This is a relatively short chapter, but an important one. You see how the V'tosh Ka'tur end up as wanderers in this universe, and Travis has an idea to save Kov from that particular fate.
It felt good to be back on the ship again, and Hoshi managed to get a shower, some food, and a few hours' sleep, in that order. By the time she had gotten status reports from everyone, Enterprise and S'tranek was making good time back to Vulcan. She complimented Travis on his coolness in his command on the Bridge, and between him and Jon, Hoshi had a pretty good idea about the conflicts awaiting them when they arrived on Vulcan.
Now she sat across from Captain V'Krus in her Captain's Mess, over bowls of plomeek soup and plates of pok'tar and kreyla bread. V'Krus was stiffly formal, but seemed willing to accept her as an equal. She listened as he relayed his orders from the Council and the High Command, as well as his “enlightening” conversation with Ambassador Soval.
“I bear no ill will towards you or your crew, Captain Sato,” V'Krus said. “You all have done your duties admirably in the face of great difficulty. Please understand that I am under the direct command of Minister Soultek and I am obligated to follow his orders.”
Hoshi nodded as she sipped the water from her glass. “I understand completely, Captain V'Krus. Both he and High Minister V'Lar will eagerly await your report on the Lost Colony and the recently discovered Vulcan ship. I'm sure the families of the deceased will be gratified that their loved ones are finally coming home.”
He eyed her with a speculative look. “Indeed. We place great importance on our family ties, and the bonds and obligations involved. Many of the families of Shi'Kahr are entwined by marriage and by blood. I am a cousin of your helmswoman, Lieutenant T'Pol, and of Ambassador Soval himself.”
She met the appraising gaze. Trip had informed her of T'Pol's “agreement” with her fiancè and his family and she could only shake her head at the audacity of it. V'Krus was here not only out of military duty. "I figured as much. Lieutenant Commander Archer explained to me your relation to both."
“We Vulcans are a proud race, Captain Sato, and we do not take threats lightly. This news of an unknown enemy guarding Beta Polaris will not be taken well by the High Command. If anything, Minister Soultek will insist on a stronger offense as a stronger defense.” V'Krus sipped from his own glass, then went on, “I have no doubt it will affect Vulcan's relationship with Earth. A more powerful Vulcan military will greatly concern your government.”
“Are you suggesting that Vulcan would break off all ties with Earth?” The prospect made Hoshi grow cold.
V'Krus hesitated, then replied carefully, “I believe so, if the High Council judges it a prudent course of action, if rather extreme. In that case, the High Command will do all in its power to protect Vulcan citizens against any threat.”
“Earth is no threat to Vulcan---”
“Not at present, but prudence has always been the High Command's watchword. We made a mistake in trusting the Andorians, and Minister Soultek is quick to remind us of the fact. We shall not make the same error twice.” V'Krus raised an eyebrow. “I do not believe you or any of your crew would voluntarily do harm to Vulcan, but as I pointed out to Diplomat Archer, we are both subject to the whims of our superiors. ”
Hoshi inclined her head. “Spoken like a true military officer. Yet there is a distinct difference between relying soley on the past and using it as a basis for the future.”
“And there is a difference between wisely moving towards that future and recklessly inviting chaos. Forgive me, but I would prefer the former plan of action rather than the latter.”
She sighed and regarded him with cool aplomb. “Paranoia is hardly logical, V'Krus.”
“Indeed. 'Paranoia' involves a misguided fear of the unknown. 'Prudence' is caution in the face of a known threat. We now know about the mysterious enemy in that sector of space, and will take necessary steps to protect Vulcan from it. That will include discouraging any more...pedantic, idle curiosity.”
Hoshi saw that V'Krus genuinely believed that he was doing the best for his people. “Then you will report to Ministers V'Lar and Soultek that the information on Beta Polaris is a 'threat' to Vulcan and should be suppressed.”
“As fascinating as the possibilities are, it is not the right time or place for such revelations.” V'Krus's voice had a tone of finality. “In the future, perhaps.”
In other words, they don't want to invite our mysterious enemy to Vulcan's doorstep. The Science Academy would insist on investigating further, which could provoke a response they aren't prepared for. Curiosity won't be so easily derailed, but if that curiosity is nipped in the bud early--- Hoshi saw the ruthless logic in that mode of thinking, and with a sinking heart, knew that the High Command would demand every bit of information about Beta Polaris from Enterprise's databanks.
