire warehouse of refugees, accidental or not, would stick in the memory. Rehr swallowed, looking at the Vedek who was staring at him intently. It was as if she could see into his pagh, as though she knew everything there was to know about him. About what he and Oona had been part of three nights before. Then, as if somebody had turned on a light, something fell into place. He looked at Ishi, his voice deathly quiet. Rehr: D-did you say… refugees? It didn't make sense. Refugees… but the woman whose broken and charred body he had seen through the binoculars had been Cardassian. Unmistakably, so. He had seen them on every street corner, on every drinking tavern, at every checkpoint out of Talmulna, on every propaganda video. The look of a Cardassian was imprinted upon his brain just as the dead Cardassian woman and the groping hand of the child in the rubble was now. Rehr: oO Cardassian refugees? Oo ::it seemed like an oxymoron.:: oO How could Cardassians be refugees? On a planet they have invaded? Oo ::he stared again at the Vedek.:: oO Who is this woman? Oo Oona: Why would Cardassians hide on Bajor? During a war that they caused? Vedek Ishi’s lips turned into a thin line; were these master murderers actually what they appeared to be? A couple in way over their heads. Unless they were acting at being terrible at acting, she could read them like a book. Vedek Ishi: They were civilians. Civilian dissidents. They were refugees to our planet, from before the occupation, seeking a freer Cardassia. They sought religious freedom, to practice whatever they wanted. They were peaceful. And… well, you butchered them like they were livestock. Bile burned at the back of Rehr’s throat and he fought to contain the rising tide of nausea that threatened to spill forth like the waters of the Ratosha [...]. They had been party to the massacre of innocent Cardassian lives. ‘The only good Cardassian is a dead Cardassian’ was a theory he had never been able to subscribe to- and it was one of the reasons he and Moparu had clashed on a number of occasions. Yes, the Central Command were oppressive and cruel- if not downright sadistic- and yes, the Obsidian Order were extremists with a warped view of the galaxy, but those that worked for them were a mere fraction of the total number of Cardassians. He had heard whispered through the Resistance of a dissident movement, opposed to the fascistic tendencies of the Union and who fought for a free, democratic Cardassia. Much was also made about the art and literature from a Cardassia before Central Command, before the Obsidian Order. He didn’t like to admit it, but Rehr knew that there were good and just Cardassians- who were very much alive. He had just never met one. Now he had helped kill dozens of them. Rehr: W-we don’t know anything about it. ::he responded, trying to sound defiant. But there was no mistaking the tone in his voice. It was feeble. Defeated.:: Y-you have the wrong people. He knew that Ishi would be able to see straight through him and know that his pagh was in turmoil. And she did. Her brown eyes bore holes through Rehr’s pagh and saw that he was all of a flutter, and in complete tumult. Oona: You have incorrect information. Vedek Ishi: Please, stop lying to me. ::she smiled briefly in an attempt at humour:: It’s bad for your pagh. The shame that now overwhelmed made him unable to look at the Vedek or Oona. Instead he looked down at the cobblestones without really paying attention to them. His eyes registered them but he did not see them. All that he could take in was the dead Cardassian woman and the child groping through the rubble. Rehr: Why have you come to tell us this? Vedek Ishi: Because the Assembly has agreed to get you out. Off Bajor for a time. The Obsidian Order are looking for your cell, and it won’t be long before they find you. The thought turned Rehr’s stomach again and he heaved. Having to leave his mother alone on the farm, turning his back on his life as he knew it, fleeing for their lives from the ever reaching hand of the Order and becoming fugitives of the dreaded ‘state’. In a split second, his life had been turned upside down for the second time in three days. He imagined a life where he and Oona would never know a moment’s peace again. His guilty eyes found Oona’s for a brief moment and the realisation that he had led them both down the path before them was too much. He turned from her and vomited into the sink, hot tears trickling from both eyes. The retching was painful as he convulsed. Without thinking, Rehr wiped his mouth with the sleeve of shirt and then turned to face the Vedek and his beloved wife again. Another wave of nausea threatened, but he willed it back. Oona glared at the intruder, was this another plot from Moparu to torment them? She wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this visit was part of his twisted game. Vedek Ishi: ::clearly deeply uncomfortable:: Believe me, it is not a task I relish, but your lives are in danger. They already have Jahanna. Or at least, that’s what the chatter is saying. Rehr: How long do we have? ::he heard Oona begin to protest but he cut across her.:: There’s no point in arguing, Oona. The Obsidian Order are after us. The longer we remain here, the more risk we are at! You know that! ::beat:: And if by some miracle we escape their clutches- you know Moparu will find us!! He didn’t like overruling his wife. They were a team, they did everything in agreement. It was the secret of their happy union. But this time he had to stand his ground, to make the decision. Their lives were on the line. Jahanna was probably dead already, Altin too. Rehr: How long do we have? ::he repeated, looking to the Vedek with a surprising level of decisiveness that he had not felt moments before.:: The Vedek looked from Rehr to Oona and back to Rehr. She was deeply worried about this Moparu character; initial intelligence had suggested he was behind the whole thing. And she was starting to suspect that although these two had believed that they were killing vicious Cardassian agents, this Moparu had known the truth, and either didn’t care or wanted civilians dead. Vedek Ishi: You have six hours. That’s all; I cannot give you any more time. I will meet you here. Bring only what you can carry. ::she bowed her head:: Good luck. Six hours was not nearly enough time to put the affairs of his life in order. If the Order was closing in on the cell then they’d be monitoring the local communications channels. He wouldn’t be able to call his mother to say goodbye, no time to cancel the labourers due to report for the katterpod harvest, no time to bid farewell to the few friends he and Oona had outside of the cell. They would simply cease to be. Rehr: Very well. ::he drew in a breath and offered a silent prayer to the Prophets for courage.:: Oona, we need t-. He stopped when he realised that his wife was no longer in the kitchen. It took him a second to process the loud bang as their front door slammed open, hitting the wooden slats of the wall outside. Oona had swept from the kitchen and was marching down the steps and towards the fields. He thought to call out to his wife, but he stopped. There had never been any reasoning with her when had grown angry. She was headstrong and vibrant and he loved that about her. He watched her retreating form for a moment and then pulled himself together. Rehr: I suppose I had better pack lightly. ::he said, simply.:: --- Etan Rehr Resistance Cell Member & Etan Oona Resistance Cell Member & Ishi Aba Vedek as simmed by: Lieutenant JG Etan Iljor Science Officer USS Resolution C239203TW0 & Lt Meidra Sirin Counseling Officer USS Resolution R239707MS0 & Lieutenant Commander Genkos Adea MD Second Officer & Chief Medical Officer USS Resolution G239502GS0
  3. I recommend you read the next one, and if you wish the previous parts as well. Both of them are writing an extraordinary tale here.
  4. Truth be told I owe that to @LtJG Aine Olive Sherlock. I am glad you enjoyed it
  5. OK, I couldn't let out the second part of the "Ham Sandwich" situation that T'Lea created for Wyss. Beat you again Doc Oh and no relation to the Dwich from the Res IC (( USS Grace Hopper - Sickbay, Deck 10)) Walked back to the bio bed, Wyss didn’t want to let go of Indobri’s helpful arms, but eventually was pried free. She flopped back on the bed, and got all glassy eyed about something thoughtful and warming. Wyss: Hey, Karise? Indobri: Mmm? Wyss: I might puke little. Indobri: You puke in my sickbay … well, it’s not my sickbay. :: turning to the nurse :: We need a puke tray here. I’ll get her a dose of promethazine. Nurse: Yes, Doctor. Over the next little while sleep took hold, and Wyss dreamed about many things, one of which was eating a ham sandwich. ((Dreamscape)) Nyka sat on her bed with a giant ham sandwich sleeping next to her. It was everything she wanted in a ham sandwich. Soft rye bread with a crusty, chewy top. Mayonnaise lathered between the slices. Golden cheese peeking out of the corners. And it was piled high with thin slices honey smoked ham. The sandwich slumbered and softly snored in the more adorable way. Flaps of bread fluttered with each purr of sleep. It looked so peaceful, so sweet and so very, very delicious. Rolling onto her side, the Red Head delicately caressed her hand across the spongy bread, and then dipped a finger in the mayo for a taste. Wyss: Mm… I could just eat you up. With a scoot closer she leaned in for a bite. Ham Sandwich: Um. Excuse me? What do you think you’re doing? Wyss jerked back on the mattress and her eyes popped open wide. The lips of the bread moved like a mouth and the thick layer of ham waved like a silky tongue. Wyss: Holy snikes! What the- Ham Sandwich: You were going to eat me weren’t you? Eat me in my sleep, without my permission. Wyss: N-n-n..nyes. Ham Sandwich: I told you already. You can’t have me. I don’t want you in that way. We’re just friends. Friends don’t eat friends. Got it? Its breath even smelled good, she thought. Ham Sandwich: Stop smelling my breath. I just woke up. I haven’t had time to gargle with mustard. Wyss: But I don’t like mustard on my ham. Its too spicy. The giant ham sandwich bent its bread-body upright towering over the small Red Head. It’s short cheese arms smartly landed on its mayo hips. Ham Sandwich: How dare you! Stop trying to change me. I will always have mustard, and you’d be better off just accepting that and moving on. There’s a nice bologna on white that lives two doors down. Why don’t you try eating him. You like mustard on bologna don’t you? Wyss: Yes. But I want ham. Ham Sandwich: But you can’t have ham. Didn’t I make that clear? Ham is not for you! Suddenly the giant Ham Sandwich turned angry, and then opened its bread-mouth and devoured Wyss right where she sat. She screamed and fought against the powerful ham tongue and cheese arms, but it was no use. ((Sickbay)) With a yell of fear, and a sharp gasp, Wyss awoke to the bright lights of sickbay. Her eyes darted around until she realized that she was safe and had not been gobbled alive by luncheon meat. However, on the side table was a covered dish. She glared at it suspiciously, eyes narrowing like she was about to go into battle. Flexing her fingers outward she reached for the cover and lifted the lid off the plate. Ham Sandwich: NOT FOR YOU!! The small sandwich leapt off the plate and attacked her neck. She swatted and wrestled with it, and then fell off the bio-bed. ((End Dreamscape)) ((Sickbay – No, Seriously, For Real This Time)) With a loud, hard thump, Wyss was on the floor of sickbay, awaking to a dull pain in her rear and shoulder. Wyss: Ow. She glanced around, but Karise was gone. END PNPC Lieutenant JG Nyka Wyss Engineering Officer USS Grace Hopper simmed by Lieutenant Commander T’Lea Historian/Archaeology Specialist USS Juneau Author ID I238301T10
