auswitcheroo151: AU Sato and Mayweather (Default)
[personal profile] auswitcheroo151
A family picnic is marred by a psychic attack. But who's behind it?

You will find out how Admiral Forrest, Hoshi, and Trip are connected. All Vulcan words and expressions are from the Vulcan Language Database and the Vulcan Language Institute.

 


 

Captain's Personal Log, Hoshi Sato

February 17, 2151

Our first two days on Betazed have been quite pleasant. Saphia, Keivan and Garas took us on a whirlwind tour of their planet, including to Lake El'nar, and the Janaran Falls. Like Earth, Betazed has a wide variety of climate and amazing geological features. "Lush" doesn't even begin to describe the plant and wildlife. Our exobiology and zoology departments are almost in religious ecstasy.

Malcolm and I have told Saphia, Keivan and Garas about our disturbing experiences (though not the particulars). T'Pol also admitted some odd dreams, and Kov as well. Keivan has made some discreet inquiries and will report back to us when he finds out anything. He agreed that T'Pol and Kov should stay on the ship until we figure out what's going on. Kov, however, wanted to attend the Sixth House gathering. As long as Trip is with him, he should be fine.


"This reminds me of my family reunions," Trip said out of the corner of his mouth. "All hugs and kisses and stuff."

"Indeed?" Kov gazed at the mass of people at the picnic area, spread out on various blankets on the grass and on the lake trails. He counted thirty-five just on this side of Lake El'nar. "These are all the members of the Fifth House?"

"Accordin' to Diplomat Daro, they are the house members who reside in the capital city of Rixx. Some of them are direct clan members, others from collateral lines. This group doesn't count the ones from Doctor Adai's family."

"So the Fifth and Sixth Houses are the majority."

"They're the biggest, yeah. The First, Second and Third are smaller, but no less important." Trip began munching on a small platter of fruit, much to Kov's amusement.

"That one in particular seems to agree with you. Those are uttaberries."

"Yeah. Tastes just like blueberries."

"Harila tells me they are freshly picked from the other side of the lake, Trip."

"Remind me again, Kov: which one's Harila?"

"She's Diplomat Daro and Doctor Adai's second youngest. The one who asks Commander Phlox about warp mechanics..."

Trip's grin became wider. "The little sprite with the big eyes and the even bigger attitude? I like her."

Kov didn't quite roll his own eyes, but murmured, "Please do not tell Harila that! She will attach herself to you like a Cheopian mud limpet and not release you."

"Spoken from experience?"

"Let us say that she practically scared Doctor Reed into following the Captain everywhere, and Commander Mayweather into a flitter ride to the Northern Continent with Major Bienar. I told her I had a overdue status meeting with you-"

"-by way of the dessert table. Status meeting? You're not in my department, Kov."

"She doesn't know that. I believe I understand the feeling of being pursued, Trip. It is not unlike being chased by a sehlat through The Forge."

Trip choked on his uttaberry, and Kov, alarmed, gently pounded him on the back until he breathed easier. "Sorry," he coughed, "it's just that comparison was appropriate. Their women are more direct and it can get pretty overwhelming if you're not used to it."

"I am beginning to understand that."

A roar of laughter interrupted Kov's words, and they both looked over at the source. Saphia sat on a nearby picnic blanket, next to Keivan Adai, who was relating some story to Hoshi, Jon and Malcolm. Hoshi's blue silk skirt was spread all around her like gentle waves of water; the soft orange blouse was sleeveless and flowed over her torso. She turned her head as if searching for someone. Saphia reached forward and put a hand on her arm. Then Keivan said something else that sent Jon and Saphia into a paroxysm of giggles, and made Hoshi blush. Malcolm's lips turned upward in a slight smirk.

“They are sitting in close proximity to each other,” Kov murmured. “Like Crewman Cunningham and Delostrino in the Mess Hall.”

“Huh? Cunningham and Delostrino are going out?”

Kov's mouth turned upward in humor as he answered, “Yes. They are 'going out'.”

Trip narrowed his eyes at Hoshi and Malcolm. Neither seemed to realize just how close they were to each other. “The Cap'n and the Doc...but the Cap'n's seeing someone else. I wonder if somethin' happened between her and Hayes.”

“Hayes? Captain Hayes of the Columbia?”

Trip stiffened as he realized he'd said it aloud. “It's not exactly well known, Kov, so don't go repeatin' it to everyone. They've been off-and-on for the past, um, five years or so.”

“Off-and-on? Ah, you mean they are in a relationship, but it is not...exclusive?”

“It's...complicated.”

Kov's eyebrow was sitting on his hairline. “It appears that Human relationships are very much complicated.”

“That's a good way to put it. They aren't as straightforward like a Vulcan couple.”

Kov's slight chuckle was ironic and he shook his head. “Even Vulcan couples can be complicated.”

Trip smiled sadly as he turned his attention back to the group on the picnic blanket. Major Garas Tam leaned against a nearby tree as he kept a close watch from the opposite side. He was definitely struggling to maintain his serious facade.

Minister Baniti Lev said something, then got to her feet and headed for the one of the long buffet tables nearby. Another one of Garas's security guards shadowed the Minister every step of the way. Trip nodded in approval; even though Betazoids possessed mental abilities, it didn't hurt to take extra precautions, just in case.

