Nine days later...
February 3, 2151
“You have an impressive ship, Captain, and an equally impressive crew.”
Hoshi glanced at V'Lar as they stared out the viewport at Vulcan. The complete darkness of the Observation Lounge was illuminated by the light of Vulcan's sister planet, T'Khut. The golden yellow glow reminded Hoshi of the sun over Earth on a brilliant summer day.
“Thank you, High Minister. I appreciate your kind words.”
“You are fortunate to have such loyal officers under your command, even though you all have served together for such a short time. The bonds between them are quite remarkable. If I believed in fate, I might have not been surprised.”
Hoshi blinked at the unexpected admission, then she smiled. “You can tell that in only a week and a half? In my family's culture, we put a great emphasis on cooperation and collaboration. Some of my family believe in the karmic wheel, that from life to life, and from universe to universe, certain souls tend to meet each other again and again.”
V'Lar raised an eyebrow and commented, “Interesting. Do you yourself hold this belief?”
She chuckled and shrugged. “I've seen and experienced strange things in my travels, High Minister. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that's the case. As Trip Tucker would put it, 'We're kinda stuck together, for better or for worse. Might as well do the best with it.'”
“Yes, I can see him stating that. He can be practical if the situation warrants it.” V'Lar turned back toward the view. “So...Admiral Forrest has already sent you new orders?”
“We're headed to the Keshwa Sector to study a stellar phenomenon. Commander Mayweather's excited about the prospect.”
“Yes, he is an intelligent young man with great potential. He hungers for knowledge, but does not limit himself to pure science. Perhaps when his tour of duty is completed, T'Les might request him to teach at the Science Academy for a term or two.” V'Lar's tone became more serious. “Captain, I believe I owe you an apology for all that has occurred. It is my wish that we do not allow this disagreement to impede our people's relationship.”
Hoshi chose her words carefully, but she couldn't keep some of her anger out of her voice. “I understand T'Marui's ultimate goal would have caused much controversy among your people. You chose to deal with it in a uniquely Vulcan way, and I respect that, even if I don't agree with some of the methods.”
“You mean the Exiled. The V'tosh Ka'tur.”
Hoshi winced. V'tosh Ka'tur translated to “Vulcans without logic”, and implied that the Exiled had abandoned logic altogether. As T'Marui had shown, she had been methodical and rational in her gathering of information to support her theories. On the contrary, T'Yalle, Kov and the others still employed logic, but emotion as well. Hoshi, a Human, could see how that could unnerve a Vulcan like V'Lar.
“None of them will be safe here on Vulcan. It is for their well-being, that they must go. They will not be without support, for I have asked certain colleagues to keep me appraised of their journey.”
“Among others, yes.” V'Lar didn't smile, though she sounded amused. “I am logical, but I am not heartless, Captain. Others, whom I will not name, would be satisfied if we turned our backs on our brethren. We have done that in the past. That is a mistake I will not repeat.”
“I'm glad to hear that, Minister.”
V'Lar nodded. “Captain V'Krus is on his way back to Beta Polaris. He will release warning buoys to alert other spacefarers of our unwelcome sentinels. We might never discover the rest of its secrets, not for a long time.”
“But eventually, it will come back to haunt Vulcan, if left alone too long.” Hoshi stared at the dual planets below them. “It always does.”
“Yes.” V'Lar agreed softly, “but that time is not yet, and perhaps that time may never come at all.”
T’Pol sat in the meditation garden at the Vulcan Medical Academy, but found it hard to concentrate. Even after more than a week later, her experience still bothered her. She had talked to her mother, T’Pau, V’Lar, Soval, and Doctor Reed about the “accidental” meld. The five of them had been just as mystified by its occurrence. T’Pau had speculated that it was happenstance, chance, that T’Pol was able to send the mental summons and that others were able to respond.
T’Pol wasn’t so sure it had been mere chance. She went over the event in her memory, but only she found more questions than answers. Could the event be duplicated? She’d thought it was worth more study and research.
“No, T’Pol,” T’Les had told her in a stern voice. “Do not allow T’Marui’s or T'Ral's influence to affect your judgment. I would not want you to share their fates.”
She shuddered as she remembered T’Ral’s unholy scream as the last bit of her katra disappeared under the mental onslaught of several people joined in a common cause. At the end, her betrayal had shaken T'Les to the core. It would be time before T'Les could recover from T'Ral's treachery.
And T'Pol was shaken, for a different reason. Her mother and the others were right; she must find a way to shore up her mental defenses so this would never happen again. She had considered resigning her position from Enterprise and seeking the help of the priestesses of Mount Seleya again. Soultek would have been livid, had she done that, but she hadn't cared.
Then she realized that the priestesses could not help her anymore. She had to find her own way, achieve her own balance. That way lay with Enterprise and her crew, and their future journey...
She looked up as a shadow fell over her. A sense of relief came over her, though she made an effort not to betray it. Nevertheless, she knew it showed.
“Here’s where you’ve been hidin’. We’ve all been lookin’ for you.” Trip Tucker grinned and looked at the greenery around him. He seemed delighted at the mix of Vulcan and Terran plants. “Nice place. A little piece of life in the desert.”
“The desert has its own beauty,” she corrected him. She gave him a curious look as he acknowledged the correction with a nod. “You have not been to Vulcan before?”
“Nope. I’ve known Soval for nearly a decade, but this is my first time here. I think it’s pretty.” His smile faded a little. “Mind if I sit a minute?”
She nodded and slid aside for him. T’Pol noticed a slight air of unease around him and guessed at the cause. “I have talked with my mother and V’Lar about the...group meld.”
“Yeah, I meant to ask ya about that...I thought I was going nuts,” Trip admitted with a helpless gesture. “I don’t get it. I’m not psychic; all the standard Starfleet tests turned up normal. I thought you were touch telepaths—“
“We are,” she confirmed, breaking into his ramble. “And yes, normally we have to be touching our subject to form a meld. I cannot explain the phenomenon completely, but I have some suppositions. In extreme conditions, others with a previous link to a melder may join without any physical contact...but the link must be there, between at least two of the melders. For example, I have melded with my mother before.”
Trip seemed thoughtful. “Hm...I can understand why Doc Reed might have a link to one of you, but...I don’t have—“ He broke off, his eyes widening, then he corrected himself, “Um...never mind.”
She gazed at him, confused at his change of expression. Then it made sense. “Soval?”
He was talking more to himself than to her. “That makes sense, after the fact. I’d thought I was goin’ crazy, there for a while. I guess that’s why Jon never told me what happened after—“ Trip shook himself. “It’s a long story, T’Pol. Remind me to tell ya sometime.”
T’Pol nodded, respecting his need for privacy, though she was brimming with curiosity. Has Soval melded with Trip before, for some reason? I had thought Soval was reluctant to do a mind meld unless it was under dire circumstances. I must ask him next time I see him.
Aloud, she told Trip, “Very well. I will remind you to tell the story...later.”
He smiled again. “I’m sure you would. C’mon...your mom, Kov and Doc Reed are in one of the wards, looking over a couple of the Doc’s old patients. Never thought to see him get mushy over a pair of Vulcan twins...”
There is plenty you do not know about the good Doctor...but I have the utmost confidence that you and he will be good friends and brothers-in-arms in the future. She followed Trip out the garden gate, but not without catching his bemused look, as if he could hear her thoughts. And for all she knew, he just might have.