There had to be a way to keep T'Marui's research alive.
Hoshi just needed to find a way.
“They will detain us, probably imprison us, to ensure our silence.” Kov's tone was cool, but Travis could hear the dread within it. “That is what I would do, if I were in their situation.”
Travis sighed and rubbed his eyes wearily. He liked Kov and the rest of T'Marui's team, and hated the fact that Enterprise was mostly likely escorting them back to a fate worse than certain death. It wasn't fair, but he couldn't find a way to spare T'Marui's people.
“Perhaps we should agree to leave. Many of us are unwanted on Vulcan; it should not be any hardship for those who wish to see us gone.”
Travis shook his head and said roughly, “Kov. It's really odd to hear such pessimism from you. Even Doctor Reed would be disturbed to hear you talk this way.”
“But it could work. If we agree to exile, then they might spare our lives.”
“Are you willing to take that sacrifice? Don't you have family on Vulcan?”
Kov's lips visibly trembled, but he said evenly, “I do. My fraternal twin brother is at the Medical Academy; my father is in the High Command. I have been...what is the Human expression? 'A thorn in his side' for decades. He considers me as a disgrace to the clan.”
“But the others, like T'Yalle and T'Nu?”
“They, too, are in similar situations. T'Yalle has no more living family. T'Nu is also the last of her clan. As I said, T'Marui was like a mother of all of us. Now that she is gone, the family will be scattered.”
Travis sighed and shook his head. “Have you discussed it with them?”
“We all understand the risk and the consequences of being exiled, Commander Mayweather. It is an unfortunate price to pay for not adhering to the rigid teachings of our childhoods, but we will not abandon our principles.”
“Exiled. Wandering in space, without a home---”
“Forgive me, but were you not also a wanderer in your youth, on board an Earth cargo vessel?”
“Not the same thing. I was with my mom, dad, brother, sister, and others.”
Kov managed a smile. “And so we will be with those as close as our blood kin. It is not much different.”
Travis stared at him for the longest moment, then sighed. “I can talk to Captain Sato about your idea, make a formal request for leniency, though I don't know how effective that would be.”
“We are grateful for everything you and your crew have done for us, Commander. I myself have learned much, from you, Doctor Reed and Lieutenant Commander Tucker.”
“You're welcome, Kov.”
The young Vulcan doctor bowed his head and quietly left the Ready Room. Travis sat there for a while, wondering what the hell he was going to do. Suddenly, he had an idea...it was worth a try.
“Mayweather to Reed.”
“This is Reed. Go ahead.”
“Doc, what would you say to an addition of a Vulcan doctor on your staff?”
The Enterprise crew discover they are bound to each other by more than just duty. T'Pol finds the real culprit behind the machinations of the Beta Polaris expedition.
January 28, 2151
Hoshi wasn't sure what to expect from the Vulcan High Council or the High Command when Enterprise arrived and assumed standard orbit over the planet. V'Krus's words worried her, and T'Pol's revelations made her less inclined to trust the High Command. To her surprise, High Minister V'Lar answered the initial hail herself.
V’Lar wore her formal robes, her short silver hair neatly brushed away from the collar. To her left was Doctor T'Les, to her right was Security Minister T'Pau. Further to the right was a heavy-set man with piercing black eyes.
“Welcome back to Vulcan, Captain Sato. I understand that you and your crew have had quite an experience on Beta Polaris.” V'Lar’s tone was serious and amused at the same time. “I am looking forward to hearing your version of passing events.”
T'Les nodded as her attention shifted to T’Pol. “Daughter, are you well?
Hoshi noticed that T'Les had dispensed with any formal protocol, which heightened her own suspicions. T’Pol only nodded back and replied, “I am well, Mother.”
The man gazed at her, and Hoshi saw T'Pol suppress a shiver of revulsion. Suddenly, Hoshi realized who the man was: Minister Soultek, head of the Vulcan High Command, and T'Pol's future father-in-law. She didn't blame T'Pol; Soultek's cool appraisal was hardly welcoming at all. He said nothing, although his unblinking stare drifted to a point to Hoshi's right, towards the Tactical station.
T'Pol switched to formal mode, as befitted a subordinate addressing the High Minister of Vulcan. Hoshi glanced at her in surprise, and Jon also swiveled around in his seat to look at her.”My Lady V'Lar, I beseech thee to welcome our presence. Thou shalt knowest all then.”