"Hey, sounds like you guys are havin' quite the party," he said, as he approached the group, with Kov trailing behind. "I guess I missed somethin'."

Hoshi laughed and shook her head. "Keivan and Saphia were telling us the story of how they met and about their wedding day. Let's just say a Betazoid wedding is...unique."

Saphia sighed. "You're far too modest, Captain. A traditional wedding ceremony is quite...liberating."

"They do it in the buff," Jon explained to Trip out of the corner of his mouth.

"What?" Trip blinked in shock. "Uh-"

"The ceremony, Trip." Jon all but smirked himself. "Get your mind out of the gutter."

Trip gave him a dirty look and said, "I wasn't even gonna go there till you said somethin'."

Kov's face was tinged with emerald, but he added, "Most wedding ceremonies are a reflection of the culture they represent. May I infer that your particular tradition is only a confirmation of your society's openness and willingness to shun pretense?"

Saphia looked drolly at him. "I suppose you can interpret it that way, Doctor Kov. For the Deities' sakes, will you please join the rest of us and relax?"

Kov nodded and dropped into a cross-legged position slightly behind Trip and Malcolm. "I am gratified for the opportunity to talk with your kin, Diplomat Daro. Your people are quite fascinating."

"And they are curious about you as well, Kov. Most Vulcans shun our company, but you actively seek us out. Harila has requested a meeting with you to discuss educational opportunities at the Vulcan Medical Academy."

Kov blinked, and Trip thought he heard a hint of panic in his tone. "Harila? I was under the impression she was more interested in becoming a warp engineer, not a doctor. And I am hardly the one to consult on that subject, having only recently completed my studies, and Doctor Reed has actually been an instructor there, and-"

Malcolm bit his lip, reached over and put a hand on Kov's shoulder. "Kov, lad, you're rambling."

"Forgive me, Doctor Reed, I-" He colored even more at Trip's attempt not to choke on his laughter. Hoshi gave him a firm, but pointed elbow jab in the ribs. Kov stammered, "I mean to say, I meant no offense-"

Saphia sighed and traded glances with Keivan. "Our second youngest tends to be, ah-"

"-blatantly obvious," Keivan finished. He chuckled and shook his head. "Don't worry, Doctor Kov. I'll speak with her. You are relaxed compared with most Vulcans I've met, but no one appreciates being felt like being pursued by a hungry sehlat."

Kov heaved a sigh of relief and even Hoshi couldn't hold back a giggle at the expression on his face. "I would be grateful, Doctor Adai."

Saphia leaned forward and patted Jon's hand. "You didn't answer the question that started this entire conversation, Jonathan. Why haven't you found anyone so far? With your looks and your talents-"

Jon laughed and faced the brazen inquiry head-on. "Actually, there is someone-"

Trip stared at him and said, “Whoa. There is?”

“May I inquire who she is?” Kov chimed in.

“Travis knows her---”

This time, both Kov and Trip asked the same question: “He does?”

Saphia threw Keivan a triumphant look. "Ha! I told you so! Well, Jonathan, don't just leave it there-" She broke off as her head snapped to the right. Her eyes scanned the lakeside before her gaze focused on a point where the lake path wound itself out of sight. Her expression immediately put Trip in alert mode.

Trip exchanged frowns with the others. "What's wrong?”

Kov replied for Saphia. "There is a presence here, and it is not friendly.”

Hoshi blinked, then shook her head. The tiny movement caught Trip's attention. “Cap'n?”

“Hoshi?” Malcolm knelt at her side and put a supportive hand on her shoulder. Everyone noticed the gesture, though neither he nor Hoshi did. “What is it? Are you all right?”

She took a deep breath, but her body began to tremble. "Whoever or whatever it is...it definitely doesn't want us here. I can feel it closing in on me..."

"Claustrophobia," Malcolm said grimly. He put his hands on her shoulders and began to massage the suddenly tight muscles. "Block it out; it's trying to deceive you. Breathe deeply, Hoshi. Feel the wind on your face...you're in a wide open space."

She laughed shakily. "My brain knows that, but my stomach's trying to tell me otherwise."

"Projective empathy," Saphia said flatly. "It can manipulate emotions and project them into other minds. Garas, can you still feel it?"

Garas narrowed his eyes at the woods beyond Lake El'nar. "It's decreased in intensity, but it's still there, Saphia. I don't think it's just one person. If it was, someone would have known about it by now. You can't hide that easily from other telepaths."

"Should I take a security team and find out who it is?" Trip asked quietly.

Saphia shook her head and replied, "We'd better do it. No slight on your competence or your security team's, Trip, but if Garas's right about the projective empathy, it could be dangerous for an untrained mind. I've seen the effects, and they're not pretty."

"Quietly," Garas reminded her. "We don't want to alarm the rest of your family, or Keivan's. We'll investigate it. In the meantime, perhaps you should move to the center pavilion, where it's more protected. I'll let Major Tyu know and have him alert Minister Lev."

"Good idea." Trip offered a hand to Hoshi, who accepted it. Her face was drained of all color and she leaned heavily on Malcolm. Her dark eyes were wide, but Trip didn't think she saw him. "Malcolm, Kov-"

"Hoshi," Malcolm whispered urgently. "Can you hear me?"

"I don't think she can hear us," Jon replied grimly. "We have to get her out of here now."

