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Three

Trip's Quarters, Enterprise

"What is it like, being in a mind meld?" Travis asked. He looked at Trip, but directed the question at Trip. T'Pol, and Jon. Then Travis blushed and hastily added, "Is it taboo to ask? I mean, you don't have to answer if—"

Trip shrugged. "I wish I could answer that one. I don't really remember much of it...except that it felt really weird. It was like I could feel Soval in my head, a light touch on the inside of my skull. Hard to describe, Travis. A lot of images; can't remember most of them, though Soval told me later that there was the possibility of 'bleedthrough'—"

T'Pol nodded. "What he refers to, Commander, is the inadvertent glimpse of another mind or memories during a meld. It does happen on occasion, but usually neither participant remembers the specific details. Only those with unusually high esper ratings may remember, but even then, the details fade after time." Her face became serious. "That is one reason why we Vulcans do not meld indiscriminately. There is the possibility of unexpected side effects."

"There are other kinds of melds, too," Trip said. "Healin' melds, for example, but Doc Reed would know more about that than I do." He frowned. "Speakin' of, where is he? He promised me a couple of pints of Guinness—"

"—which were appropriated by the fellows in the Armory," said an accented voice in the doorway. "Unfortunately, that comprised my entire supply for the moment, so I'd hoped this would be an acceptable substitute." Doctor Malcolm Reed smirked and eyed the crowd, which was crammed into Trip's quarters. "Quite the party, I see."

Trip's grinned widened and he waved Malcolm into the room. "Get in here, Doc. What's that in your hand...aw, you shouldn't have. Good English stout? Yeah, I s'pose that'll have to do for now." And the six-pack of stout joined the sake and the oranges on his desk. Trip took his time with the arrangement as he watched Hoshi Sato make room for Malcolm to sit next to her. T'Pol raised an eyebrow, but Trip only shook his head slightly.

"Where's Kov?" Hoshi asked. The young Vulcan Healer would have enjoyed listening to this particular story, for he was curious about Human interaction.

Malcolm smiled at her, and Trip resisted a smirk at the unconscious softening of the doctor's face. "He's on-shift at the moment; otherwise, I'm sure he would be curious to see you all here. So what has all of you enthralled enough to be packed in here like a tin of sardines?"

Jon chuckled and said, "Trip's recounting the story of how he met me and Soval at the Consulate. Hey, I was under the impression you'd met Trip while you were at Starfleet Medical, but Trip said you hadn't."

"Oh." Malcolm sighed and shook his head, but there was a twinkle in his eye. "Wretched timing and bad luck, I guess. Doctor Samirah and Doctor Ayakamura kept complaining about the security officer who kept getting into mischief. I was curious, but fate conspired against getting to know Mr. Tucker better. I was doing consulting work and research, and away some of the time."

"But not even one time?" Jon was persistent.

"It's not as unusual as it seems, Jonathan. After all, Mr. Tucker hadn't been one of my regular patients, and not too long afterwards, I was invited to return to the Vulcan Medical Academy." Malcolm gave Trip a look of apology. "So I was pleasantly surprised to finally meet you when you were assigned to Enterprise."

"How long did you stay on Vulcan?" Trip asked.

"At first, I'd planned to stay only the two years for my residency. I decided to specialize in exobiology,exosurgery and Vulcan medicine. It was there I met Doctor T'Les and T'Pol." Malcolm inclined his head at the Vulcan lieutenant. "Doctor T'Les and Healer T'Vau discovered I possessed a Healer's level of empathy, so they recommended additional Healer's training, in addition to my other medical training."

Eyebrows shot up all over the room. Trip had seen some strange events during their First Contact on Betazed and suspected Malcolm possessed some kind of empathic talent. Travis stared, wide eyed at the chief medical officer, while Hoshi and Jon didn't seem too surprised at the revelation.

"You can feel things like a Vulcan Healer can?" Travis asked.

"In some ways." Malcolm's gave him a dry look and added, "and I have to rely on the Vulcan mind disciplines to have some peace of mind. I was quite fortunate to have met T'Les and T'Vau when I did. Then I heard of Lieutenant Commander Tucker and now I end up on the same ship as him."

Trip laughed and rolled his eyes. "Geez. Thanks, Doc. I feel really special now."

Travis shook his head again and repeated, "Man, talk about a small universe. Everybody knows everybody, or at least has met. Doctor Reed, Lieutenant T'Pol, Lieutenant Commanders Archer and Tucker... so that's how you met Ambassador Soval, Trip?"