V’Lar gazed straight at her and replied, “I wilt acknowledge thee, goddaughter, for thy worth and thine alone. Thou wilt receive further instructions regarding thy arrival.” She switched back to Standard English and addressed Hoshi, ““We eagerly await your presence, Captain. ”
Hoshi bowed her head. “We would be honored, High Minister.”
“Fare thee well.” V'Lar said, with a subtle flicker of her eyes toward Soultek. The High Minister reached forward and cut the transmission without bothering to show the Vulcan salute, as was proper.
“Something isn't right,” Jon said quietly. “She said all the proper things, but her body language was off.”
“Yeah, as if she was nervous about somethin'. V'Lar didn't want to talk in front of Soultek,” Trip added.
Hoshi glanced at T'Pol, who was still staring straight ahead at the screen. “Lieutenant.”
“I must agree with the general assessment of the High Minister's behavior...and my mother's.”
“Anyone notice that Minister T'Pau was there, but she didn't say anythin'? She looked like she wanted to spear Soultek on the business end of a lirpa.”
T'Pol bristled at the blunt observation and said, “T'Pau and Soultek are cordial to each other, but nothing more, Lieutenant Commander.”
Hoshi frowned as she got up from the command chair. “I have the feeling we'll find out how badly the divisions are soon enough. Trip, Travis...Jon, page Malcolm to the transporter room. T'Pol, you'll be flying us in Shuttlepod Two.”
“Yes, Captain.”T’Pol's hands danced over the controls, and suddenly, she felt a wave of disorientation, as if her hands were no longer her own.
You will forget, but when the time comes, you will remember again.
She looked up at Hoshi with a serene expression. “I am coming, Captain.”
Travis sensed something was wrong the moment the shuttlepod landed on the High Council V'Lar was there in her pristine Vulcan robes, with T'Pau on her left and Soultek on her right. Doctor T'Vau of the Medical Academy stood a few meters away. Soval was nowhere in sight, and that immediately alarmed him.
He caught Trip's sideways look. The Armory officer had also noticed Soval's absence, and that bothered him. Prudently, Travis said nothing as Hoshi and V'Lar exchanged pleasantries.
And where's T'Les? Travis thought. I would have thought she would be here.
The feeling of apprehension grew when the crew was immediately separated from each other within minutes of their arrival. Hoshi was escorted to see V'Lar in her private chambers, Malcolm to formally transfer T'Marui's physical remains, and Trip to make a formal report to T'Pau and Soultek. No one had any time to talk to T'Pol before she was taken to see her mother.
Travis sat through a mind-numbing whirlwind of questions and demands from the Science Academy panel about the Expedition's findings. The five-member committee scrutinized every iota of information that had been gathered from the various sites. He answered their inquiries with a calm demeanor, but as the hours went by, the intensity of the questions increased.
Not even a lunch break? This is ridiculous. Travis managed to keep his temper in check and out of his voice. The general atmosphere was one of urgency, as if the scientists wanted to gain as much information as they possibly could.
A silver-haired Vulcan scientist sat to Head Scientist T'Sien's left. Her aura was different from the others on the panel. Her questions to Travis were curious and insightful, unlike the ones from the other Vulcans. T'Sien leaned to her several times to whisper something in her ear. Travis saw a flash of---anger?---in her eyes as T'Sien continually seized control of the inquiry.
“We assume that all manner of artifacts were collected from the various archaelogical sites, Commander Mayweather?”
He gritted his teeth, but he nodded. “Yes.”
“We would be gratified if those pieces of historical data were transferred to the Science Academy without delay, for cataloguing and further study.” Doctor T'Sien, regarded him with cool appraisal. “Every artifact and recording will allow us to gather a more complete picture of the Lost Colonists and their lives.”
“Of course...I will personally supervise the data transfer myself. That is---” Travis hesitated, “---if no one has any objections to my involvement in this matter?”
That brought a few veiled looks from among the panel's members. The one dissenting person abruptly stood and left the chamber without looking back.
"Doctor T'Ral, I have not given you leave," T'Sien called. The doors slammed shut in T'Ral's wake. Travis stared at the doors long after T'Ral was gone. The other Vulcans said nothing at the departure.
T'Sien inclined her head, commanding everyone's attention once more. She replied, “Of course not, Commander. After all, you were the leader of the Starfleet contingent of the Expedition, and you do have a reputation for being hardworking and honest. We have no reason to deny you the chance to complete Doctor T'Marui's work. We would be honored by your assistance.”