Malcolm didn't waste any time; he swept her into his arms and carried her. Trip followed them, with Kov behind. The Vulcan's normally friendly face was set in hard lines, his eyes flashing with anger.

Saphia noticed and murmured, "Don't you dare try to confront it yourself, Young One!"

His voice was strained. "I am merely shielding her from...that. Doctor Reed-"

"Just a few more moments, Kov." Malcolm's face was just as pale as Hoshi's.

"Why is it concentrating wholly on Hoshi?" Trip cut in, with a sideways glance at Malcolm. "She's not even telepathic."

Keivan shook his head. "Humanoids all have latent telepathy on some level, Trip. If your captain is as unskilled as she claims, that...thing wouldn't be able to affect her so drastically. If your Lieutenant T'Pol were here, she would be similarly affected. Doctor Kov?”

“I am...functional,” Kov replied, but his glassy stare belied his words.

They reached the Center Pavilion, a simple structure enclosed on three sides and dotted with wooden benches against the walls. Malcolm helped Hoshi sit with her back against the cool stone. Keivan placed a hand on her sweaty forehead, while Saphia stood at the entrance, her brow furrowed.

"If you have an issue with our guests, take it up with me, not with them. They are innocent of any wrongdoing. Leave them alone!" Saphia snarled.

Trip was distracted by securing the pavilion that he didn't hear the question...much less expected an answer. It took him completely unaware and the force of it drove him back into the stone wall.

On the contrary, your guests are perfect for what I must do.

Hoshi blinked, disoriented for a moment. One minute, she was sitting against a warm stone wall on Betazed, pushing against a mental fog that encroached upon her space. Then, she felt others with her, shoring up her defenses and keeping the darkness at bay. Kov, Malcolm? Keivan? Saphia?

We are here, Captain, said Kov. You are not alone in this fight. We stand by you.

Kov, you've got to get away from here. If this can affect me, it can do permanent harm to you. Call Travis, have him beam you back to the ship...

“Hakausu nash'veh. Ri dungi-tasha du nash'veh.” I am a doctor. I will not leave you.

“Yeht ish'veh. Ri dungi-tasha du etek.” He is correct. We will not leave you. That was Malcolm. His presence was so strong that she swore he was standing next to her.

Malcolm? I didn't know you were telepathic.

There was a pause, then he answered, I wasn't. It's a long story, and I promise I'll tell it to you, but I believe we have other pressing matters.

Suddenly, her world jolted, then turned sideways. Hoshi lost her balance and her hip struck the edge of the table. A tray of food flew out of her hands and crashed onto the floor. Tray? Food? The lights around her dimmed, throwing her surroundings into shadow.

"Captain Forrest, Commander Sato, to the Bridge. Red alert. Captain Forrest, Commander Sato, to the Bridge."

"What the hell-?" Like a woman in a dream, she slapped the wall comm. "Sato, I'm on my way."

She ran out of the Mess Hall and caught the lift at the end of the deck. It deposited her on the Bridge, but not on Enterprise. The doors open to reveal Captain Maxwell Forrest in the center seat, Lieutenant Commander Marsten at Tactical, Ensign Hsu at the helm. The relief comm officer quickly yielded his station to Hoshi. She slid into the seat and pressed the transtator into her ear.

"Raise the Akrarians, Commander," Forrest ordered, without turning around. She opened a channel, then nodded at him to continue. "This is Captain Forrest of the United Earth Ship Madagascar. Stand down immediately or we will be forced to defend ourselves. Respond."

A rough voice replied in Akrarian. Hoshi translated, "They're convinced we're trying to steal their profits, Captain. Their captain says they have proof of our 'enemy transmission'."

"Tell them we have no interest in their cargo or their profits, Commander. We are enroute to Akraria at the invitation of their Consul."

She wasn't even halfway through the first sentence before the Bridge rocked under multiple blasts. Forrest glanced over his shoulder at Lieutenant Commander Marsten. "Return fire, disable only. Evasive, Mister Hsu."

Both men chorused, "Yes, sir," and focused on their respective jobs.

Hoshi switched frequencies to monitor the Akrarian comm channels. She closed her eyes to listen better...there were two Akrarian ships against just theMadagascar, not good odds. Something else nagged at the back of her mind, something important that she needed to tell Captain Forrest, but she couldn't remember.

Something important...something is missing. She pushed the random thought out of her mind; distraction during battle was deadly. The Akrarians used a bimodal frequency tuner to communicate with their raiders. Hoshi isolated one of the pair of transmissions, ran it through the universal translator, then analyzed the results. There was a strange background chatter that didn't come from the Akrarians. It wasn't space noise or static...almost as if...

Someone was using the Akrarian frequencies to hide another transmission. The attack was just some sort of ploy. "Captain Forrest!"

"Commander Sato?"

"It's a diversion! There's another transmission hidden under their standard frequencies. I'm isolating it right now."

"Put it on speakers!" The babble echoed off the speakers and even Forrest could tell it wasn't Akrarian. "Who the hell is that?"

"I'm running it through the UT right now, sir-" The Bridge shook again and the impact nearly threw her out of her chair.

"Hull plating at sixty-two percent!" Marsten shouted.

"Torpedoes, full spread! Fire!"

One of the Akrarian ships tipped out of view as the torpedoes slammed into their starboard side. The second fired its lasers, but Hsu 'dropped' theMadagascar straight 'downward', canceling the artificial gravity for a brief moment. Even Captain Forrest ended up on the deck.