  6. Again T'Lea at her best. I saw this perfect line for the Juneau's quotes. Then another, then another, another and well, we really have to read it all. IC: (( Sickbay, Deck 10 - Stardrive Section )) Restless. Nyka was caught in a strange state of restlessness and total exhaustion. The redhead’s mind felt like jelly, and her body felt like dog vomit. All she wanted to do was curl up in a cute little ball and die. That was the only thing that would make her feel better. That and maybe a ham sandwich. With cheese. On rye bread. Ooh, mayonnaise would be nice. And potato chips. Because what’s a sandwich without chips. After being carried into sickbay, Wyss was placed on a biobed. The different faces that floated pasted her groggy eyes were dream-like, unreal, much like the past couple of days. Sounds of urgency and confusion whistled through her ears, none of it making sense. All she wanted was a sleep that wouldn’t come. Indobri: Re- Wyss. Look at me, Lieutenant. I need your assistance or :: she decided to take a gamble on her assumption :: the Caretaker might die. Wyss: ::yawn:: Aw. The Rodulan had made her feelings clear. She didn’t want Nyka, and that was that. Turnabout was fair play. The redhead ran from her feelings, and when she finally ran back, Karise had move on. Wyss: ::groggy:: That’s too bad. That was why she had been a little more willing to accept the care and unity with the City. It felt good to be needed and loved. All she wanted was to feel good after being dumped. But now she felt like she’d been dumped all over again. The connection to the city was nothing more than a hollow echo. She’d been a useful tool and now she was cast aside. She wasn’t a beloved Caretaker to the City. She wasn’t anything. She didn’t belong in their world, or this world. All she wanted right now was ham sandwich named Karise. Indobri: I know, I know. But I can’t connect the pod to the power conduits. That’s why I need your help. She was so pretty. And nice. Even when she rejected Nyka she’d been nice about it. Not like the crappy text she’d sent to Karise before she’d been transferred. “See ya!” Wyss: You don’t need me. That’s what you said. She flicked her hand at the Rodulan as if to pshaw her away. Indobri: response Wyss: I can’t sleep. Why won’t you let me sleep? Maybe she was talking to the shadow of the City, or about Karise, or the dark universe of war she’d left behind. Indobri/Airik: response Wyss: ::drifting off:: I’m so tired. I just want a ham sandwich. Indobri/Airik: response Her eyes popped open sharply at that, and she waved over the ham sandwich she was in love with, Karise, as she swung her legs off the bed to get up. Wyss: Get me over there, Doctor H. Sammich. She grabbed the Doctor and resisted hugging her as she was walked over to the pod. She kept staring at the side of Karise’s gorgeous face. Wyss: Where’s the pod? Indobri: response Wyss: Oh. Yep. I see it. Kay then… hmm… She leaned forward and pinched one eye closed as if to zero in on what the handsome counselor had done to facilitate an answer to the issue. Wyss: What’s all this mess? Oh, I see it. Never mind. Yep, That’s fine. That’ll work. ::at Airik and Indobri:: Where’s the three type Z couplings? Airik: response Wyss: Kinda need’em to coup-the-lings. ::chuckling drunk:: Sorry, sorry. This is serious. Type Z’s go there, there and there. Then a backflow stop between the Z’s and the Hopper. Calibrate to a lesser energy property than the pod and open the power slowly. Got it? Indobri/Airik: response Wyss: Did I earn my ham sandwish? Indobri/Airik: response Walked back to the bio bed, Wyss didn’t want to let go of Indobri’s helpful arms, but eventually was pried free. She flopped back on the bed, and got all glassy eyed about something thoughtful and warming. Wyss: Hey, Karise? Indobri: response Wyss: I might puke little. Indobri: response Airik: response T'Lea and Kendrick cruised into the room just as power to the pod was restored. A orange glow surrounded the Original Caretaker, and the bio-signs on the pod's monitors began to register, spike, then level out. T'Lea: Well done. Is it stabilized? Tierney/Indobri: response T'Lea: Pelley seemed to think it was in a stage of mitosis. Doctor, can you determine if there are any reproductive organs in this species? Indobri: response Wyss: Well that's no fun! Somebody somewhere in sickbay snickered loudly. Kendrick/Tierney: response T'Lea: It appears that the function of the pod may not just be for stasis, but to help facilitate the process of division. Indobri: response Kendrick/Tierney: response T'Lea: Let's make certain the Caretaker is stabilized, and then we'll let the Hopper continue to aid the situation. Indobri/Kendrick/Tierney: response T'Lea tapped her comm. badge. T'Lea: =/\= T'Lea to USS Juneau. =/\= Oddas: =/\= response T'Lea: =/\= Captain, everyone has been transported safely to the Hopper. Williams and R'Kala should be returning to the Juneau soon with new data gathered here. =/\= Oddas: =/\= response T'Lea: =/\= The species we recovered from the planet appears to be using a form of mitosis to reproduce, to divide into another whole humanoid. The pod is assisting in the process. And we believe it is stabilized. =/\= Indobri: =/\= response Oddas: =/\= response tag PNPC Lieutenant JG Nyka Wyss Engineering Officer USS Grace Hopper simmed by Lieutenant Commander T’Lea Historian/Archaeology Specialist USS Juneau Author ID I238301T10
  7. Enjoy your Cadet Cruise, and welcome from another non native english speaker.
  8. From our good Doc Indobri. I added more to give some context . Nicely done @Serala 🤣
  9. Let's just say you both don't run that quick
  10. What an interesting pair... IC: [[Infirmary - Starfleet Medical Academy - Four years and nine months earlier]] Ikaia had been holding a cold pack up to his left eye for what felt like a while. He knew for having a black eye, he was near the bottom of the triage list. But at the same time, his brain chemistry was actively being monitored. There was a very good reason for this and it had to do with that Vulcan male, Vanik, laying knocked out in a few biobeds down from him. The poor man had been going through his time and the infirmary staff had knocked him out with a hypospray just to make him far more manageable. Ikaia supposed it all started at the end of class today. Just as he was leaving for his next class, Vanik had stopped him in the hall. The thing that happened next was amazingly awkward - Vanik had proposed to him. Now, even if Ikaia knew him well enough and were dating him, he still would have considered this incredibly forward. Rejecting his advances resulted in Vanik chasing him up the hall and Ikaia giving the most Klingon scream of horror! The only saving grace was when he ducked into an empty classroom and used the maze of desks to finally drop behind Vanik and snag him up in a bear hug. Then, it was just a matter of hauling him back to the infirmary for treatment. Once there, Ikaia yelled out for help when suddenly the wiley Vulcan wriggled loose from his grip as if he were a very squirmy cat about to be given a bath. Before he knew it, he saw a fist come flying at his face. The impact was hard enough that it had sent him stumbling back into a nearby counter. He was absolutely seeing stars from being hit that hard. This of course brought him to that moment. He had just learned that thing, that “pon farr” was contagious. Nobody knew if a punch to the face counted for anything more than just a black eye. It was only then he realized how DUMB he was for wrestling an agitated Vulcan here. He could only hope that he and Vanik were going to be okay! So he laid back in his biobed and waited it out. With the infirmary so busy, he was still waiting for treatment for his eye. More than that, he was starting to get bored. With his book bag on the table next to him, he reached inside to pull out his PADD. He decided to call his favourite partner in crime and in the classroom - Alieth. He was glad to see her when she picked up. Wong: =/\= Hi, Alieth.=/\= The screen lit up showing a Vulcan with messy, wispy hair and absolutely outside the 23 regulated styles who appeared to be up to... something. Something that required talking really quietly and pacing really fast in a fairly dark alleyway. Alieth: =/\= Hey, Wong=/\= The Vulcan's face moved closer to the screen until it practically filled it, her features lit up with an eerie bluish light. At the same time, dark eyes, naturally narrow, stretched even narrower. Alieth: =/\= You look terrible, Wong, is that an orbital bruise?=/\= Wong: =/\= Errr… I'm kind of sort of in the infirmary right now. It's uhhhh… for a good reason.=/\= Alieth's eyes constricted into two tiny slits. Alieth: =/\=Wong... what are you concealing from me? You know you cannot hide anything from me, I am the master of hiding things, not you. Come on, take off that ice patch.=/\= Ikaia removed the cold pack from his face, revealing his black eye. It looked swollen and bruised. He really had been hit particularly hard! On the other side of the screen, Alieth clicked her tongue in a wordless sound of disapproval. For a brief second, however, she averted her eyes from the screen, glanced over her shoulder at something not visible from the screen, and hastened her pace. Wong: =/\=You know Vanik, right? =/\= The words earned a rolled eye roll from the tiny Vulcan, her opinions about her compatriot more than well-known. The most pleasant epithet she had ever given him had been "suitably lacklustre". Wong: =/\= ...The weird one who's always looking at his salad like it's going to leap up and bite him on his nose if he doesn't eat it fast enough? That Vanik? Well, turns out he was… er…. going through a uh… seven year thing and he decked me in the face. Also, I had no idea he found me attractive. Er… that was BEFORE he decked me in the face.=/\= The Vulcan froze for a second and stared at the PADD in her hands. At the top left edge, a bright light cast strange shadows on her features. Alieth: =/\=He has tried to bond with you...::the Vulcan woman paused for a second and the next words she uttered came out in an awkward tone:::.... in “his time". Do you have any... "symptoms"?=/\= Wong: =/\=Oh, they have me in observation right now because nobody knows if a punch to the face counts as anything. So I'm stuck here. The good thing is that I don't feel weird. Just my eye hurts a bit. But otherwise, I'm okay! How are you?=/\= He was at least TRYING to be cheery given the situation. Ikaia brought his cold pack back up to his eye and held it there. He hissed in pain when the cold pack made contact with his injury. At the other end of the communication, the young woman dropped something on the ground, a large quantity of some things metallic that could have been either spray paint cans, or medkits, or parts of an unauthorised motor vehicle under repair. Alieth: =/\=Busy, but I will be there, in ten minutes, twelve if I have to dodge security.=/\= Ikaia gave the best curious head tilt he could given his current situation. It wasn’t much. But it got the point across. Wong: =/\=Alieth, what are you doing? Or wait. What did you already do?=/\= The petite Vulcan tilted her head, as if listening to something (or someone) that only she could hear. A smile briefly lit her eyes, not quite reaching her lips, before a flash of pain extinguished them, and she returned her gaze to the screen. Alieth: =/\=You really do not want to know. Eleven minutes and thirty-five seconds, and by all means do not even think of dying before then. That is an order.=/\= Wong: =/\= I’m NOT going to die. It’s just a black eye and well… the other thing. Wait. Caaaan this thing actually kill me?=/\= The Vulcan raised the padd to her eye level, allowing, for a brief second, to see a less than ideal part of the suburbia near the spaceport. The Vulcan's naturally sober face delivered this time deadly sombre, her normal vivacious eyes somehow especially dull, like someone who carries a hidden pain that rarely manifests itself. Alieth: =/\= Oh, it can kill you as well as others. I know it well.=/\= Ikaia audibly squeaked. A horrified expression crossed his face. Suddenly, this became so much WORSE inside his mind. He swallowed hard with the realization of what she had told him. All the while Alieth's gaze remained fixed and unblinking on the Klingon's eyes, the sort of stare that pierced all the way to the soul and a little beyond, hammering hard on the seriousness of her words. Wong: =/\= ::Gulp!:: Y-you know what? I th-think I was happier NOT knowing that p-part!=/\= Alieth: =/\=Knowledge makes you wiser. And more prudent in the future, IF you have a future at all.=/\= For a second, the petite Vulcan's face relaxed slightly and a hint of concern flickered across her stern features. Alieth:=/\= Hang in there, I will be there before you realise it. =/\= Was it safe for Alieth to show up in the Infirmary given his situation? Ikaia was starting to worry for her here. Yet at the same time, he really needed a friendly face. He was willing to forgo that if it meant this was going to put her in harm’s way. Wong: =/\=W-wait. Are you going to be okay coming up here?=/\= Alieth:=/\= Sort of, yes. Safe in sixty-three point eight four four six two percent of the possible scenarios.=/\= The Vulcan looked away from the screen momentarily, picked up the bag she had left on the ground and, for a few seconds, the screen showed only a blur of streets, concrete, buildings, and street furniture. As abruptly as it had begun, the run came to a halt, the bag was deposited in a transport container, and Alieth then apparently strode into a more brightly lit area. Wong: =/\= Please be safe, Alieth. Okay? =/\= Alieth: =/\=Yeah yeah, I need to leave you now, okay? Just remember, I will be there soon, and do not even think of dying before then.=/\= Wong: =/\=Mahalo and aloha. I’ll see you soon.