“Thank you,” Travis said, but T'Sien's tone made it quite clear. T'Marui's work ended as soon as the transfer was complete, and no one would ever know about it.
Not for now, but someday, it will. And it'll come back to bite them in the ass at worst possible moment.
“This proposal is a unique solution,” admitted Minister Soultek. He glanced sideways at T'Pau with a skeptical expression in his eyes. “How can we be sure that T'Marui's 'children' will not spread her lies throughout the stars?”
T'Pau raised her eyebrow and said, “Prudence is logical, paranoia is emotional, Soultek. Who will believe them?” She didn't quite smile, but there was dry amusement in her tone. “You must admit, this solves some of our problems quite neatly. Those who do not strongly follow Surak's tenets of logic have been shunned by our society for centuries. Why not allow them to make their own way in the universe? We have no responsibility for them, once they have made their decision to leave.”
“If they do not wish to stay, I cannot in good conscience force them to do so,” Soultek said judiciously. “There is one complication.”
“Yes, Kuvak's son. Kov is the eldest, and therefore his heir. He has a twin, does he not? Kensar, I believe? A resident of the Medical Academy?”
She nodded in confirmation. “Yes. He is to receive his formal healer's qualifications within the next two years.”
“It should not be difficult to transfer inheritance rights to Kensar, then. He is still of Kuvak's blood.”
T'Pau shook her head and said, “It is not that simple. If it had been your son instead of Kuvak's, imagine the scandal that would entail! Kov was betrothed to a girl of good family; his exile would mean disgrace...his and hers, even if the betrothal is no longer valid.”
Soultek glowered, as if he could not believe T'Pau would involve herself in the affairs of someone not of her clan. “Then what do you suggest?”
“Your future daughter-in-law serves on Enterprise. She is the only Vulcan. It does give her a unique perspective on the Human crew, which I am sure you are eager to hear. What if she has a...compatriot to assist her?”
He glared at her and clenched his jaw. “You want Kov to serve on the same ship? T'Les would never stand for it. T'Pol's emotional control has never been...sufficient. Kov could destabilize her even further!”
“T'Les brought up the fact that T'Pol has agreed to watch over Doctor Reed. Yet as I understand it, you have implored her to...refocus her attention on another. Lieutenant Commander Charles Tucker, the Armory Officer.”
Soultek's face flushed verdant, then paled just as quickly at her bland tone. “How did you---”
“If you wish for her to do your bidding, she must not divide her attention. I understand from both Doctor Reed's and Commander Mayweather's reports, Kov worked well with the Enterprise medical staff and the crew in general.” T'Pau's expression was guileless.
“Therefore, it is logical for Kov to assume the watch over Doctor Reed, while T'Pol proceeds on your plan to acquire information from Lieutenant Commander Tucker. You know, as well as I do, that the more intelligence we have, the clearer our future plans will be. Kov has idolized Reed for quite some time now; I'm sure Reed will keep him occupied with other matters.”
He nodded unwillingly. “You do have a logical approach to this situation, T'Pau. Very well, I approve of this proposal of yours, on the condition that both Kov and Kuvak also agree.”
“Good, and speaking of Lieutenant Commander Tucker, I believe he is in the High Command chambers with Captain V'Krus. Captain Sato and Diplomat Archer will hear of our decision through Soval---”
“I still believe Soval was a fool to let him leave his service. What a waste of potential!”
Her eyes flashed and she got up from her seat. Although she was barely tall enough to reach his shoulder, her mere presence made up for her lack of height. Like Reed. And Sato. Soultek actually took a step back at the icy glare she directed at him. T'Pau reminded him of a sehlat mother protecting her cub, and woe the one who crossed her.
“Do you question my judgment?” she snapped. “Mine and V'Lar's? AllowingEnterprise to continue and succeed in her future mission benefits Vulcan in the long you are as dedicated to our welfare as you claim, then you will understand the need to press forward with their original goal of exploration. Their successes will be our successes as well, with T'Pol and Kov on board.”
They glared at each other, the tension palpable between them. Then he gave her another abrupt nod. “Very well. I will also recommend that the Earth ship continue on its voyage through the stars. You lay out a rather convincing argument, T'Pau.”
“It is my hope that I could be as coldly logical as you, should I be called upon to make such decisions.”
Her mouth quirked in a humorless smirk. “It is my fervent hope that you will never have to face that burden, Soultek, as long as I have breath within me.” She turned and entered the High Command chambers, leaving him scrambling in her wake.