“We've got two other Akrarian raiders, Captain! One-five-one Mark two nine and zero-four-two mark one!” Marsten reported. He'd somehow crawled back into his chair at the Tactical station.

Forrest nodded and staggered back into the command seat. His right arm hung at his side at an awkward angle. “Target those new raiders. Comm, send out a distress signal, all frequencies.”

Hoshi nodded and tapped her board. The nagging feeling turned into full-blown panic. It didn't happen like this. She remembered this incident; Madagascar had disabled one raider, but UES Intrepid and UES Rochmon had come to their rescue. The crew had gotten away with relatively light injuries. One of those injuries had been Lieutenant Trip Tucker, down in the Armory.

Trip, Hoshi thought. He's hurt---

The deck shuddered again and this time, consoles sparked and began to smoke. Hoshi waved noxious fumes from her face. She looked over at Tac to find Marsten was gone. With an effort, she crossed the Bridge to find the Tac Officer sprawled on the deck, his face horribly burnt.

“Marsten, report!”

Hoshi swallowed hard as she tried to coax information from the damaged systems. “Marsten's dead, sir. We've got multiple hull breaches on all decks. E Deck, starboard...” Her heart froze at the readings. “F Deck's completely open to space.”

F Deck. The Armory...Trip was gone. A surge of anger went through her and cut through the grief. She gritted her teeth. No. This isn't real. It didn't happen this way. I don't know who you are, but it didn't happen this way! Trip's alive and you can't control my mind and get the hell out!

Something exploded to Hoshi's right and she felt her body hit the deck. The fact that she didn't feel any pain was a bad thing. She floated free, like in a tank of warm water, without any cares or worries.

Hoshi! Hafa'uh k'etek! Stay with us!

Malcolm, where's Trip? Is he okay? He isn't dead---

“Damn straight I'm not dead!” The distinctive drawl sounded strained, but it was there, right next to her ear. “Though they tried to convince me I was...c'mon, Hoshi, snap out of it! I'm right here yellin' in your ear, and if you let 'em win, I'm gonna kick your ass so hard it'll bounce!”

Kov let out several inelegant curses in Vulcan; the surprise nearly jolted her back to reality. “I cannot hold on much longer...I can feel darkness...”

She felt the false reality shift and tear all around her. The panic in the Healer's voice sliced through the hypnotic hold. Kov would gladly give his life for hers; Hoshi felt that determination within his mind. She couldn't let him do that. He was her responsibility. With a jolt, she forcibly pushed Kov away to safety. That moment of distraction was what she needed.

She lurched forward into Malcolm's arms. The air around her bit her skin with icy teeth, but she felt like she was burning up. She felt cool hands on her forehead and her muscles began to relax.

“She has flashburns from the tampering of her memories,” Keivan said. “We can reverse the effects, but we need to get her to a medical facility.”

“Can we beam her over?” That came from Trip, who sounded just as ill and bone-weary.

“In her state, the shock of dematerialization could kill her. And you need to be cared for, Trip.” She clung to the sound of Malcolm's voice. “Jonathan, can you carry her?”

She felt Jon's strong arms lift her, then she was moving gently through space, as light as a feather. She was about to slip into unconsciousness when a new voice broke into her thoughts.

Can you hear me?

Hoshi could hear the voice loud and clear. Who are you? What do you want with me?

There was a sense of dry amusement, then a second warm wave came over her, but this time, it was a poisonous warmth, like from a cobra bite. She could only lay there in its thrall, unable to move a muscle to defend herself. Finally, it released her, and the cold darkness returned. Interesting. I will be watching your progress and perhaps we will even meet in person some day.

"Who are you?" She could barely mouth the words.

Someone who is very interested in your potential. That is all you need to know. Farewell.

"Wait-"

The fog swept all around her and through her and took her consciousness with it.

Travis gets into trouble, but he taps into his "helmsman" persona to get himself out of a jam. Trip relates the Madagascar's battle with the Akrarians (and there's a TnT moment). Jon channels his "captain" persona as he takes charge. T'Pol consults with an old friend.

 


"Wow," Travis whispered as he craned his neck to see below him. "How tall do these go?"

Major Lim Bienar smiled as he banked the flitter to the right. Far below them, the Azure Peaks glimmered in the spring sunlight. Craggy gray peaks topped with pristine snow, ancient glaciers crept along frozen land, and ice floated in calm ocean. He seemed amused at Travis's fascination with the landscape below. Travis found Bienar a good source of information on the physical landmarks of Betazed. When he had offered to take Travis on a tour, Travis had jumped at the opportunity. As much as the Betazoids made him feel welcome, a man needed space now and then.

"The tallest is over nine thousand meters, I believe. Suayun Mountain. It is considered sacred to our people."

Travis whistled and shook his head, "That's even taller than Mount Everest on Earth. Has anyone climbed it?"

"Yes, but it is dangerous to do so. Nevertheless, the challenge intrigues many of my people." Lim glanced sideways at him. "Do you mountain climb, Commander Mayweather? I understand you were raised on a cargo ship and wouldn't have had the opportunity."

He gave Lim a mysterious smile as he replied, "You'd be surprised. My parents visited many worlds and stayed for months sometimes while my dad negotiated for trade agreements. I climb every chance I get on shore leave."