=/\= On the screen, Alieth briefly raised her hand in the ta'al, but did not say a word. Ikaia ended the call and waited. He was still questioning if this was a good idea. Never mind, he didn’t know how this thing worked to its fullest. Truthfully, this felt like the closest he had been to death. The idea that this could kill him absolutely scared him. He could feel it manifesting as a pit in his stomachs. He needed something to distract him. Anything. He reached over to his book bag and started rummaging around inside of it. He finally pulled out his PADD with some of his homework on it. It seemed like as good of a time as any to at least TRY to get some studying done. His medical ethics course had a quiz he was supposed to be preparing for anyways. He threw himself and lost the sense of time, putting all his mind to the options until he heard some approaching footsteps. Those didn't sound like one of the nurses but more determined and, at the same time, more subtle. When looked up and saw Alieth approaching him. Wong: Alieth! Ah. I’m glad to see you! I just wish it was under better circumstances. The petite Vulcan made a minute gesture with her head and shoulders, something that could perhaps have passed for a shrug, but was probably just too subtle to be considered a gesture at all. Alieth: That is irrelevant. She approached the side of the bed, glanced at him for a brief moment and then moved away to grab a stool and perch on it, putting almost a metre and a half of distance between her perch and the biobed where Ikaia rested. Alieth: :with a small motion of her right hand:: Which treatment have they given you so far? Has your vision been checked? Wong: They still haven’t got to my eye yet. I mean the Infirmary is pretty busy today. So I think it’d be a while yet before it gets treated. It's kind of nasty. Vanik hit me pretty hard. Ikaia pulled the cooling pack from his face. His arm flopped back into his lap. Sure enough, that nasty shiner was still there. It looked even worse in person. The Vulcan's lips pursed together briefly. Alieth: Yes, it is indeed worse in the flesh than in a video call. I would do something about it but, I will not risk doing it until we are sure that ... the other thing... has not affected you. She shifted uncomfortably on the stool as she said those words and, once again, she seemed to listen to something that only she could hear for a split second. Wong: I know. This looks bad. Still nothing yet on the other thing. I… I dunno what is supposed to happen with…. da kine. I don’t even know how it actually works or what it’s going to do to me…. Er… other than what’s been mentioned. They are monitoring my brain chemistry, though. I just… wish I knew more. Elements of Ikaia's fears came from both the feeling of the loss of control and from the unknown. He could easily run away from a rogue cadet. But he couldn't outrun his own body. That reality was what made being the patient in this case so chilling. Alieth: Well, the first symptoms are quite obvious :: She raised a hand and started extending fingers in front of her as she enumerated them:: poor concentration, trouble suppressing emotions, restlessness, irritability, impaired ability to meditate or rest... do you suffer from any of them at the moment?. Ikaia raised an eyebrow at that. He was trying to think of what Alieth was saying to him. Wong: You mean nervousness? Yeah. I’m feeling nervous. That’s a symptom?! The Vulcan's eyebrows furrowed a bit more. Alieth: It is, if you are a vulcan. Well, then you have to watch out for the following symptoms: lack of appetite, increased irritability, perspiration and insomnia. Obsessive and possessive musings about the bondmate or potential mate... I guess in your case with your friend Vanik Wong: ::Slightly Deadpan:: He’s not my friend. You are. But I’m not… I’m not feeling all that hungry either. Alieth: This could mean that it is advancing... Alieth looked away, and looked at the hands in her lap. Her face had paled marginally and, at the same time, the tips of her ears had turned slightly greenish. When she spoke, her eyes averted from Ikaia's and her voice grew quieter, almost turning into a whisper. Alieth: If it is not resolved then you can fall into the next stage and.... you do not want that Wong: What’s the next stage? Is that where I…. uh…. He really didn’t want to say the next words. It was already bad enough. Alieth: The next stage are “The Fires” and… It means you either resolve it or you die, Wong. Wong: I resolve it? How? Alieth, I don’t want to die! Only then did Alieth look at the patient on the bed and her face remained devoid of any emotion. Alieth: One way is to kill someone, usually if they pose an obstacle between you and your desired mate. Wong: I think Starfleet would frown on that. The other way? A greenish blush crept across Alieth's hieratic face. Alieth: The other option is to join your mate. In body and mind. Ikaia flopped back into the biobed with a groan. He did NOT want to do that either. There had to be a THIRD option. Something he was overlooking. Right now, he was just too scared to even think. He needed a distraction. Wong: ::Muttering:: I need a distraction… What's a good distraction…? ::He finally looks up with an idea:: Alieth… there’s something in my book bag. My half of the project we have together for the bedside manners class. Do you want to grab it? In Ikaia’s book bag, other than homework, were two small bags containing lollipops and gummies. Another thing was a half devoured jar of chocolate hazelnut spread he had been snacking on in one of his classes while he was taking notes. He didn’t want to hand these to her directly as he didn’t want to risk passing along his condition. Alieth: In addition to your homework, you have a stack of sugary treats here... a humongous amount of them... As she said this, the Vulcan pulled out one of the bags and fished out a soft figure in the shape of a Terran predator. She squeezed it with two fingers as she struggled to find the logic in using a vicious beast for something so soft, squishy, and... blood-coloured. More confused than she wanted to confess she began to pull gummie bears from the bag and began to form a small battalion on a nearby tray to study them more closely. The first row consisted entirely of green bears, like the first one I had taken out, followed by red, yellow, etc. When she had a real army in formation and ready for her research, she reached for one of the PADD's in the backpack and tossed it to Ikaia. Alieth: Do you want something else? Maybe you would like to test the insulin production of one of your livers with some of this? Can I? Anything I should avoid? Ikaia caught the PADD and held on to it. Wong: Er… yeah. That uh jar… you don’t want that. It has Klingon slobber in it. Uh.. specifically, MY Klingon slobber. A subtle but noticeable expression of discontent flashed across the Vulcan's face. Alieth: Wong, did you really need to chew the WHOLE jar? How... and why?. Wong: I didn't chew the jar! It was an early class and I got super hungry when I ate that! I kinda sorta didn’t exactly get a great breakfast this morning and well…. The chocolate hazelnut spread was the quickest thing I could grab in order to avoid being late for class. ::a beat. Clears his throat:: Anyways! I was working away over a replicator this morning before class trying to come up with a good candy to give to patients. I was trying to come up with something on the vegan side of things so we don’t encounter any patient allergies. I think they taste good. They taste sweet to me. But I have a problem - as a Klingon, I can’t tell how well that’s going to taste for another humanoid. My enhanced sense of taste is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to anything culinary. I was wondering if you wanted to give it a try? Alieth: Absolutely not, I have no incentive to ingest a perhaps highly sugary substance with body fluid supplements. She made a small gesture towards the army she had assembled next to her. Alieth: But what is this? And why Ursus Arctos and not... reptiles or vegetables?:: The slanted eyebrows of the Vulcan furrowed over her eyes in another micro expression:: are they bear-flavoured? Wong: The gummy bears don't have the slobber! Just the contents of the jar--- ::And he catches himself. A touch of fear takes hold of him again. Muttering:: Oh stars…. Is that the irritability kicking in? Please let it NOT be worse. Uhhh…. Ikaia takes a deep breath to calm himself down. He was allowing his fears to take over again and the last thing he needed was more fear or worry about a new symptom. He just needed to let go of those feelings just for a moment and try to keep a cooler head. When he glanced back at the Vulcan he glimpsed a tiny frown of concern creasing her brow, one that disappeared as soon as the Klingon's brown eyes settled on her, replaced by a carefully studied neutral expression. Wong: Sorry about that. I just needed to refocus…. So okay. So I picked bears because most humanoids find them cute. They taste like fruit! Most humanoids do like fruit! Or at least that’s the logic I had behind them. The statement was greeted with a very Vulcan slanted eyebrow [...]ed up in a gesture of disbelief. Alieth: A predator weighing several hundred kilos is certainly worthy of respect, but I do not know if I would describe it as "cute". :: The tiny Vulcan opened one of the drawers of the cabinet next to the bed and began to rummage through it while she kept talking.::Besides, it still makes no sense that they taste like fruit... though at least that explains the unrealistic colours. She kept rummaging through the drawer for a while, until she pulled out four tongue depressors and lined them up perfectly on the sides of her little bear army. Wong: But anyways, I was thinking that patients would enjoy them. Or at least the good patients, at least anyways. I was thinking we may also be able to hand them out for classmates to try. For the first time since she began military manoeuvres with the gummy bears, the Vulcan raised her gaze to her classmate, her countenance revealing a genuine curiosity. Alieth: So you suggest a classical conditioning of patients to achieve an appropriate behaviour during a medical procedure... interesting, Pavlovian, but highly applicable... The Vulcan rubbed her chin gently, as she gazed with renewed interest at the illogical sugar-coated creatures. Wong: I know there’s still a few glitches to work out. But what do you think of the idea? Do you think it could work? Alieth: It may work, but it would need to be tested, of course. And now Ikaia couldn’t help himself. He looked at Alieth’s gummy bear army with a raised eyebrow. Wong: Okay I have to ask - what are you doing? The Vulcan blinked and made a gesture towards the gummy bears that in another person might have been perceived as mild exasperation, but in Alieth it was deeply lecturing. Alieth: Sort them by flavour and condition to start the test, you do not expect us to test them on patients without sampling them ourselves, do you? We have to know what the best flavour is in case we are asked for a recommendation, for example, I can not simply say "the blood coloured one" without even having a clue what it tastes like. Wong: Well, I can promise you none of them taste like blood. The red ones should taste like raspberries and the green ones like strawberries. Immediately afterwards she took two of the tongue depressors and laid them on the bed next to Ikaia (taking good care of not touching him), and then she took the other two and manoeuvred them into a sort of chopsticks. Touching the food one was about to consume was highly undesirable and gross for a Vulcan if one had the option of avoiding it, and she was a properly raised Vulcan woman. Alieth: Well, try one. The first row are pure flavours, without cracks or damage that may have altered their taste. The fourth line has suffered damage that could have mixed the flavours, and the sixth are chimeras with parts of various flavours. I think it is appropriate to find out whether it is necessary to select these predators by flavours and keep them isolated, or whether they can be stored together. Ikaia picked up the tongue depressors. He had no problems with picking these up with his fingers. But things were different. He was contagious. Also, when dining with Vulcans, one did good to mimic their habits. Good thing he knew his way around chopsticks! Wong: Huh. Yeah. Okay. I can see why you’d do that. Getting the purest flavour possible! I guess if you want to do a taste test, you need to eliminate the extra variables. Alieth: It certainly makes sense Wong, it is a scientific approach to "candy" if this is going to be part of a medical procedure you have to recognise that it must be done properly. Wong: So the question is…. Who goes first? Alieth: Ok ok, I will go first. With unearthly finesse and dexterity given the improvised tools, Alieth fished one of the green bears from the front row, lifted it to her eyes and squeezed it lightly, as she studied its consistency and deformability. Once she was satisfied with her analysis, she brought it very slowly to her mouth. For a minute she chewed it thoroughly, occasionally pausing to roll it around in her mouth. Alieth: Extremely gummy, high ability to adhere to teeth, which is not highly desirable. Extremely high sugar content, which can lead to dental damage if not used sparingly, as well as other unpleasant side