The news of an unknown enemy lurking around Beta Polaris rattled the Vulcan High Command. Trip sat back and watched as Minister T'Pau and Minister Soultek argued the ramifications for Vulcan's safety. To Trip's grim amusement, his presence was all but forgotten in the resulting debate. He felt Soultek's constant gaze, although the minister's focus seemed to be on the VHC's members.
T'Pol was right. This guy's a regular snake in the grass. Trip had disliked him on sight, and his opinion hadn't changed much since he and the crew were separated from each other without even an offer of biscuits and saya juice. Soultek didn't smile as Captain V'Krus gave his report, but Trip could still feel his amusement.
“This High Command will take your advisement...and Lieutenant Commander Tucker's... under consideration, Captain,” said T'Pau. She kept her gaze focused on V'Krus and not Soultek. “This is not an issue to be taken lightly, sir, and I appreciate your frank analysis.”
If V'Krus were Human, he might have blushed. The unexpected compliment seemed to take him off guard. He bowed and said, “I live to serve, Minister.”
She glanced at Trip and continued, “My apologies for the abruptness of this debriefing, but time is of the essence. You do understand, Lieutenant Commander?”
He nodded and kept his temper under control. “I do, Minister T'Pau.”
“Then you are also aware that I have recommended to your Admiral Forrest that Vulcan and Earth shall remain in close alliance as far as our mutual defense is concerned?”
Her words took him by surprise, and eyes snapped to her from all over the room. Soultek, in particular, seemed disturbed at the bald statement. Trip fought to keep the amusement out of his voice as he replied, “I was not aware of that, Minister. From all I was hearin', I was half-convinced that Starfleet and the High Command were about to butt heads on certain issues.”
T'Pau nearly smiled at his turn of phrase, but her calm tone didn't waver a bit. “High Minister V'Lar and I, as well as the Council, find it illogical to alienate our allies at this time of uncertainty. We understand the need for future exploration, to discover what lies beyond our known borders. To quote Surak, 'fear of the future clouds rational action'. We will support Enterprise's and Columbia's current mission---”
Trip breathed a sigh of relief, but that was before T'Pau finished her sentence.
“---as long as Earth---and Starfleet---respects our sovereignty in matters that are uniquely Vulcan. This is the decision of the High Command, Lieutenant Commander Tucker, and of the High Council. Minister V'Lar is in the process of informing Captain Sato and Diplomat Archer of the situation.”
He groaned inwardly. There would be no compromise in the Beta Polaris expedition, and T'Pau had just told him that if he---or Hoshi Sato---pressed the subject, T'Pau would make it difficult for them all.
Hoshi was not going to like this and neither would Admiral Forrest.
Despite his best efforts, his thoughts kept wandering back to T'Pol. He hoped she was all right and that she and her mother were...
That was when he felt a spike of pure terror slam through him.
T’Pol waited in the gardens outside the Science Academy. The soft bubbling fountain was a soothing distraction; she ran through some calming exercises, matching her breaths to the gentle gurgle of the water. Her mind wandered along paths that she could not control.
You will forget now, but you will remember again. Forget the truth, remember the lies. Remember the lies, forget the truth of whom you really are.
T'Marui's master plan, decades in the making, to reawaken Vulcan to the past, to eliminate those who stood in her way, to force unbelievers to see. The pure audacity of the plan both stunned and impressed T'Pol; T'Marui's obsession had crossed the line into desperation, into manipulation.
And this obsession had left T'Marui open to being manipulated herself. T'Pol didn't know who was speaking with T'Marui's mental voice, but the timbre was sinister.
My revenge will not be denied. You will be my avenger.
I cannot allow this. T'Marui is dead. I felt her die. Her katra is lost to all of us.
It laughed in T'Marui's voice. Are you sure of that? As long as I live, she lives. We have the same goals...to liberate Vulcan, to usher in a new enlightenment.
Who are you?
The laughter had a tinge of madness to it. A Vulcan patriot. T'Marui knew me, and so does your mother.
“Welcome home, my daughter.”
T'Pol opened her eyes to see T’Les standing at the entrance to the garden. The white in her mother’s hair shocked her into speechlessness. T’Pol had no idea that her Starfleet assignment would have had such an effect on her mother. Suddenly, a jangle of conflicted emotions resonated within T’Pol’s mind, like a harsh chord. Anger, relief, disappointment.