"Excellent, Commander. My brother Danlu Bienar lives on one of the northern continents. He'd be happy to meet someone who knows the difference between a dkhat and a nijahat."

"A what and a what?"

<"A spike on the bottom of climbing boot and a stone-clipper that allows you to climb."

"You mean a crampon and a pieton?"

Lim shrugged. "I suppose those are your terms for the equipment. Danlu could identify them better than I ever could."

Travis grinned. "Your brother sounds like someone who knows his stuff."

<"He prefers the snow and ice as opposed to the more temperate climates. My family thinks him a bit odd, but they are content to leave him be."

Travis chuckled and shook his head. "I can imagine they'd think he was strange, but family is very important to your people, isn't it?"

"Yes." Lim made another pass over the smaller of the mountains. "Yes, very much so. Saphia and Keivan have a very large family, themselves. Eight children, fourteen grandchildren. The Sixth House is a close-knit community within themselves, as well as the First, Fourth and Fifth Houses."

"Wait a moment. Saphia and Keivan...how long have they been married to each other?"

"Thirty-eight of our years, which would translate as..." He tried to reckon it up, but settled for, "...a very long time."

"My parents are still together after all this time, too," Travis said with a grin. "He and my brother run the Horizon, though he's been letting Paul do more of the day-to-day operations."

Lim nodded. "It sounds like we have something in common, Commander."

"Travis, please. I'm not on duty."

"Then you may call me Lim. Your people have such quaint customs of formality. Trip can be as informal as a Betazoid, yet Doctor Reed as rigidly formal as a Vulcan. Then you have Jonathan, who falls somewhere in between, and yourself. Then your captain...she knows how to adapt to whatever situation she finds herself."
"Yeah...she does. It's amazing to watch the transformation, sometimes."

"She seems be like a fherali at times. Ah, I mean a creature that changes color according to its environment."

"A chameleon. Sometimes."

"That is a useful skill to have. Those who have it can also see things others cannot, or will not." Lim shook his head at the thought. "A very good person to have as a friend, and a dangerous one to have as an enemy. I know too many people like that."

Travis nodded at Lim's serious tone. "I suppose it's easy to figure out who's genuine and who isn't."

"Not as easy as you think. We still have the mind courtesies, like the Vulcans do, and even Betazoid Security members aren't supposed to force themselves into one's mind. It is morally repugnant, but there are those who believe our inborn abilities entitle us to control others."

"It's hard to imagine a Betazoid doing such a thing on purpose, but I suppose there are all kinds of people, just like Humans and Vulcans."

"Indeed." Lim's tone became ironic. "Your Commander Phlox is jovial and open-minded, but he also comes from a race who fought against the Antarans for centuries. There are heroes and there are villains, and even we Betazoids have our villains."

Travis nodded in understanding, then glanced back down at the snow-covered earth far below him. "Maybe we can arrange for a mountain climbing expedition while we're here-" Suddenly, the flitter banked steeply to port and jerked Travis sideways against the safety straps. "Lim? What's going on? You okay?"

Lim frowned and tapped the controls. "I'm fine, but we lost power for a brief moment. We'd better head back to Yiro Station and back to Rixx from there. Better safe than sorry."

"Sounds good to me."

The flitter arced again and straightened out on the correct course. Travis fell silent as Lim concentrated on keeping them level. A set of lights indicated the runway of Yiro Station, the nearest refueling station. Travis watched as traffic took off and landed with elegant precision, despite the wind.

"Flitter T-One Three-Three to Yiro Station. Request permission to land at Strip Five-A. Authorization Bienar Nine-G-Nine-T-One."

The control tower replied, "T-One Three-Three, you are cleared to land at Strip Five-A. Welcome back, Major Bienar and Commander Mayweather. Commander, you have a message for you from Lieutenant Commander Archer."

Travis glanced at Lim, who nodded without taking his eyes off the runway. "Relay the message, Control."
"Message is as follows, Commander-"

A screech cut off the tower's transmission and Lim's body convulsed violently. The major's eyes widened in horror and gurgling sounds came from his throat. He raised a hand to his throat, his breaths wheezing, as if he couldn't get enough air. Lim's face turned a sickly shade of red and he gestured frantically at the controls. "Take...over..." he gasped.

"But-" Travis clamped his mouth shut and tried to familiarize himself with the flitter's control panel. It didn't look too dissimilar from a shuttlepod's; he was able to stabilize their altitude, but a warning light told him that their engines were failing. He would have to make an emergency landing.

"Yiro Station, this is Commander Mayweather! We have a medical emergency! Mayday, mayday!"
"Rever—your course to-point two. Repeat-erratic-no longer-sight of-runway-"

His hands gripped the stick as the harsh arctic winds pushed the small craft to and fro. He could no longer see Yiro Station, but he managed to locate a relatively flat plain between mountains, with enough clearance to land safely.

Travis, keep a steady hand. Keep it level, that's it...He heard his uncle's voice in his mind: calm, despite the panic. Uncle Richard had allowed him to hitch a ride with him to Delta Four, but midway through the journey, he'd suffered a heart attack. Seven-year-old Travis could hardly see above the instrument board, but Uncle Richard directed him to a safe landing.

Uncle Richard had saved his life, but died not long after they'd reached safety. Travis glanced sideways at Lim, who still fought to stay conscious. I'm not losing him too, he vowed.