effects. Flavour.... I think it is the fruit of plants of the genus fragaria, but with a chemical touch that I will describe as emetic. The Vulcan's face twisted slightly into a gesture of displeasure, mainly a subtle wrinkling of her nose and a narrowing of her eyes. Alieth: I am not convinced that I would recommend this Wong: ::Curious head tilt:: You don’t like the strawberry ones? The petite Vulcan shook her head. Alieth: A three out of ten. The Vulcan's lips pursed in a minute pout, before she gestured towards the tray. Alieth: Come on your turn, the blood-coloured ones are out. Alright. It was Ikaia’s turn. With his tongue depressor chopsticks, he picked up one of the gummy bears and stuffed it inside of his mouth. He gave it a chew. Wong: They’re really sweet. I mean they all taste sweet to me. Klingons kind of have some extra taste buds for that. But I do taste the strawberries. Alieth, do you find these overly sweet? Alieth:Too sweet, too intense flavour, too chemical and too little resemblance to the original fruit. It is revolting Despite the negative review, one thing could be said: Wong was still interested in food and able to focus on things. Something that was a good sign to discard the... The Thing. Alieth felt a knot she didn't even know had knotted in her stomach loosen slightly. Wong: Huh. ::Takes another gummy bear to chew on it:: Okay…. Maybe I can see why you may not like them. It’s just sweet enough for me. But you might find them over powering. Alieth looked at the dwindling green line, raised her makeshift chopsticks over the last surviving green soldier and ultimately refrained from sampling it again. Alieth: Yes, I think we should probably avoid them, I do not think they are beneficial to health. She was about to push all the green bears away when the Klingon resting on the biobed raised a hand to stop her. Wong: We have humans in that class too. We may have to enlist a few as test subjects here for our gummies. Alieth: Maybe some other time, to broaden the subjects, but let us keep a preliminary testing between us for the time being, shall we? After all, you volunteered to help me with bedsides manners class and my grades, at the moment, are sub-par at best. Which was a very fancy way of describing the fact that she had steadily and firmly failed each and every assignment she had been given with the lowest mark in the class. Which didn't make her prospects of successfully completing the course any better. Wong: I know. And we’ll get there. I promised you that I’d help you pass the class and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. ::A small smile:: The tiny smile was answered with a deadpan and earnest vulcan façade. One that, however, did not hide a small spark in the gaze of the petite Vulcan. Meanwhile, he takes his makeshift chopsticks to pick up another gummy bear. Wong: Pink. My blood colour! Heh! I think these ones were my attempt at watermelon. Alieth: ::waving to the tiny bears:: Go on, try them out. Wong: ::He popped this inside his mouth:: Not nearly as sweet as the strawberry. This one is much more toned down. ::Swallows it:: Want to give them a try? The tiny smile was answered with a deadpan and earnest vulcan façade. One that, however, did not hide a small spark in the gaze of the petite Vulcan. Alieth: ::with a frown:: hum Wong: Honest opinion - what do you think of these ones? Alieth: They are fine. We will put them at the top of the list for the time being. Raising a very slanted eyebrow:: Just do not infer anything weird from it, okay Wong? Wong: I’m not! I promise! But I think our project is going to work…. There was a continued back and forth over their bedside manners project until the morning sun let its first rays into the infirmary when, at last, Alieth saw that Ikaia had fallen asleep. Most of the bears had been consumed or dissected (as well as much of the contents of his bag) but after much discussion, chatter and perhaps some witty Vulcan, fatigue had overcome the Klingon. He was softly snoring while curled up in a blanket. He was entirely out like a light. Only then, Alieth got up from the stool she had been perched on all night and walked the short distance to the biobed. There, she tapped on the side panel and checked his biosignals. Ikaia's body chemistry seemed stable, or as stable as it could be for a Klingon. There were no traces of alien hormones in him, and he presented only signs of fatigue and stress. The petite Vulcan allowed herself to exhale a tiny sigh and her posture, which had remained stiff and composed in appearance all night, relaxed significantly. Careful not to make any noise, she opened one of the drawers of the nearby trolley, extracted a dermal regenerator and, careful not to wake him, began to work on his wounded eye, until the traces of the punch he had received disappeared, leaving no mark. Alieth rubbed her eyes gently, more tired than she wanted to confess. But her friend was fine, and that was what mattered. Finally, she pulled a padd from his backpack, wrote a note on it and left it next to his bed, before she scurried away without making a sound. ((Labs - Sickbay - Deck 6 - USS Veritas - Present Day)) Ikaia had been running through simulations of the healthcare systems on Antor II. He could only handle so many troubling simulations before he needed a break. He took a moment to rest his eyes as he flopped back in his seat. He only nodded off briefly when an old Academy memory came back to him. He didn’t know why THIS particular memory came back. But he recalled a time when Alieth cared for him when he was in the middle of a crisis surrounding an incident with another Vulcan going through an issue. This was the first time he had a brush with death even if nothing came of it. Well… maybe something came with it and fortunately, it wasn’t his demise. Alieth was the only person who had chosen to stay the night with him and watch over him while he slept. He could remember the contents of the letter she left him. Of course, she seemed upset with how much he worried her. But he didn’t mind her scolding. It showed that she cared about what happened to him. Ikaia opened his eyes again. He wasn’t sure why that memory of his friend came back to him. But he was glad to have thought of it again. [[Room 03-0602, Alieth’s New Quarters,Deck 3, USS Gorkon, on orbit of Deluvia IV, Present day]] In the quiet of her new quarters, Alieth opened her eyes. The meditation candle had long since been extinguished, but the scent of the oil it had burned still hung in the room. Through the window, Deluvia IV drifted through the blackness of space, casting her room in a warm blue-green glow. She blinked briefly, casting the remnants of meditation away from her mind and she refocused on the present before she silently wondered why the paths of her meditation had led her to recall exactly that incident from her past, right at that very moment. [[END]] As simmed by ================================= Lt. Alieth Chief Science Officer randgri...@gmail.com USS Gorkon NCC-82293 E239702A10 Image Collective Facilitator /Art Director ================================= & Lieutenant JG Ikaia Wong Physician Assistant USS Veritas V239711IW0
  11. TV show. Exactly. Took some time for someone to see that 😁
  12. Thank you, I appreciate the compliment. However it looks like nobody recognized the NPCs in the scene...
  13. I always loved this community. I find it therapeutically to have this place to hide away for a few minutes from RL, sometimes by writing, others by reading. And I have to thank this pair of talented writers. This isn't exactly an uplifting sim, but it was one I had to read all trough it, and allowed me a few minutes . Thank you Sal and Alora. I joined all the four parts, sorry to make it long, but this is the way it's meant to be read. IC: ((Virixis VI - Alora’s Cabin)) Alora’s fingers danced over the keys of the piano, the ivory and black rectangles bouncing up and down as her hands worked her way over them. The speed was far too slow for the piece, Chopin’s Etude in G-sharp minor, but there was no way Alora was anywhere near ready to play a tempo. Known among pianists as one of the most difficult pieces to play, she had set it before her as a challenge, a goal, something to take up time and effort and brainpower as well as a composition that would allow her to stretch her skills and become a better player. Playing in thirds wasn’t for the faint hearted, but that piece was an ambitious project for even the foremost pianists. Needless to say, it was even more exacting for someone whose every waking moment wasn’t set before a piano. Although she had been playing for two and a half decades, Alora found herself stumbling at handling those thirds, particularly with the delicate touch the semi-quavers required. Yet, she was not above attempting something difficult. Scaling a mountain like that particular étude, pushing through the complicated runs and delicate trills that raced up and down the keys, would only end in a deep sense of satisfaction one felt after overcoming such a task. So, despite the painstakingly sluggish pace she had to set just to get through the first two measures, she was determined to wade through it. Like anything else, it was most difficult when first approached, and only time and practise would help her push through. She’d gone through the two measures she’d planned to tackle seven times when the chirp of the door made her hands pause and she turned on the small bench to face the door of her cabin. When the system was told to allow the visitor to enter, the door opened and a familiar face passed through. DeVeau: Commodore. Formal. That wasn’t normally Alora’s style, but she bounced back and forth with him, uncertainty making her doubt, doubt making her traverse down a more cautious road. Taybrim: Commander ::He gave her a polite, gentle greeting with a traditional Betazoid gesture.:: DeVeau: To what do I owe the visit? Taybrim: I wanted to touch base with you and see how you were doing. Just like Sal. He was always looking out for others, always making sure they were taken care of. Dropping her gaze, her smile took on a little more humour which reflected in her eyes when she finally raised them again. DeVeau: Do you feel like I need to be checked on? Taybrim: I know the mission was harrowing, but I am more concerned about your overall well being. Maybe he was still thinking of the telepathic contact he had with her. Perhaps it was a general sense of worry for her condition. Both? She was a valuable member of the crew and he wanted to make sure she was well. Harrowing. It was an apt word, one she had used on many occasions herself. Now? That mission? It wasn’t harrowing. Not compared to other experiences. DeVeau: Trust me when I say I’ve been through worse. Much worse, physically, emotionally, telepathically. Alora wasn’t sure if there was going to be anything else thrown at her that compared. DeVeau: More importantly, how are you doing? Did anyone ever ask him that? Did anyone check after the Commodore? See to his well being? Alora hoped so. Taybrim: I am well enough. Though I always worry that there is still more to do. A gross understatement if there ever was one. But he had taken the time to start to process all that had happened. It was a journey, and he was moving forward. Still, there were things that lingered in his mind as issues that could come up in the future. And that always worried him. DeVeau: But it’s over. And we won. ::She paused for a moment, then added - :: You won. Taybrim: We all won ::he gently offered:: You, Max, Sheila, the whole crew. We all helped. You were more help than you could know. DeVeau: Not me. I got involved at the last minute. You’ve been dealing with this for how many years? Sal took in a long, slow breath and contemplated that question. A while. A long while. Taybrim: Nearly three for the cult itself. ::he considered:: Over five for dealing with the Syndicate. Ah. That was one area where they still had a war - but this, they’d won against the Cult, and that was a decisive victory. It didn’t end everything, but it did cut off a very real threat, and for the moment, Alora felt they could at least take some relief in that. DeVeau: There will always be more to do, unfortunately. The Syndicate is a much bigger fish to fry. Taybrim: I have to accept that some things will never truly go away, but we are able to protect what we love rather than destroy what we hate. DeVeau: That’s the difference between us and them. We don’t fight because we want to, we fight because we have to, and if we can find other ways to accomplish our goals, so much the better. He nodded gently, in complete agreement on this. Taybrim: I agree, this is true. I have hope that if we stay on this course we can protect what we value and help our allies to continue to strengthen themselves. Even in this harrowing mission we still met and worked with plenty of Klingons who understood the stakes and rose to protect what was valuable to them. Alora studied the man for a moment, her expression neutral, eyes unwilling