T’Pol could not stop the automatic reflex, despite her best efforts. She crossed her arms at the wrist and extended her palms outward, in the traditional greeting between family members. “Mother, it is good to see you.”
T’Les quickly closed the gap between them and copied the gesture. She pressed her palms against T’Pol’s. The contact was the catalyst T'Pol needed. She sent her mind outward, as she had been trained as a touch telepath. The firm, but insistent mental push took T’Les by surprise, but by the time T’Les tried to raise her shields, it was too late.
Daughter, you have allied yourself with a traitor! T’Les’s mental cry held the anguish she didn’t say aloud. I cannot believe—
Mother, I am no traitor. T’Pol searched and found what she was looking for: in her mind’s eye, it looked like a yellow cloud, its long tentacles attached to her mother’s psyche. It pulsed with malevolence as T’Les’s hands moved upward on their own volition, aiming for T’Pol’s throat, intending to use tal’shaya, the ritual breaking of the neck. T’Pol’s own hands whipped around with reflexes honed in the Vulcan Security Ministry and caught T’Les’s before they wrapped around her throat.
Mother! Fight it! T’Pol knew she had to act. With all the rage and despair that welled within her, she struck out at the invader, now within T’Les’s mind. It shrieked at the assault, withdrawing within itself. T'Les reasserted her control, vibrating with rage at the mental intruder.
T'Ral! What did you make me do? And T’Les, anchoring herself to her daughter’s presence, recoiled and struck out, screaming the question over and over. The thing wailed as T’Les pounded it again and again, forcing it to shrink under the savage onslaught. T’Les gave it the full force of her anger, and with a sharp twist, sent her fury through the creature, through its tentacles, and into the mental connection it had with its maker.
Doctor T'Vau looked up from the stasis chamber at Minister Kuvak. She nodded in confirmation. “It is she, Minister. It is T'Marui. I have Verified her identity and ask permission to return her to the desert sands of her home.”
Kuvak took a deep breath and let it out. Malcolm said nothing at the glimmer of emotion deep within the man's hazel eyes, so much like his son's. Regret that this had happened, relief that this ordeal was over, dread for the future of his son and his clan. To his credit, Kuvak's features were impassive as he nodded his permission.
“I accept your Verification, Doctor T'Vau. Please, do what you must do.”
The doctor bowed her head, then gestured for her team to transfer the stasis pod onto the waiting anti-grav sled. Malcolm stood aside in grim silence; his work here was done, and he was not allowed to assist with the Verification and removal of the body. He felt, instead of heard, Kuvak move next to him.
“Thank you, Doctor Reed, for agreeing to watch over my son. I would prefer that he be here, under your and T'Pol's guidance, that wandering in exile with the rest of his fellows. He told me he would much rather be with his compatriots---”
Malcolm shook his head and matched the low tone. “The Exiled only have a handful of medical personnel. It is only logical that Kov feel that he should volunteer his services.”
“He feels too deeply, Doctor Reed. He must learn detachment from those he must treat, or it will destroy him.”
He didn't flinch at the minister's blunt assessment. “It is a lesson that all medical personnel must learn, Kuvak. Even myself, and we must constantly strive to do so.”
“Which is the reason why I both admire and envy those in your profession, Doctor.” Kuvak's tone was dry, “and am quite aware that I would not be able to face such challenges.”
Malcolm raised an eyebrow at the admission. Kuvak's reputation as a tough but fair member of the High Command was well-earned, but he was also a father, who despite the situation, was still proud of his son. Malcolm inwardly cursed the events that would lead to the Exiled leaving their home planet...
The mental scream drove him to his knees. It was worse than a sonic blast; it slammed into him without warning. He tried to raise his mental shields again, but he was too late. It was as if someone had driven an ice pick into his brain; the pain was tremendous. He felt Minister Kuvak and Doctor T'Vau catching him before he hit the ground.
“Doctor Reed? Doctor Reed? What is it?”
“Malcolm! Kuvak, something is wrong---”
Malcolm felt gentle hands at his temples, a cool tendril of sanity that cut through the chaos. He recognized the familiar presence of T'Vau, but there was a second person there, someone just as foreign, but still familiar...
Great emotional anguish...logic is useless under these conditions, T'Vau, Father. Join with me, we must shield him as long as possible.
Yes, Young One. You are correct. Hold steady, Malcolm. We will protect you.