Despite his best efforts, they hit hard and skidded nearly fifty meters before screeching to a stop. The impact threw Travis against the instrument panel and the world went silent. He managed to lift his head and carefully turn toward Lim. The major wasn't moving and Travis couldn't tell if he was breathing. He reached over and pressed two fingers to Lim's throat. The pulse was thready and weakening steadily.

"Damn," he whispered. "Gotta see if anything's working, gotta get help-"

He snaked an arm over to the comm array. To his relief, it was still drawing power, and he composed a short message for a wide broadcast. Enterprise should be able to pick it up from orbit and send help. This was also assuming the mountains wouldn't block the distress call or a myriad of other problems. The bitter wind blew overhead, chilling Travis to the bone. He found the cracks in the flitter's hull that let in the wind and blocked them up as best he could with suffocating himself.

The temperature was dropping rapidly, and although the batteries were providing enough power for heat and the emergency beacon for now, it wouldn't last forever. There was no way to repair the engine, and he was trapped inside the main compartment with a dying man.

Cheer up, you've been through worse. Remember the time you locked yourself in a cargo container and Paul had to get you out? Or the time you were stuck underground on Pryor's World with Matt Hayes and an overenthusiastic Denobulan scientist? With a broken leg? See, this is a snap.

Travis tried to keep his natural optimism, but waves of black despair threatened to creep up on him. No, they wouldn't find them in time, Lim was going to die because he couldn't land a damned flitter, there would be no last-minute rescue, Captain Sato was going to chew him out for getting into trouble, he should have just stayed on the ship...

Wait a minute. What the hell-? Something was trying to batter his own self-confidence, trying to pull him into a pit of hopelessness. He must be really going into shock. Travis checked to see if the emergency beacon was still working, and his spirits lifted when he saw it was.

The voice persisted, They won't find you. By the time they do, you will both be dead.

Damn, it was still cold, despite his best efforts. Travis struggled to keep his eyes open. He had to stay awake.

Had to stay awake...


*****

"I tell ya, I was back in Madagascar's Armory during our first battle with the Akrarians. A pair of their raiders thought we were tryin' to seize their cargo or something and attacked us. They got some pretty good hits in before the cavalry came, the Intrepid and the Rochmon. After we got the mess sorted out, a full squadron of Akrarian Guard escorted us to their homeworld."

"So you weren't present on the Bridge at all during that particular battle," T'Pol surmised. After Jon Archer had told her what had happened, she immediately beamed down to Betazed at his request. The insidious attack shocked and enraged her; finding the culprits was more important than her own comfort.

"No. Lieutenant Commander Marsten was the Tactical Officer on the Bridge. I was his second and in charge of the Armory of the time." Trip leaned forward and rubbed his temples. "Some people were hurt during the battle-Hoshi ended up with a mild concussion-but our trip to Akraria didn't turn out too bad, considering the ominous start."

Jon frowned. “That's the real-life version.”

“Yeah. Whoever messed with Hoshi's memories tried the same thing with me. I remember bein' thrown against the bulkhead when the torpedoes hit, but in this dream, that bulkhead collapsed at that moment and I was sucked into space with the rest of my Armory crew.” Trip shuddered in reaction. “It sure as hell felt real. I couldn't breathe...Christ, I thought I was dyin'!”

T'Pol automatically reached out and pressed the neuropressure points on his neck and shoulders. He flinched at the touch, then sighed as the tension left him. Jon and Kov sat in chairs next to Trip's hospital bed. The University of Betazed doctors had insisted on examining Trip, but they'd found nothing wrong. Hoshi was resting in an adjoining room, under heavy security from Enterprise.

Kov frowned at her actions, but her look stopped him from commenting. Instead, he focused his attention back on Trip. “What convinced you it wasn't real?”

“I heard someone callin' for me. Don't know who it was, but it was enough for me to snap out of whatever trance I was in.” Trip shook his head, still weary. T'Pol forced herself to keep a serene expression; her fingers still kneaded his shoulders. “Somehow I knew Hoshi was still trapped in the same dream, and I tried to help you guys get her out.”

 Jon sighed and ran a hand through his brown hair. “Hoshi was almost convinced you were dead and that nearly killed her too. Hearing your voice in her ear helped her break the spell.”

Kov leaned forward and rubbed his temples. "So our unwelcome friend has the ability to alter perceptions and memories as well. This is disturbing. It implies that whoever it is has the mental power equivalent to at least a junior priestess of Mount Seleya, or a highly skilled Vulcan Healer."

"That really worries me, Kov. How can we fight someone like that?" Jon asked.

T'Pol spoke up, "You forget, we already did something similar on Vulcan, with T'Marui."

Trip shivered at the reminder. "Yeah, but that was a little different. She wasn't able to manipulate several people's minds at once. Not only was Hoshi affected, but I was too, and that was while holding off a trained Vulcan Healer, a couple of Betazoids and a Starfleet doctor who's apparently psychic himself. You sure he really isn't part Betazoid?"

Jon sighed. "He's Human. Malcolm's always been more perceptive than anyone gives him credit for." 

She sighed and shook her head. T'Pol had wondered when the truth would be revealed, but she hadn't expected it so soon. "His situation is unique, Trip. It is not widely known, and I beg of you to refrain from spreading his rather unusual...talent to the general crew. You saw firsthand the mistrust people have for telepaths and empaths; even the Betazoids have reservations about those who cannot, or will not, master their abilities."