to reveal with thoughts roamed through her mind. A moment later, she turned, fingers quickly finding the switch that turned off the digital piano that had been provided for her by the resort, then rose. She faced him once again, hands lacing together and resting in front of her. DeVeau: I have a feeling that’s not the only reason you came by. Taybrim: You are correct ::He smiled gently:: I know things have been somewhat odd between us from the feelings shared at the Gratitude festival to the telepathic contact. I wanted to see if I could understand your thoughts and feelings on the matter. There was that gentle tone of the counselor paired with the Betazoid honesty that just came right out and cut to the chase. Immediately, Alora stiffened at the mention of the Gratitude Festival. In some ways, she had a desire to simply forget about everything that had occurred, every thought or emotion that had been stirred by that concoction which had invaded her body and spurred them to life. On the other hand, Alora had found something she’d thought she’d lost, an ability she hadn’t expected to retain. Either way, she seemed to dwell in a strange mixed existence of uncertainty, guilt, and maybe even a hint of regret. Her footing had been compromised and she was afraid that if she attempted to make a step forward, she’d simply fall and there wouldn’t be a net to catch her. Her reticence spurred the Commodore to continue. Taybrim: I understand how awkward things were under the influence of the tainted Spring wine. Though I hope you know that I do not hold anything against any crew who was affected during the festival. I, myself, was also affected. She didn’t want to talk about it. Wasn’t sure how to talk about it. Even though she’d managed to speak to Ashley about it, Alora still couldn’t face the red haired man himself, and try as he might, the Counselor’s attempts to help her come to some sort of resolution had been fruitless. The demons had been fed and they continued to lurk in the shadows, using this as merely fodder for tormenting her. Turning, Alora crossed the room, her eyes breaking away from Sal, avoiding him, training themselves on a new goal, something to distract her. DeVeau: Do you want something to drink? He nodded gently, pulling back and giving her some time. Taybrim: Sure. Orange cider if you would? Alora, of course, was going to imbibe. After making the Commodore’s request, she ordered chocolate milk for herself, program 100, one of the top favourites. It was a go to when she felt like she needed a little something extra. She paused at his words, then reached out to take her glass, but she didn’t actually drink, and her back remained turned to him, her focus on the sweet drink that she’d requested but seemed only able to stare at. DeVeau: I’m not sure what to say. Taybrim: There is no ‘what’ to say. I have no expectations. Sometimes putting feelings you cannot explain into words is a journey and even if you never reach the destination the attempt is worthwhile. That orange cider sat there, patiently waiting to be taken to the one who had asked for it. Like the man behind her, it offered no condemnation. Yet, Alora still winced, though she wasn’t sure why exactly. Sal Taybrim was, if nothing else, a kind man, so why did what he say sting? Or was she just done with his attempt at broaching the subject? Taybrim: I accept that you may not be able to answer now, nor soon, nor even on any timeframe that you know. ::He stated openly.:: Maybe it was important that she was simply aware that he knew. That he was prompting her forward on that journey. Alora inhaled and let out a heavy sigh, then finally reached out to curl her fingers around the glass. It was cool to the touch, and she could smell the citrus as she turned and carried it to the commodore. Finally passing it along, she motioned to the seating area of the room. DeVeau: Feel free to sit down. It felt odd, standing there like that. Stiff. Formal. Alora didn’t like it, even though she was taking a more formal stance in other ways. Choosing an armchair for herself, Alora lowered herself down and allowed herself a sip. Thick, chocolatey, oh so good, it slid down her throat, and, perhaps, offered a bit of courage. DeVeau: Is that the only reason you came by? Sal settled himself comfortably once asked and leaned forward, shaking his head gently. Taybrim: No. There is never only one reason to come. There is a world of things we could talk about to understand one another better on so many levels. For a second time, Alora lifted the glass, savouring the sweetness of her drink, though her eyes flicked up to peer at Sal from over the rim. She dared to turn the topic around, back to something else, something where she felt like she had more secure footing. DeVeau: Perhaps you would be willing to fulfill the promise you made to me before we went to Qo’nos? He nodded very slowly, having already considered this and knowing it was a possibility that they would delve into it. Taybrim: Yes, I am willing. The cup lowered and she rested the bottom upon her palm, then turned it slowly around and around. Circles. It was going in circles. Sometimes that was how she felt. DeVeau: Perhaps now would be a good time? It was true, he had no other plans. Though he was still hesitant no matter how open and honest he was. It bled through his tone. Taybrim: I have no other plans, so if you wish. The shifting of the glass, the circling of it in her palm ceased, and she took one last sip from it before setting it down upon the coffee table, then straightened. Her hands laced together and she met his gaze. DeVeau: I do wish. Taybrim: You already know I am loathe to cause pain to someone I care about if I can somehow prevent it. Or an innocent, he was even hesitant to cause pain to a dire enemy and would only consider it as a last resort for the cruel, the corrupt and the criminal. But he was also aware that so many enemies were simply good people of another opinion - just like the Klingon high Council where, in the end, so many of them were actually on the same side, though it took much effort to convince them. And yet, in that, he also admitted that the telepathic communication Vananth had offered him was painful. She had been terribly injured at the time and just desperate to share the information. It was not her fault. But it had been a difficult pile of memories to sift through. DeVeau: I know. But I am loath to leave someone I… She paused. Dare she say it? Could she say it? What did it mean if she gave it a voice? Was there more to it than simply what the word itself meant? Alora finished it, but the pit of her stomach roiled with uncertainty. DeVeau: Someone I care about with such a burden to bear alone. Taybrim: The burden has shifted since we met Kelemkor. His voice was soft, murmured and yet piercing. That particular connection still rang heavy on his mind. There was a tilt of her head, a slight lifting of her chin. She didn’t have to ask what he meant - she knew. Alora had been witness to the battle, though she did not know the exact details, had only seen the physical manifestation of what raged between their minds. It didn’t matter. She would not be deterred. Alora rose and closed the distance between them and sat beside him upon the couch. Without a word, she held out her hands to him, her gaze unwavering as hers met his own. Taybrim: I… ::He hesitated, protective, careful. Stinging words still rang in his ears.:: I will share with you what Ariwyn Vanath showed me. He did not trust himself to share Kelemkor’s mind. Not yet. He hadn’t yet processed that fully. Then with the utmost care he started to open his mind to the experience of telepathically connecting with Ambassador Vananth. He was being careful, trying to limit what he sent to her rather than deluge everything all at once. Alora had been prepared, had a taste of what was to come, but even so, she could not stop the sharp intake of air as the sights and sounds assaulted her. Wavering a little, her hold upon him tightened, and her eyes closed, allowing her to shut off external visual stimuli in order to concentrate on what she was receiving. It helped some, allowing her to focus her energy on dealing with the hand she was being dealt - one that she had requested. Taybrim: I’m sorry… ::He whispered, trying to stave the flood to as slow of a trickle as possible, but even with his Herculean efforts at control, the flood continued.:: Despite his attempts, what he was sharing was unfathomably horrible. Torture, pain, hatred, malice. It wasn’t just that, the emotions that were so contrary to what was so ingrained in Starfleet, so opposite to the desire to help others and seek out their well being, but the way it was presented, the cacophony of images and noise, scenes scattered and out of order, a fantastic and horrifying array of another’s thoughts, ripped from one mind, shared from Ambassador to Captain, now from Commodore to First officer. Alora gritted her teeth, her eyes squeezed ever more tightly, her hold strengthening. Taybrim: ~Let me stop…~ It was a plea. With minds linked, he admitted her control locked with his was an open door, one he could not close without causing pain. He would not cause her pain, and he needed her implicit mental permission to stave off the flow without pain. DeVeau: ~No.~ ****** Determination underscored that single word. How much had he borne and for so long? He’d carried it with him, a man without anyone to commiserate, without anyone to understand, to share it. It was painful, but she had expected that pain, and she didn’t fight it. And yet, even as it flowed into her, the jumble of insanity, the back and forth and mix up of time, everything sort of slammed together in a maddening jumble of thoughts and feelings, Alora had an advantage - one that Sal had given her. She had a map. Originally, what had been shared left everything in a neat and tidy order. While unpleasant, it was nothing compared to the agony that she was receiving now, though even what she received now was pale in comparison to her own past. Still, it was painful, but she pushed through it, unwilling to give in. What he had originally presented her with from their first connection was enough that she could use it, a map to guide everything that was thrown at her, to place what she knew from before properly and use that as a key to find the other pieces of the puzzle. Taybrim: ~please…~ ::Now it was a plea for her to disconnect. A rising agony in his own mind at the pain he was sharing. Agony, shame, pain.:: It was almost like being on the holodeck, but there were multitudes of things flashing through at one time, half were the bits that had been given to her by Sal, playing their way through on one side, the other half the jumble, then between them, they sifted back and forth until it was becoming more cohesive, a single unit, a play that unwound itself in a semblance of order rather than the chaos that had suddenly been thrust at her. Without that guidance of what he’d given her, she would have been unable to sort through it as quickly as she was doing so. Even then, time would be needed, time that she didn’t want to spend right then and there. More inspection, more introspection, more retrospection, all combined to make true sense and give everything it’s proper consideration. And there was where one of the skills that had been taught her came into play, one useful, perhaps used to her detriment more than should be, but in that moment became an act that allowed her to breathe, allowed her the chance to set it aside for the moment so she could thoroughly examine it all in her own time. Gathering it all, what she had processed in those moments - had they been moments, or hours? Time made no mark there in her mind - she swept them away, tucked them behind a door, one where she could turn her back on it, if just for a little while, granting herself a brief respite so she could ponder how to move forward with the knowledge she had suddenly gained. That done, she inhaled, a deep almost gasping breath, and she clutched at him, suddenly realising that she no longer held him with one hand, but with both, her grip almost desperate, leaning into him, her breath quickening from the frantic mental race she had just run. Finally able to withdraw and close his mental shielding tightly around his mind, he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, holding her steady in a gentle, paternal grip. Taybrim: I am sorry. I am so, so sorry… His words were spoken, dripping with pain and guilt. DeVeau: I’m fine. I promise. Sal stayed perfectly still, steady and gentle. As much of a rock as he could be for her. It was the least he could do. Taybrim: Breathe, slowly. Focus on the here and now. DeVeau: Sal… He was so worried about her. Always worried about others. Never about himself. How much more did he hold inside? Was what he shared only the tip of the universe that rest upon his shoulders? She remained in his grip, enjoying the warmth of his hold. Taybrim: That is one of the keys. Here is real, now is real. Everything else