“Thank you,” he whispered aloud, before all went black.
T’Pol felt T'Les weakening under the onslaught. Rage had given the Intruder strength unmatched even by a regular Vulcan. T'Pol followed her mother's mental link to a single person in the Vulcan Science Academy, a respected professor and a close colleague of T'Les's. Doctor T'Ral, assistant head of the VSA's highest panel. The shock of the discovery nearly brought T'Pol to her knees.
Because T'Marui's data is fact, not fiction. And if Vulcan does not acknowledge the threat, how else could the planet defend itself from the enemy out there? You know it to be true!
T'Pol pushed against the smothering sensation. We are not going to be enough...in desperation, she screamed out for help, from any quarter...and found it, through the strength of the family bond. Somewhere in the wave was T’Pau and Soval, even V'Krus, captain of the S'tranek, her distant cousin, but still blood.
And to her utter shock, there were other minds as well...Malcolm? Trip? Jonathan? T’Pol allowed a surge of joy as she realized that some of the Enterprisecrew was also there. Faintly, but she could feel their unique presences. The answer came to her: Malcolm, through his connection with her and T’Les. Jonathan and Trip, through their friendships with Soval...and Hoshi Sato and Travis Mayweather and Phlox, just a glimmer, but those three knew something was wrong, even if they couldn't identify the cause.
Incredible, though they are not Vulcan, they are 'family' as well. They provided the strength, but T’Pol had to wield it. So she took that strength and channeled it into a single pulse and sent it through the Intruder. All of it, for she couldn’t control how fast it flowed, only its direction.
The shriek echoed, rebounded again and again, then it stopped, abruptly.
“Lieutenant Commander Tucker!”
The authority in the voice managed to pierce the red haze that clouded Trip's mind. He opened his eyes to find himself on his hands and knees on the floor of the Vulcan High Command chambers, without any memory of how he got there. All he knew was that something bad was going on, someone was in trouble, he had to help...
“Gotta get up,” he muttered. “Gotta help her. She can't do this alone---”
“She shall not.” Captain V'Krus grabbed his upper arm and with his superior Vulcan strength, hauled Trip up to his feet. “But you must direct your focus, not scatter it. You will harm her with your fumbling if you do not focus!”
He swore under his breath as the movement threatened to send his stomach somewhere below his ankles. Trip fought the nausea as V'Krus helped him to a nearby seat, and someone else provided a steady anchor for him. Once again, he closed his eyes and tried to seek out the center of the storm.
Some sorta parasite thing, tryin' to hurt T'Pol and her mom. I'm not gonna let that happen. The Armory and Tactical officer coolly sized up the intruder, found a potential weakness, and with the pinpoint precision of shooting a phase pistol at a target, let loose with all his suppressed rage.
It shrieked, turned in on itself and dissolved into nothingness. He felt T'Pol's shock, then thought simply, Take care, darlin'. Then he dropped back into his own mind with the sickening stop of a roller coaster suddenly hitting the brakes.
He felt strong hands on his shoulders, another pair of hands on the sides of his face, as T'Pau's voice commanded him, “Let go, Charles. Let go!”
His head snapped back as if she'd punched him in the chin, then all the pain cut off as if she'd flipped a switch. He opened sore, gritty eyes to the utter silence of the entire VHC as its members stared at him with a mix of fear and disgust. Next to Soultek was a dark-haired young man, whom Trip had never seen before, but Trip knew who he was. Both men wore expressions of bewilderment.
Why didn't they feel what's goin' on? Isn't that supposed to be her bondmate and her father-in-law? What about that telepathic thing among family? Trip was amazed at the complete cluelessness of Soultek and Koss. Amazed and appalled at what that implied for T'Pol.
Above him, both V'Krus and T'Pau exchanged knowing looks. T'Pau nodded briskly, then carefully got to her feet. Her voice was a whipcrack that echoed in the silence. “Why are you simply standing there! Summon a Healer! And all further talk is suspended! Go now!”
Soval stumbled on the steps of the High Council building. He would have fallen, if Jonathan Archer hadn’t caught him. He could faintly hear Captain Sato calling out V'Lar's name, and the captain ordering the bodyguards to fetch healers. Sato's voice was strained, even more so than Jonathan's; Soval had no time to muse on that fact before another wave of disorientation hit him.
“Soval? What the hell's going on? I can't see worth a damn---”
Panic spiked within him, and he forced it down. If this mental attack was causing Jonathan physical harm, he must do something. Soval traced the agony backward to its source, ignoring the ripping pain within his own skull. What he discovered both appalled and enraged him.