"Yeah. Not exactly a good situation, but that's when I first met him," Trip confirmed. "And the next day was even stranger..."

*****

March 17, 2141, Vulcan Consulate, San Francisco

"Happy Saint Patrick's Day, Ensign."

Trip cracked his eyes open to see Captain Ramirez sitting in a chair next to him. His brain felt like scrambled eggs that had stayed too long in the pan. "Captain? What happened? I—"

"Ambassador Soval came in to make sure you were all right. He told us there wasn't any permanent damage, but that you'd probably have one hell of a headache when you woke up."

"He's right." Trip managed to sit up with Ramirez's help. "I feel like the fourth day of a three day pass."

"This should help." Ramirez pressed three tablets of aspirin into Trip's hand, then got up to fetch a cup of water. Trip swallowed the aspirin, then chased it with the water. His stomach threatened to rebel; he closed his eyes until the nausea subsided. "Lie back down and rest. I've taken you off the duty roster for today."

"Can you move the pillow to my back, sir? If I lie down now, I'm gonna get sick."

When he was comfortable, the door opened to admit Jonathan Archer. Archer's face was creased with worry. "Trip, are you all right?"

"I've felt better, but I'm alive," Trip said, "considering I was used as a tackling dummy. Is T'Saiya all right? What was wrong with her?"

Jon shook his head; Trip thought it was in answer to his question, but Jon gestured for Ramirez to stay in the chair and not offer it to him. "Doctor T'Inya examined her, Trip. T'Saiya's on a Vulcan corsair headed towards Shi'Kahr, where her family'll take care of her. Her fiancé is meeting her in Shi'Kahr with the rest of her kin."

"She's sick?" Trip's brow furrowed. "Is it serious?"

"Doctor T'Inya said it was a hormonal imbalance. Apparently, it occurs rather frequently, so the doctors there know how to deal with it. T'Saiya should be all right and return in a week or two. "

Trip blew out a breath in relief. "Thank God. She looked really sick. I don't think she meant to attack me; I just happened to be in the way at the time."

Jon leaned forward and put a hand on Trip's shoulder. "You stopped Nathan from shooting her. Neither of you could have known that if he had, T'Saiya could have died from the shock. That was good reflexes on your part."

He blushed and demurred, "Nah, it was nothin'. I'm just glad she'll be all right."

"Get some rest. You've earned it." Jon glanced at Ramirez. "Come on, Carlos. I'm sure your little girl's eager for her dad to come home."

After the two men left, Trip drifted off to sleep. When he woke again, another man sat in the chair he last saw Ramirez sitting in. He didn't look familiar, but something about him set off Trip's internal alarms. He fought through another bout of dizziness to focus on his new visitor.

"Who're you?" Trip demanded.

The man chuckled and replied, "My name is Captain Mark Harris, Starfleet Intelligence, San Francisco. I'm sorry I startled you, Ensign, but I needed to talk with you right away. Corporal Kemper insisted on watching over you until you woke up."

Movement in the corner of room attracted Trip's attention. Corporal Kemper stood there, his EM-33 unholstered and ready. The MACO's body language told Trip that this man, Harris, was a dangerous man, and Kemper didn't trust him. Kemper's hawk-like gaze never wavered and his body was coiled like a spring.

"You're fortunate to gain such loyalty after being here less than a week, Ensign," Harris observed with a touch of humor. "You've become fast friends with Diplomat Archer and Captain Ramirez, as well as the Vulcan ambassador himself."

Trip shook his head. "I can't say he's a friend, Captain Harris. I got hurt and he just made sure I was okay. I don't really know him at all, except the fact that he's Diplomat Archer's boss."

Harris nodded and sat back in his chair. "Tell me what happened yesterday, Ensign."

"There's not much to tell, sir, but I'll do my best." Trip recounted what happened from the time Archer had called him to his office to when he'd woken up that morning. Harris was the picture of attention, not interrupting his story. When Trip was finished, the man only nodded.

"How much do you know about Vulcan history, Ensign Tucker?"

"Not much," Trip admitted. "I do know that they hadn't always been logical, but after Surak came, they completely redid their society."

Harris nodded again. "That's what most Humans know about them. Before Surak, they were extremely volatile, proud, intolerant. Very similar to Humans in many ways, in fact. In that, we've got something in common. I think Vulcan and Earth could benefit from a closer relationship in the future, but others don't believe it's a good idea."