is in the mind. DeVeau: You don’t… But his guilt spurred him on, so afraid of what he thought he had done to her. Taybrim: ::He nodded slowly.:: Yes, everything in the mind is equally real. Real, but slippery while here and now is solid. DeVeau: Sal. She didn’t break the hold he had on her. It was far too comforting, not because of what she had experienced, but because such touch had been so rare lately. Instead, she leaned further into it, one hand rising to rest tenderly upon his cheek and guide him so that she could look directly into his eyes . A smile spread across her face, small, but genuine. DeVeau: It’s okay. You didn’t hurt me. She hadn’t felt pain. Not her own pain. No, what she had felt had come from others. From him. She hadn’t meant to cause him pain. That was the last thing Alora wanted to do. He tensed, the knotted feeling of his muscles spreading from his neck, through the shoulders and down into his core. He hated seeing others in pain and loathed causing others pain. But at the moment the mental tempest placed in his mind by Kelemkor was so harsh that all he could sense was pain. His fathomless dark eyes locked with Alora, confusion bleeding through. How could she not sense the pain? Or did she feel it and withstand it? Or did she feel it, endure it, and then give a gentle reassurance that she was fine? Because that’s exactly what Sal would do. Taybrim: Are you sure? He wanted - perhaps needed to know she was OK. Because behind those superior mental shields he was hurting and didn’t have nearly enough time to process it. The last thing he needed was hurting another to weigh upon his conscience. DeVeau: But I’m sorry I hurt you. I didn’t mean to. I never want to… This time he was solid. The tension in his body did not release, but his voice was calm and steady. Taybrim: You did not hurt me. Ambassador Vananth did not hurt me. Do not blame yourself or anyone else for the scars Kelemkor caused. His voice faltered slightly at Kelemkor’s name. The mind that would haunt him for quite some time. Emerald met ebony, seeking, searching. Something was different, more had been left unspoken, the weight no less than before. Perhaps even heavier than before DeVeau: Oh Sal, what did he do to you? Taybrim: Same thing he tried with you ::he murmured:: Flaying the mind open to strip mine the pain. ::he took in a long, slow, breath.:: He didn’t win. The words were confident and honest. But the tone wavered. Kelemkor lost the war, but the battle was gruesome and bloody. Even victors need to recover. Alora took a deep breath then let it out slowly, her voice soft, a half whisper, but confident. DeVeau: You don't have to hold back. Not with me. You can let go with me. He stopped. Almost completely. His body was tight, breath paused, unblinking. This was a role reversal that he didn’t know if he was ready for. He was the Commanding Officer. It was his role to be the bulwark for his crew. But his role was changing. In the past he had easily endured. The poor leadership of Commodore Kinney was a welcome challenge, and even a Court Martial couldn’t flag Commander Taybrim’s focus and commitment. Losing Taelon in a temporal rift had only redoubled Captain Taybrim’s efforts to rescue and protect his friend. A deepening nerve damage condition had put Nijil after Fleet Captain Taybrim to enforce medical attention; something Sal accepted more quickly than Nijil expected - because he easily admitted it was foolish to not tend his health when there was important work to do. Each of his previous First Officers had the benefit of serving at a time when the stakes were lower and the focus was not so tightly on them. But as Sal carried out his do-gooding clean up campaign in the Trinity Sector, notoriety and focus had grown to an uncomfortable degree. Alora DeVeau had the unenviable role of being the first officer to a man in the most difficult of situations, where his ability to protect her was waning and his need for support was growing. He felt ashamed. Taybrim: I can’t. ::he said in a low, serious tone:: He couldn't? Alora didn’t understand, and the only thing she came out was a bare whisper of a word. DeVeau: Why? Taybrim: Alora, it is my job to teach you. To shelter and protect you so you can grow as a leader and succeed. This has been my promise to each of my first officers. ::he paused, his voice heavy with emotion:: It is unfair to burden you with my demons. Is that what he thought? That he had to stand alone? To shoulder everything? To carry the weight of the universe upon his shoulders? After Sal had tapped her as First Officer, Alora had suffered from doubts for the first time in her career. Navigating the strange new office, trying to find the balance between being a friend to her friends and one of their commanding officers had been difficult. And there were still things about that position she still wasn’t sure of. But that? For the first time since she took up that position, Alora was certain of at least one role, and it wasn’t necessarily just as first officer. It was as a person who cared for him. Sal was Commodore. He was the commanding officer of Starbase 118 Ops. He was their leader. Sal was also a regular man. And a friend. That was a word she could use. That was safe. That was something he could be. Something she could be. Whatever she felt, whatever strangeness affected her in her uncertainty with her emotions and where she stood, that was at the most basic and fundamental state of being what he was and what she would be to him - a friend. A tremor rumbled deep within, but she was far too focused, far too determined at that time to let it take any hold. In that moment, it wasn’t about her, it wasn’t about what she felt, what she was struggling with. It was about him. What he needed. DeVeau: Oh Sal...you’ve left out half of it. He pressed his lips together, knowing he had left out far more than half. But he was curious as to which half she was referring to. Taybrim: Which half? DeVeau: The other half of the equation. We protect each other. We help each other. Bear each other's burdens. Alora leaned forward, her brow touching his, eyes unwavering. DeVeau: It is unfair for you to bear it all, to walk this path alone. I want to walk with you. Let me walk with you. He paused and gazed back at her for one, long moment. As if he was reading her, without actually setting forward any telepathy. Taybrim: You ask to bear my burdens, but you keep your burdens to yourself. ::he said gently.:: I would share your load and offer mine, but I will not overburden you. That was why he had originally come. To check in with her. Through the tempest he had not lost sight of his original goal. His words startled her, and like he had done before, she froze. Alora stared at him, her heart reacting by beating in her chest, pounding against her ribs. She had wanted to help him, relieve his burden. He’d turned it around on her. DeVeau: You don’t... Taybrim: It is unfair for you to bear it all and walk your path alone. I want to walk with you. Let me walk with you. Oh yes, he had been listening. Her stomach roiled and her body tensed. Alora had shared very little with anyone beyond Ashley, and even he hadn’t known about, at least not in detail, about some of the things she had experienced. She’d been set upon a path. A choice had been placed before her. First and foremost, she wanted to help Sal. Her relationship with Aron had helped show her the difficulties a Captain struggled with, that he needed someone just like anyone else. She had always tried to be a friend. Always tried to offer her support to others. Now Sal was offering that support, just like Ashley. His approach was different, but there it was nonetheless. Except it was painful. Even with Ashley, she struggled to communicate, struggled to really talk to him. It had taken herculean effort from the counselor for her to even start. And Sal? He was there. Right there. Offering. Offering and using her very own words against her. Her throat constricted and she swallowed, her eyes glistening in the gentle light. Yet she didn’t pull away. Why didn’t she pull away? It had been so easy to do so before. DeVeau: I...I won’t be overburdened. Taybrim: Then you agree to share equally? ::He queried keenly, a diplomat’s gambit.:: Still she lingered, still she remained there, her eyes locked with his, but her emotions had shifted with the tide. DeVeau: My burdens are nothing compared to yours. Taybrim: Burdens are burdens. Comparing their weight is like comparing a targ to a Vulcan astrophysicist. They are so different and each keen in some areas and blunt in others that they cannot be compared. Alora’s breath quickened with the pace of her heart. Uncertainty warred within her and her mouth worked, as if trying to form words, but the words she attempted to conjure flitted away. He missed nothing, however, caught the silence and answered it. His expression was soft, welcoming, but his eyes were sharp. That perception of a Betazoid and a counselor. Taybrim: I understand, Trust is a two way street. I trust easily, backed by my empathy. But I ask for trust in return. Trust? Was it a matter of trust? Was that why she felt so hesitant? Was that why she struggled to talk about it? No. It wasn’t that. DeVeau: I do trust you. And she did. Sal was easy to trust. From the first day she had met him, she’d liked him, found it easy to trust him, both as a Commanding Officer and as a friend. Taybrim: Then what is the roadblock? Alora closed her eyes, shutting out his face, his gaze and trying to grab hold of some sort of control. She had been in control just moments before, but now her foot had slipped and she was struggling to hold it together. DeVeau: It’s not a lack of trust… Maybe that was true. Maybe it was a defense. Sal wasn’t about to call her out on one or the other. He was here to seek understanding. Taybrim: I believe you. But I also believe there is more to it. Her throat tightened further, her words caught in it, choking her voice until they were uttered so quietly that had he not been so close, they would have been lost. DeVeau: It’s just...so hard. He reached a hand out. Taybrim: If you can’t tell me, maybe you can show me? Alora’s eyes closed, clenching shut, wrestling with the idea. Did he know what he asked? Did he realise what he wanted? What he was asking her to do? The very same thing she was asking of him. The question was, could she? Could she be that open with him? Could she share everything? Did he want everything? What was it, exactly, that he wanted of her? Those eyes opened, the emerald darkening as she gazed at him. They remained locked in that strange embrace, touching, but there seemed a mile of space between them. Her eyes held his gaze and she whispered her following query. DeVeau: How much do you want? Taybrim: How much are you willing to show? Alora licked her lips, though her gaze remained unwavering, and the question came again, softer that time. DeVeau: How much...do you want? Taybrim: As much as you are able. ::He paused.:: All of it. ****** Could she do that? Could she give him all of it? Could she truly bare herself like that again? Could she take that risk? Tremors coursed through her, her fingers shook again and once more her eyes closed as she took a breath. Steady. One. A second . Two. A third step. Three. Letting it, she slowly whirled down the slide, and when her eyes opened once again, she was steadier. Her grasp on him tightened and she leaned forward. DeVeau: All right. There was a pause, a breath, a moment, before she gave the caveat. DeVeau: You first. His dark eyes twinkled just a little. Taybrim: I already went. Now you are delaying. Maybe that is not mistrust, but that is fear. He had gone, yes, but he had held back. Now she was holding back. Why was she holding back? Alora’s mouth thinned and her eyes lowered. Taybrim: Fear is difficult and hard to grasp. ::He watched her for a moment:: I do not think you fear me. But I could be wrong. That was an odd thing to say. Frowning, she looked back at him, shaking her head. Fear Sal? Never. Even from the beginning she held no fear in regards to him. Maybe she was strange that way, looking to her superior officers without the same sort of intimidation that others felt - but Sal was not the sort to instill fear, regardless. DeVeau: No. it’s not that at all. Taybrim: Then what do you fear? That was a good question. What did she fear? What she had feared had already come to pass. She lived it. And though they came less often, she still continued to live it, awakening to the sound of her own screaming, the scent of burning metal and the echoes of the memories of pain on the edges of her consciousness. What did she fear? Another deep breath was taken as she tried to figure out an answer. She wasn’t sure she had one. Maybe that was part of the problem. When she finally answered, her voice was soft, and it wasn’t a true answer, but rather an inquiry, a half whispered interrogation. DeVeau: How much do you want? Taybrim: To start? What do you want to show? DeVeau: Of...it. Me. How much do you want? She