"This has something to do with why you two are such close friends, isn't it. And why T'Les and Soval consider him like family."

"Yes. I have known Malcolm since his first residency at the Vulcan Medical Academy. That was close to fifteen years ago. In fact-" She heard the sound of the door opening before Trip, and she immediately let go of his shoulders and got to her feet before Keivan stepped into the room

"Will the Cap'n be all right?" Trip demanded.

Keivan nodded and held up a hand. "She is resting now. Doctor Reed insists on personally monitoring her condition until she wakes, and I concur. We cannot afford to leave her alone, especially now that we know she is a target.."

Jon glanced at the others and said, "I've sent a message to Travis to return to Enterprise as soon as possible. Phlox's in command until he arrives, and Hoshi recovers from the mental assault. Saphia and Minister Lev are holding a closed meeting with selected members of the Ancient Houses. According to Saphia, something like this is rare, but it does happen."

"There has been some sort of precedence for this situation?" T'Pol asked.

Keivan nodded again, his black eyes flashing with anger. "Unfortunately, yes. Most of our abilities develop in adolescence, but there are some who are born with their abilities at full strength. They are very powerful, but they cannot block out the thoughts and emotions of others, and thus they develop...issues."

T'Pol inclined her head and said, "That occurs with certain Vulcans as well. They are usually taken to Mount Seleya and helped by the priestesses."

"Others are born with little to no ability, but then it comes upon them-at nearly full strength-as adults. It can cause madness or death to an unprepared mind." Keivan pressed his lips together for a moment, then continued, "Both extremes are traumatic."

"Yes," T'Pol murmured. "It is."

Jon crossed his arms and traded concerned looks with T'Pol and Kov. "You believe that whoever is causing all this is someone who's, well, mentally unbalanced."

"The evidence strongly suggests it, Jonathan. I have worked with patients like this before. He or she...or they are dangerous, and must be apprehended at once, before they cause more pain to others, like Captain Sato."

"Why Captain Sato?" T'Pol asked bluntly.

"A mind without discipline can glean all sorts of information for their own purposes," Kov murmured. T'Pol gave him a sharp glance, but he didn't react.

"Kov's right. Our mysterious psychopath would know who she was and how important she was to the First Contact," Trip said.

Jon nodded in agreement. "Saphia's talking with her cabinet right now. Someone has to know something.”
"She gonna be okay by herself?"

Keivan scowled, but he wasn't offended by Trip's question. "Garas is with her, as well as some of the strongest Betazoid Healers I know. Minister Lev is also a strong telepath herself."

"She is? So she'd know about-"

A soft voice interrupted the discussion. "Lieutenant Commander Archer, you have an urgent message from Commander Phlox on Enterprise. It concerns Commander Mayweather."

"Put him on." Jon said. He paused and glanced at Trip, who technically outranked him. Trip only waved a hand in permission. "Phlox?"

"We've received a message from Yiro Station on the Northern Continent. There has been an accident involving Major Bienar's flitter. They had to make a crash landing several kilometers from the runway. The rescue teams have located them, but they're requesting we beam both Commander Mayweather and Major Bienar up to Enterprise for treatment."

Trip struggled to get up from the bed. "Tell 'em to go ahead-" A sudden wave of dizziness overcame him. "Dammit."

"Trip, don't go anywhere," Jon told him firmly. "You're still under observation."

Malcolm appeared in the doorway, still appearing haggard. "I'm going to have to beam up to the ship to attend to Major Bienar and Commander Mayweather."

Kov shot to his feet. "I can do that, Doctor Reed. You should stay and monitor the Captain. I am well-versed in Human physiology and Lieutenant Cutler can assist me if needed." Before Malcolm could protest, he inclined his head at Jon. "With your permission, sir?"

Jon nodded. With Hoshi, Travis and Trip out of commission, and Phlox on the ship, he was in command of the Away Team by default. "Go ahead, Kov."

Kov bowed his head at him, then at Malcolm, and hurried out of the room. T'Pol caught Malcolm's expression, and she knew that the doctor had the same thought. Whoever was sabotaging their First Contact knew what they were doing. Half of the senior staff was already incapacitated in some way.

It was up to them to stop their enemy once and for all.

*****

T'Pol took a deep breath to steady herself as she closed the communication channel. High Priestess T'Lya rarely came out of seclusion, but she seemed to know whenever T'Pol was in great need of her insight. The temple at Mount Seleya followed traditions dating from the time of Surak, but still made concessions to the modern world. Still, T'Pol was surprised at T'Lya's swift reply, and it only confirmed her suspicions.
"The Betazoids have their own traditions, child," T'Lya had told her, "that are foreign to thy moral upbringing. Thou must keep an open mind, so to speak, if thou wishes to assist thy captain."

"Our enemy follows no courtesies, no respect for the privacy of an individual's thoughts. That is more than disturbing, Del'haia. The Betazoids and the Vulcans abhor such invasion."

"That itself makes the Enemy a threat to both the trained and untrained mind." T'Lya closed her eyes briefly, as if in pain. "Dost thou believe one of our people may have a hand in these shameful attacks?"

The blood rushed to T'Pol's face, but she answered in a steady tone, "The possibility exists, as painful as it is. Our people have known the Betazoids for over a century and a half, and we also possess the ability to enter another's mind."