Trip frowned at the thought. Kemper said that some people here at the Consulate have bad feelings against the Vulcans. I've seen it. "Yeah, I know."

"I'd like you and Corporal Kemper to keep an eye on these people here," Harris said. "Intelligence has reason to believe that either Ambassador Soval or Diplomat Archer might be in danger from these...factions. Soval is aware of the danger, as well as Archer, but Archer's known for his rather, um, cavalier attitude about security protocols."

"So I've heard," Trip said without humor. "I'm workin' on that. He said that he'll go along with whatever we need to do to protect him."

"Good." Harris said. He reached into the breast pocket of his uniform, causing Kemper to tighten his grip on his weapon. Harris's smile became a leer as he tossed two PADDs over to the MACO. "I've just given Corporal Kemper some background information on these people, Ensign. I'd like both of you to read it. Forewarned is forearmed. The more insight we have, the better we can defend against them."

"All right. I'll read what you've got, Captain."

"And I'd like to ask you a favor, Ensign."

"What kind of favor?"

"If you see or hear anything that might qualify as a threat to either Soval or Archer, let me know. I'll leave my personal comm code with Kemper as well." Trip only nodded, but made no promises. Harris noticed it and said, "I think you'll make an excellent Security officer, Ensign Tucker. A word of advice: don't trust anyone, even those whom you think are friends."

And with that, Harris got up from the chair and walked out of the room without a backward glance. Kemper immediately followed him to the hall. "He's gone, sir. Just like a ghost."

*****

Trip's Quarters, Enterprise, March 19, 2141

"Harris?" Malcolm raised his voice slightly and arched one sardonic eyebrow. "Captain Mark Harris? White hair, blue eyes, smooth talker, obnoxiously polite?"

Trip stared at him. So did everyone else; Hoshi, in particular, looked concerned at the change in the doctor's demeanor. "You know him?"

"He was interested in certain elements of Vulcan biology and physiology that are rather...delicate. Harris doesn't know how to take 'no' for an answer." Malcolm's eyes drifted over to T'Pol, who was studying the depths of her tea cup. Trip felt a sudden surge of anger for T'Pol's sake.

What kind of slimy creep would—?

"Sounds about right," Jon commented dryly, breaking into Trip's dark mood. "I saw him at the Consulate several times after the 'incident' with T'Saiya, then he disappeared for a while before coming right back. I think Soval actually threw him out. Picked him up by the collar and dumped him on his ass. Another time, Soval tried to prevent him from falling into San Francisco Bay, but wasn't successful."

Trip suddenly laughed at the mental image. "Soval threw him out twice? Once in the Bay? Oh, man, I wish I would've seen that!"

Jon shrugged and corrected, "The second time was kind of an accident, but I don't think he was trying too hard to save Harris from floundering in the water. Most Vulcans dislike the water, you know."

T'Pol spoke up, "I believe Soval termed it as 'poetic justice'."

There was laughter all around, then a cheerful voice interrupted, "I do enjoy hearing my crewmates in a wonderful mood. May I join your little gathering, Lieutenant Commander?"

"Hi, Phlox." Trip waved the last member of the Enterprise's senior staff into the room, which by now was rather crowded. The Denobulan engineer shook his head as Hoshi offered him her seat.

"I believe the greeting is 'happy birthday'," Phlox said as he handed Trip a wrapped package. "This is for you."

"Thanks." Trip unwrapped the paper to reveal a long, rectangular wooden box. He unlatched the top and peered inside. "What the—? Where'd you get this?"

"What is it?" Travis asked as he looked over Trip's shoulder. The Armory Officer lifted out what looked like an oddly-shaped shotgun. It was single-barreled, its stock made of some exotic wood. Trip sighted down the barrel with an expert eye and whistled in delight.

T'Pol glanced at Phlox with an expression of disapproval. "You gave him a weapon?"

"It's a part of Denobulan history, Lieutenant. That is a Mystakae, used by the infantry about two hundred years ago. The firing mechanism has been disabled. My third great-grandsire used it during his service. Lieutenant Commander, if you examine the underside, you'll see Denobulan script there. It forms his name and the name of his unit."

"I'm honored that you'd give this to me, Phlox. Thank you."

The engineer chuckled and traded smiles with Hoshi. "You have no idea how difficult it is to bring a weapon on board without the Armory Officer's knowledge, but Captain Sato knew about it."