had already asked that. Why was she asking again? Why was she hesitating? Why was she stalling, turning the same question around and around and around and neve quite giving an answer. Sal took in a long, deep breath. Taybrim: I am never the type to force you to do anything you do not want. You know this, but knowing this has placed us on unequal ground. So I ask you, again, how much are you willing to give? This was the point where he had to openly give her the freedom to choose. How much was she willing to give? That was another good question. One she hesitated to answer, one she struggled with. She hadn’t given much of herself to many people. Even Raissa, who had seen and been through a lot more with her than anyone, hadn’t seen certain depths. Only one person had been given everything. What was she willing to give? Nothing? Something? Everything? She sat there, staring at him, wrestling with her thoughts, her emotions, two sides in conflict, warring with each other, always at odds, never fully vanishing, only going quiet in the face of necessity as life managed to push them into the corners so she could ignore them for a while. Taybrim: Then let me put it this way - I will give you in kind what you give me. Is that fair? That meant she got to set the pace, and the overall sharing. He would follow her lead. And again, how much was she willing to give? He was only asking for the same thing she was asking from him. How much did she want from him? Was it fair to ask that much? Could she give the same in return? DeVeau: Then...let me share with you. Taybrim: Alright ::He tipped his head forward in a gentle nod, holding out his hands to link.:: And there he was. His mind within hers, invited, willing, and welcome. Was he welcome? Yes. He was welcome. This was not an antagonistic presence, but a soothing one. His mind touch was gentle, tender. Perhaps even fearful, but he had nothing to fear. Not from her. But what did she have to fear? Why did she fear? He had asked her that question and she still couldn’t answer. She felt him, accepted him, and welcomed him. It was easy to connect to her, she knew, and she hoped that made it easier on him as well. The difficult part was sharing herself. What would she share? How little? How much? How many doors did she open? How wide did she open them? He was in her thoughts, in her realm. And so she took control, manifested the connection in a way that made sense to her, creating a visual, and there they were. The tangible world, it was still there, but in their mind's eye, there was nothing around them. Nothing but mist, neither pleasant or unpleasant, neither welcoming or foreboding. It was simply there. He stood, a mental image of himself exactly as he appeared in the real world, outside of the kingdom of her mind. She stood with him, facing him, the nothingness surrounding them both. Taybrim: ~Hello~ A simple opening. He mentally waved at her, like a childhood friend waiting to be led around, shown the sights. Her eyes drifted away, peering through the shadowy cloud, as if seeking, searching, trying to pinpoint something, but there was nothing there. What did she want to share? She knew what she wanted him to share. He was only asking for the same thing in return. Should she? Could she? In body and mind, she took another deep breath, another steeling exhale, and when she spoke, her thoughts filled his mind. DeVeau: ~I don’t know where to begin.~ It wasn’t exactly opening up, but with the statement came a foot in the door, an offer, silent permission that allowed him to prod as deeply as he wished, and a silent promise that she would answer without holding back. Taybrim: ~As simple as it sounds, most start at the beginning. You choose where it begins. The easiest memory? The favorite? The most present in your mind? The earliest? All are beginnings~ At the beginning? It made sense, she supposed, but did he want that? What would that accomplish? Yet she had said she would, hadn’t she? Had made a bargain. She would honour that as best she could. She began to walk then, the nothing fading into something, that of the brightness of a childhood, a good childhood, one filled with love and warmth and light. The darkness that penetrated there was nothing, merely moments in time where it seemed all was dark and dim but as through a child’s eyes, an innocence in the suffering that was not truly suffering, simply a rite of passage, though scarring had started, still lingered in fears that plagued her even now, they were overshadowed by the delight that marked the majority of her days. A caring family, one that though it had its own black sheep had nevertheless always loved him, and loved her, and she them in return. Though by no means perfect, even her recollection was idyllic compared to some whose pasts were checked with strife and want. Yet she had never wanted. She had never lacked. There was much that came at him, the passage of days and years coming at him in seconds. They were not what hindered her. She delighted in their recollection, save for a few moments here and there. For the most part, she could breathe freely in that past, rejoice in the gifts she had. Then there was Starfleet, an ever tempting goal that had started as a possibility, then grew into a passion. Her acceptance, her years as a cadet, they flew by, filled with eagerness and anticipation. Her first assignment under Captain Aron Kells, the meeting of Saveron, the ups and downs of missions successful and unsuccessful. The memories of trauma, of pain, of those who had caused that pain, they flashed by, the tide of emotions rising and falling in waves and in response to all the things that had occurred, moments of fear and sadness, moments of triumph and rejoicing. Tenderness, the love she felt for a man and his son, the sisterhood she had with others, some faces familiar, one very familiar among them - that of Chythar, others not, but in her memories, he got a chance to know them, to see them as she see saw them. And the darkness too. It had begun truly in Starfleet, on an early mission, but even that was nothing in comparison with what came after. And it was there she paused, the scene fading, the nothingness returning, and he could sense her hesitation. Her fear. Sal stayed, steady, an observer. He didn’t interfere, he just watched, trying to understand. Taybrim: ~ Is this a stop?~ ::he queried, feeling the entire scene dramatically slow down.:: DeVeau: ~ It’s hard. This part. ~ Not as hard as what had come after, but difficult to make her pause. . Taybrim: ~ Many things are difficult. That is unfortunate, I empathize. But I will offer support. This I can promise.~ It was hard to get through traumatic events - and Starfleet was full of traumatic events. And despite having a counselor on every ship, sometimes such things festered. DeVeau: I made a promise. I gave my word. And there was that fear, the lingering demon that swirled the fathoms below, stirred up, waiting for the moment to strike. In the physical realm, Alora took a deep breath, her mind voice soft. DeVeau: ~You will not like what you see. ~ Taybrim: ~ I do not have to like it ~ ::he thought in an oddly reassuring tone.:: ~I need to understand it. There are things in my own past I do not like. That does not mean they cannot be grappled with.~ She had warned him, her affirmation was given in the revealing of that memory, picking up where she had left off, moving forward, and a name that should have been a welcome one, something denoting a relation, a connection, one either born or forged in love and respect. Yet, the term as presented in that moment made her shudder - The Kindred. And suddenly he was there, experiencing it as she did, the sudden violation of her mind, the searing pain that ripped through her psyche constantly once it invaded. The cruelty of its intent. It used her as well as the flora upon the ship, items that should have been beautiful, twisted and morphed into something nefarious. They grew and grew, taking over the ship. It was Christmast time, a decidedly human holiday, but one that was supposed to be filled with joy and laughter. Instead, he saw a man clad as the jolly old elf snatched in the clutches of monstrous vines, hear the choking cry die upon his lips, the padding of the strange yet playful outfit writing and trembling until it finally deflated. He could feel the tingle in his fingertips and outwardly her own trembling as she re-lived it. He was only the first, most dispatched in the similar way, each one experienced by her, as if she had taken their lives from them, as if she had been the one to do it. Then another, a single young ensign, one who had been as excited as she had with his first assignment, who had endeared himself quickly due to his quick wit and pleasant nature, was caught up by her very own hands. The long, slender fingers curled around his throat, the pulse of his body, desperately trying to pump life into his veins, the gasping of his chest as he struggled to fill his lungs with air that was cut off by her own, relentless grip, the bulging of his eyes, the pounding of his heartbeat that began to slow, and slow, and slow til it fluttered, like a faint whisper against the skin, then faded away. The torturous pain continued to lace through her mind even as the surge of power struck her. Power over life and death, the power to take it away, to have such control over a person’s face, and the sheer awesomeness of that ability surged through her. And she recoiled, recoiled from it, recoiled from the phantoms that cackled in her mind, who lashed at her with a thousand hot irons as they held her firmly in her mental prison, punishing her for her unwillingness to cease her resistance, her struggle that was in vain, and slowly she began to despair. She could still feel the flesh as it folded beneath her grip. It went on. Others were hurt, Rahman captured, strung up like a piece of meat. Where the flora embraced her, it assaulted others, engulfing them in its malevolent embrace. DeVeau: I am the Kindred. We are the Kindred. And it would not be denied. It had encompassed her, swallowed her whole, and she wept within the tortuous cell of her mind they had trapped her in. Aron. They had Aron. And Captain Egan Manno. Egan Manno: A captain protects her family. And she did. She had destroyed them, had been what released them, the agonizing pain of their departure, the blinding anguish was followed by a brief respite of darkness. Yet she could still feel the pulse fluttering against her fingers. Taybrim: ~ A terrible assault ~ ::He murmured quietly, feeling the emotions sink into him. Telepathy was his secondary skill - empathy his primary. His telepathic projection remained calm, stoic, supportive and gentle. But his flesh and blood body rocked, processing the emotions she broadcast.:: She moved beyond that. To her family, to the experiences that came after. To Saveron, his teachings, the beginning of the foundations that started to strengthen her mind. Chythar, Raissa coming behind him. The joys, the sorrows, the heartbreak, the healing, the fortification it all flashed past him and her, a shared experience, one ending where the other began, one beginning where the other ended, together traversing down a road that had already been traveled, and now was traveled again. It got better. It went on, the changing of the guard, the changing of the ship, the new posting, her time in the Shoals, Rahman now Captain, Skyfire with her, Raissa, friends, family that had been with her thick andthen, the tapping for a new, classified mission. The meeting of Eudora and Kalin, the painful standoff, the willingness to teach her, the fortifying of the fortress of her mind, the eagerness of discoveries to be made - real discoveries, ones that could help others, ones that could change the course of medicine, the cynical quips, the teasing responses, the passing of time, time spent with one another, growing closer, their first kiss, their developing closeness, the way their minds touched, the tenderness he showed to no one else but her, his mental presence becoming a constant, the sudden proposal, the subsequent impromptu and informal ceremony, the intimacy shared, the joy that came of it, the continuation of their work, the possible break through and the excitement of the attempt to test it. She trembled, her grip vice like, nails digging into his flesh as the images spurred on, the time moving more quickly, desperate. She faltered, mentally stumbling, the images becoming almost blurred, faces and sounds and smells rushing together into madness. A brief flash of Captain Eudora, her face grim, eyes despairing before blast doors cut off the image. Kalin’s face, klaxon alarms, the acrid smell of some chemical agent, the sting of heat, the roughness of hands grabbing her in desperation, the shadows that consumed her as she was tossed into some large container, the last thing she saw was Kalin’s face before the door hammered shut, the roar of the metal as she pounded against it, the high pitch of her scream, then the sudden, agonizing, searing pain that, like a sword slicing through her, as if her entire body was being ripped apart, mind, body, and soul torn to shreds before she suddenly plunged into the sweet release of darkness. Taybrim: ~They sacrificed themselves? But you survived?