Again, T'Lya fell silent and closed her eyes. T'Pol waited patiently for the Elder to speak again. When she opened her eyes a second time, the brown eyes reflected great concern. "Dost thou remember the teachings I imparted to thee during your sojourn here at Mount Seleya?"

"Yes, Del'haia." She hid a wince; her emotional control was stronger now, but it still gave her great pain. The incident on Diplomat Daro's ship still bothered her, which was why she avoided setting foot on Betazed whenever possible. "I remember, and I still meditate on your teachings."

"Thy captain and her spirit-mate will need thy support. Thy companion will need thy temperance. To assist them, thou must look within and dispense fear. Fear of thy own perceived faults and shortcomings." T'Lya narrowed her eyes. "Look within to defeat thy Enemy."

T'Pol stared at her in utter shock and confusion. "Her spirit-mate? My companion? Dispense my own fear? I do not understand your cryptic words ,Del'haia."

The Elder only nodded. "Thy Enemy is powerful, but thy family is even more powerful. Trust in them, child. That is my advice for thee."

She bowed her head and whispered, "My gratitude for your wise words."

Now she stared at the dark screen and pondered T'Lya's words. The Elder hadn't confirmed that a Vulcan was involved in the attacks on Betazed, but she hadn't denied it, either. Like Surak had remarked, it was the unspoken truth that negated the lies. T'Pol took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She feared being pulled into the madness of a chaotic mind and not finding her way out again.

But if it was the only way to resolve the situation, she had to face that fear and overcome it, and the other members of her crew-her family-must do the same. Malcolm, Trip, Hoshi...

She doubted Enterprise's mission was a matter of circumstance.

T'Pol got to her feet and went in search of her captain.

Hoshi woke from a long healing sleep to see Saphia Daro sitting in the chair she'd last seen Malcolm in. The Betazoid managed to look dignified, even with her legs draped over one of chair's arms and the rest of her in a casual sprawl. Saphia opened her eyes, then swung her feet to the floor in a single smooth movement.

"How are you feeling?"

"Much better." Hoshi sat up in the bed with a dry smile. "My headache is gone."

"That's good to hear. Malcolm was very concerned about you." Saphia moved to the edge of her bed and patted her arm like a child. "I sent him to bed a few hours ago; both Jon and I had to pry him from your side. He's quite a stubborn young man, but that really doesn't surprise me. Malcolm's a lot like Keivan in that way."

Hoshi chuckled and tried not to blush. "He's a lot like most doctors I know."

"Typical. Your imzadi is right there in front of your nose and you deny it as much as he does."

"Excuse me?"

"Never mind." Saphia made a dismissive gesture, then sobered, "Some things have happened while you were unconscious."

Saphia told Hoshi about Travis's accident. She was quick to reassure her that both Travis and Major Bienar were stable, and that Kov was taking good care of them on Enterprise. "Your first officer was able to land the flitter and they both survived. Lim was taken ill; as far as Kov was able to tell, he had a panic attack while at the controls."

"A panic attack?"

"That's what I said too. Lim doesn't have panic attacks. Garas and his security team apprehended a small atmospheric craft that had been shadowing Travis and Lim. The pilot and co-pilot deny any wrongdoing, but it's too much of a coincidence."

Hoshi scowled and tried to get up, but Saphia firmly pushed her back down. "I want to talk to them. If they had anything to do with harming my first officer, I want to know."

"Oh, I wouldn't deny you the right to do so, my dear." Saphia's flat tone was a drastic change from the easygoing diplomat with whom Hoshi was familiar. "Trip wants to be present as well, and when he and Jon return, we'll all go to Security. In the meantime, let's get you decent. You look like a hinaba, not a starship captain."

Hinaba?" Hoshi slipped out of the bed, and this time Saphia didn't stop her.

"A soft and pretty noblewoman, with no spine. That's not you at all."

Saphia chose a black shirt and matching slacks, with a silver belt and flat-heeled boots. The cut of the clothing resembled the style of Garas's Security personnel, and again, Hoshi was impressed by Saphia's uncanny sense of fashion. There were times when simplest was the best.

"Lieutenant T'Pol to Captain Sato."

Hoshi frowned at the tension in her helmswoman's voice. What was she doing on the surface? She avoided contact with the Betazoids because of her sensitivity to the mental chaos on the planet. "Yes, Lieutenant?"

"I must meet with you and Diplomat Daro immediately. If Lieutenant Commander Archer is available, he should be present as well."

Hoshi glanced at Saphia, who gazed blankly at the far wall. She knew Saphia was in mental communication with another Betazoid, probably Garas Tam or Keivan Adai. "Jon's currently occupied, but I'll send a message to them. Malcolm's asleep and I don't want to wake him. Saphia had to strongarm him into getting some rest."

"That is not surprising to hear," T'Pol remarked, utterly deadpan.

"I'm still at the hospital; it would be easier for you to come here. Diplomat Daro is already with me."
"Excellent, Captain. I will be there momentarily. T'Pol, out."

Saphia blinked and came back to herself. "She must have found something during her talk with the Vulcan authorities."

"She consulted with Minister T'Pau and First Minister V'Lar?"

Saphia shook her head. "Someone else with a lot more secular authority than either of those two, Hoshi. A lot more authority."
 

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October 2012

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