My clan is under attack! Blood of my blood, soul of my soul... T'Les had charged him with the Pledge of Keeping, it was his responsibility, his duty, to protect her and all those whom she relied on, she was in danger, he must act!
He marshaled every iota of strength left to him, and sent it along the link. There was someone else with him, not just Jonathan...Soval had the presence of mind to register V'Lar's fingers on the psi-points of his face. Both Jonathan and Hoshi Sato were supporting her on either side; neither was strongly telepathic, but Soval felt the strong bonds between them, and among the members of their crew...
Already, and barely two weeks of service together. Fascinating... and he could sense others, some faintly, others more strongly. He thought he felt Malcolm Reed before someone---T'Vau, perhaps---encased him with mental shields. Good, such a shock may kill him, if he had not been prepared for it...the doctor had his own unique challenges of his own, but now he had others to help him overcome them...
And a spark that flared briefly, brighter than the others, irregular like a dying star, one who rushed to the aid of others, without a thought of his own safety. Charles “Trip” Tucker the Third, old friend, deceptively emotional and logical, he has an important role to play as well...
In that brief moment, Soval saw that Hoshi Sato and her crew were bound together in ways unfathomable even by the most logical Vulcan, and that they must be allowed to continue in their mission...
Then he felt V'Lar's words in his mind: I agree.
Eventually, Soval became aware of the outside world again. He opened his eyes to find himself sitting against the wall of the main Council chamber, with V'Lar kneeling next to him. The High Minister's face betrayed the strain she was under; only the firm grip of both Jonathan Archer and Hoshi Sato kept her from utter collapse. Both Humans appeared fatigued themselves, as if they had joined him in his mental journey.
Impossible. Illogical. They are not telepaths, much less touch-telepaths. They could not have seen and felt what I have...they should never know what lies before them...
V'Lar dropped her hand, took a deep shuddering breath, and forced her eyes open. Her voice trembled as she announced to the audience of Vulcans who watched in stunned dismay. “The threat has been eliminated. Vulcan is safe.”
Jonathan Archer blinked as awareness came back to him. What the hell just happened? He had heard a cry coming from somewhere close and he had automatically turned towards where it had come from, and then the voice seemed to rise in pitch and some instinct kicked in and told him, Reach out...For a brief instant, he thought he could sense others with him, Soval? T’Pol? Trip? Then just as suddenly, the gate snapped shut, leaving him shaken and confused.
“Jon? Jon! Are you all right?”
“Hoshi?” He blinked, blinked again, and found himself kneeling between Soval and V'Lar. Hoshi---Captain Sato---had a hand on his arm, and looked as confused as he did. She squeezed his arm in reassurance and he nodded.
“I'm all right, Captain. What happened?” He looked up as several Healers rushed into the High Council chambers to attend to Soval and V'Lar. One approached him, but he shook his head and waved the man off.
“I don't know, but whatever it was, I think it's gone now.”
Jon felt a firm tug on his uniform sleeve and found himself staring into Soval's eyes. He had never seen Soval panicked before, but the expression on his face came pretty close.
“T'Pol and T'Les,” he whispered, his voice a thin thread. “Make sure they are safe, Jonathan. And Malcolm and Trip as well.”
Jon nodded and grasped Soval's wrist. “I'll go and see to them right now,Del'haiu.” Soval weakly nodded and let go. Jon quickly pulled aside some of V'Lar's bodyguards and relayed Soval's orders.
Hoshi raised an eyebrow as V'Lar said, “I believe I owe you and your crew another debt of gratitude, even if you may not be aware of it, Captain.”
“I think I have an idea...I had the feeling that something was wrong, and we just barely avoided a disaster, Minister.”
V'Lar's eyes smiled, though her face remained impassive. “Then you had assessed the situation correctly, and did your part, Captain.”
T’Pol opened her eyes to find an exhausted T'Les leaning back against her. T’Pol reached out for the Intruder...and found nothing. All sense of T'Marui--whose face and voice had cloaked the Intruder in T'Pol's mind--was gone as well.
Join with me, T’Pol, we all need the healing meld... Warmth suffused through T’Pol, bathing psychic channels scraped raw from the tremendous power, and before she gave herself up to it, she thought she heard a voice whisper, Well done, and a second voice added on its heels, Take care, darlin’.