~ A heart beat. Strong. Steady. Voices echoed, distant, and images came in a thin line as the light stung her eyes. Someone was speaking to her, calling her name, shadowed forms slowly focusing into familiar faces, the glare of Sickbay lights drowning everything. Then fear. Emptiness. Both gripped her, icy fingers clutching at her heart. All around her, bodies moved, people hurried about, the beep of the computer punctuated the syllables of their words, but she heard nothing, barely saw anything, because something was missing. That presence, the constant companion in the recess of her mind, was gone, a chasm in his place. Kalin was gone. Sal Taybrim was silent for seconds that seemed to stretch to eternity. He had never seen the other side of self-sacrifice. How raw and painful it was. The emptiness, the longing, the survivor’s guilt. An act of pure love, to let one live through sacrifice. And yet it led to unyielding pain. Taybrim: ~ I’m sorry, Alora. ~ He offered the thought as compassionately as he could. Soft and open. He reached his hands out to her. Her breathing came heavily, and he could almost see the roiling of her emotions as she struggled and fought against them, struggling to keep control. She wanted to flee,to fly away, to not face him, not face it, not face any of it, but for once, she dug in her heels. For once, she stayed. She had made a promise. She had fulfilled it. ****** It occurred to Sal, in a slowly evolving thought process, that his own self-sacrificing actions were quite triggering for someone who had lost so much. He started to feel foolish. Taybrim: ~ How long have you carried this burden? ~ How long? It seemed like forever. It clouded everything, overshadowed everything. Even when she was able to shove it aside and focus on life, it was, lingering in the shadows, a pacing dragon ready to strike and lash out without warning. Alora trembled and she took a few more steadying breaths. One. Two. Three. It was an established pattern, a silent mantra that sometimes worked, sometimes didn’t. In that moment, perhaps the soothing presence of the man across from her aiding in its effectiveness. Closing her eyes, she finally answered. DeVeau: ~ A little over a year. ~ Her eyes opened, but it wasn’t necessary. He was still there, she saw him, felt him. She didn’t need to use her eyes. DeVeau: ~How long have you held on to yours? Taybrim: ~ Some of it for days, some of it for decades~ She had to take another moment, had to focus on something else, something other than herself, something other than her own story, her own sorrow. Once again, her hands clutched at him, and she noted the softness of the sleeves, the soft rhythm of his breath, the brightness of his hair, the darkness of his eyes. Breathe, slowly. Focus on the here and now. He had spoken words that had been spoken before, to her, to remind her, to bring her back to the present. Now, they echoed again, that time in his voice. Another series of breaths followed. DeVeau: ~Maybe it’s time you shared it.~ He paused and reached out, hesitating for a moment. Taybrim: ~I mean this when I say this is strictly confidential. But you do need to know.~ Alora frowned. Everything was confidential. That was a given. She knew he would say nothing about anything she’d shared, she would offer the same respect. But something in the way he said it unsettled her . DeVeau: ~It will remain confidential.~ A touch, featherlight like fingertips against her mind. A memory so fresh it was still warm and weeping. An unauthorized trip, through back passages, avoiding all the reporters. Whyever would there be an issue going to one’s own home? Hauke told him to stay on the Narendra. But this was such a small break of orders. He just wanted to retrieve one or two personal effects. He paused at the door, hand over the lock. A momentary bad feeling. Double checking. Nothing. Home. Quarters. Sal had beautiful quarters. Non-standard. Organic curves, hardwood, full of plants. Bathed in a dim golden glow from a table lamp. Peaceful, serene, comforting. He paused in the entryway, body tensing. A return of the bad feeling. Checking again. Nothing. Movement. Eyes locked with his. Hot breath. The whisper of a blade far too close to his kidney for comfort. The form pulled backwards. Another blade. A hiss of air. A spray of blood. Dead eyes. The body of the assassin dropped to the carpet which had a steady stain of green growing across the cream. An accented voice: “You should not be here. No longer safe.” A spike in heart rate, a realization. Assassination. Far too close. Both in time and in how close he came to watching his own murder. There was a long, guilty pause. Taybrim: ~This was six days ago, now.~ For a moment, Alora sat frozen, her eyes wide, and the fear? It shifted, shifted from something that lingered deep within and became focused. It was fear for him. DeVeau: ~Who?~ Taybrim: ~I’m on the Tal Shiar’s hit list~ ::he admitted.:: A foreign feeling welled up in Sal’s chest. Anxiety, discomfort, the seeds of terror that something might be lingering in the shadows at every turn. Terror that bred paranoia. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like checking over his shoulders, he didn’t like the memory of blood spraying across his quarters or coming a hair’s breadth to death. He hadn’t shared as much as she had expected, but what he had was mortifying. She moved. Without thinking, without hesitation, she shifted, pulling herself out of his grasp so that she could encircle her arms around him, drawing him into her embrace, as if by the mere act of doing so could ward off any threat, any danger. DeVeau: ~You’re safe now.~ Hesitation. Pain. A spark of fear that flashed, burned and faded all at once. Taybrim: ~ I’m not. ~ DeVeau: ~You’re safe here.~ Taybrim: ~I am safe, here, in this moment. But when we return to StarBase 118 I am not. There will be another. And another. And another. I do not know what will stop them - if anything.~ He was right. As much as Alora loathed to admit it, he was right. He wasn’t going to be safe once they returned. The Tal Shiar had him in their sites, and they were a particularly deadly foe. Her grip on him tightened. DeVeau: ~Is there an investigation? Has anything been found?~ Would they be able to find anything? Intelligence hadn’t brought anything to her, but would they? Sal hadn’t said anything to her until now. Taybrim: ~Yes there is, it is ongoing, and no. They identified the assassin, and tied it to the Tal Shiar… I’m not sure what else there is to find.~ DeVeau: ~We’ll keep you safe.~ How? Alora had no idea. Absolutely none. All she knew was that she couldn’t allow anyone or anything to hurt him. Taybrim: ~I know you will try.~ He said it with a sorrowful acceptance. He was in no way trying to die. But he was aware that it was a growing possibility. She would try. Alora didn’t want to think about what would happen if she or anyone else failed. Her hold upon him tightened, then loosened suddenly and she withdrew. DeVeau: ~Why didn’t you tell me?~ Hurt seeped through the bond, past his shields. Taybrim: ~Do you think it is easy to rebound and immediately talk about such things?~ He honestly had to process what happened, first - and sleep. He had spent too many insomniac nights immediately succeeding the attempt. She was quiet for a moment, though she winced both inwardly and outwardly at the admonishment, and even more at the hurt that she felt come from him. Alora knew very well the answer to that question. DeVeau: ~No. I know it’s not.~ Taybrim: ~I will be honest with my staff moving forward and allow you to help me. That is the best I can do.~ She wanted to reach out, wanted to draw him close again, wanted to somehow make it all go away. But she couldn’t. Alora had no power. And she hated it. DeVeau: ~I wish I could fix this.~ Taybrim: ~I know. But it is both within our hands to be careful and far outside our reach to control.~ She knew that, but that didn’t stop her from wanting it, but that was far beyond Alora’s power. DeVeau: ~What can I do?~ He seemed quite plain in his initial thought process. Taybrim: ~Keep doing what you are doing. You are a tremendous help on StarBase 118.~ Quickly she shook her head. DeVeau: ~No. What can I do to help you?~ A pause and what seeped through the link was a deep, overwhelming exhaustion, laced with an undercurrent of loneliness. Taybrim: ~I’m not sure. I’m tired. But I have to keep going.~ She was familiar with that as well. She knew those emotions, those feelings. Alora was far too acquainted with them. She hesitated again, uncertain. Her own trials, her own troubles were pushed aside for the man in front of him. Slowly, she reached out again, her fingers lightly dancing over the back of his hand. DeVeau: ~You’re not alone.~ She’d heard the same thing, had been offered to her as well, but with the link between them, he could sense the depth of sincerity in each word as she uttered them. She wasn’t much, and maybe she was useless in dealing with the Tal Shiar, but if nothing else, she could offer that. Taybrim: ~ I know. ~ Slowly, he backed out from the telepathic bond. Not due to avoidance, or pain, but she could feel his concentration fray and mental exhaustion set in. What was once his baseline communication form was now an exhausting endeavor, and he was sitting far lower in the chair than before. Taybrim: I know ::He murmured.:: Did he know? She hoped so. Once more, Alora withdrew, her hand retreated and she clasped it to the other one. Taybrim: I’m tired. The words just fell from his mouth, simple, honest, plain. DeVeau: You should sleep. Could he rest? Would he really sleep? Alora wasn’t sure she was going to sleep herself that night. She slid her arms over each other, as if warding off a chill. Taybrim: I should. And so should you. ::He said with a weariness that indicated it would be difficult for both. DeVeau: I should. There was no question of whether or not she should. It was more whether or not she would. There was a new reason to fear, a new nightmare that would join the old. Her gaze lifted, meeting his and for a moment it seemed as if she would say more, but no words came. Instead, her eyes drifted away and toward the door, then back to him, and whatever she might have said before shifted into something completely different. DeVeau: Do you want me to walk you to your cabin? He paused and considered, and the words he chose were unexpected, even for him. Taybrim: Neither of us will be sleeping tonight, will we? Alora offered a half smile, but there was no real humour in it. DeVeau: No. Taybrim: It is not unusual when your mind is too full. Hers had been too full for some time. There were periods where it was better, where she was able to rest, able to sleep. But then… DeVeau: It’s...been that way for a while. Taybrim: Then let’s walk. Walk until the body has no choice but to sleep. Walk. If only it were that simple. Still, it was better than sitting there trying to distract herself, even with things she enjoyed. Better than running through the scenes over and over and over again, only to have them end the same way every time. Or now, with the new nightmare, into the possibility of what could happen in the future. That was just as frightening. A moment of silence stretched between them, but finally Alora nodded. DeVeau: Let’s walk. It wouldn’t solve anything, but at least she wouldn’t be leaving him alone. At least for a little while longer. Taybrim: Maybe if we walk until the sun rises, we’ll understand that there is yet hope. ::he murmured, getting to his feet.:: Sometimes it didn’t feel that way. Sometimes, when the darkness closed in and the shadows clutched at the throat, when the nightmares hammered night after night, when the fear threatened to utterly consume, it didn’t feel like it at all. Except she had to remember that was just a lie, a lie the mind told because it was too wrapped up in it all. She’d fallen into that trap. She didn’t want to fall into it again. Rising, she nodded, speaking the words she knew to be true, even if it was hard to remember that truth. DeVeau: There is always hope. He offered an arm out for her. A chance for something to hold. Something to lean on. Taybrim: The sun will always rise again. Her hand slowly slid through his arm, but she gave as much as she took, leaning and offering herself for him to do the same. The smile that fluttered over her lips was small, but a light shone within it. Deveau: Then let us watch it rise together. Taybrim: Lets. It wasn’t much, but it was a thin comfort. And sometimes thin comfort and the promise of hope was better than none. ****** Commodore Sal Taybrim Commanding Officer StarBase 118 Ops E239010ST0 & -- Lt. Cmdr. Alora DeVeau First Officer Starbase 118 Ops al...@blar.net M239008AD0
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