"Thanks. I'll take good care of it." And Trip laid the Mystakae back into its box and placed it in a spot of honor close to his other birthday gifts. "You're just in time to hear the interestin' part of my story 'bout my first meetin' with Jon Archer and Ambassador Soval. I'd been assigned to the Consulate and within a week of bein' there, I was already gettin' into trouble..."

*****

March 17, 2141 Vulcan Consulate, San Francisco

News of T'Saiya's "attack" spread over the Consulate faster than an impulse engine gone ballistic. Although Captain Ramirez had taken Trip off the duty roster for the day, people found excuses to drop by his quarters. Most of the Security detachment came by to check on him, as well as some Vulcan residents of the Consulate. Trip didn't mind; he was the warm, congenial Southern gentleman. He chatted with his visitors, asked about their histories, shared some Vulcan spice tea and non-alcoholic drinks.

By the late afternoon, he'd formed a good idea of where most of the personnel stood as far as Human/Vulcan relations went. He and Kemper went down to the Dining Hall for dinner. Neither wore their uniforms, but civilian clothes, and Trip picked the middle of the room, where no one could miss them.

"Hi there, Corporal," said a man dressed in a MACO uniform. He was tall and dark-haired, with dark blue eyes. "Mind if I sit here with you two?"

"Sure," Kemper replied. "Corporal Lee Doumaides, Ensign Charles Tucker. Newest security guy assigned. Barely a week here."

"Pleased to meet you, Ensign," said Doumaides, as he sat next to Trip. "Barely a week, huh? You've already made the grapevine, with what happened yesterday. Not many of us get flattened by a rabid Vulcan."

Trip raised his eyebrows at his words. "She was sick, not rabid. They said she's getting the best medical attention possible."

Doumaides nodded at the correction. "I'm glad to hear that, Ensign. You aren't hurt?"

He chuckled and waved his fork. "All in one piece, appetite and all. Look, I just wanna forget about the whole thing, okay?"

"Sure." The three of them ate in companionable silence for a little while, then Doumaides said, "Hey, since you're new to the Consulate and San Francisco, how about you and Kemper join us for a nightcap? Say, twenty-hundred hours? I know an out-of-the-way place where the Starfleet Security contingent hangs out."

"Sounds good," Trip replied in a casual tone. "I'm tired of restin'. It'll be good to get out for a bit."

Doumaides chuckled and said, "Yeah, we've all endured the trials at the hands of the Vulcan Healers. Sometimes, you just gotta get away and enjoy the hometown haunts. How 'bout I come by and pick you up at nineteen-hundred and I'll show you around."

"Thanks, Corporal. I'd sure appreciate that."

"Call me Lee. Everyone does." He smiled at Kemper. "Ask Nate over here about the time I nearly got eaten by someone's pet sehlat. It's one hell of a story. See you in an hour."

After Lee left, Kemper gave Trip a look of amusement. "You know, sir, you'd make a great secret agent. Lee's already extended you an invitation at the first meeting. It took me several weeks before he took me out for a drink."

Trip only shrugged. "You gotta know how to approach 'em, Nate."

*****

The "out-of-the-way place" was a little bar near the waterfront called "O'Charley's". It was meant to be an Irish pub, with real beer taps and genuine pub grub. Trip had been in several pubs in Ireland with his brother-in-law; he knew what the real thing was supposed to be like. Unfortunately, this wasn't it.

"This is god-awful," he whispered to Doumaides. "You guys hang out here? It's worse than a Saint Patty's Day mock-up."

Doumaides chuckled and shrugged as he said, "That's the point. No one bothers us here. Think of it like some kind of gentleman's club for people like us."

"'People like us'?"

"Look around you. You don't see any 'Greenies' or 'Blueys' here, do you?"

Trip forced himself not to react to the offhand nicknames. "Greenies" were Vulcans; "Blueys" were Andorians. He scanned around to find that Doumaides was right. Every patron was Human, and one in particular caught his eye. The man was dark-haired, broad-shouldered, with the demeanor of a professional soldier. He caught Trip's scrutiny and raised his mug in salute. Trip noticed the man's smile didn't reach his eyes.

"Who's that guy?" Trip whispered.

"Ah..he comes now and then, when his ship's in port. He used to be an engineer; now he's first officer on a support ship somewhere. The brass got pissed at him when he slugged some Andorians at Jupiter Station and stuck him where he wouldn't be an embarrassment. Sharp as a whip, though, and speaks a lot with his fists. Good guy to have at your side."

"Former engineer, huh?" Trip said casually. "Mind if I go over and chat with him?"

"Go right ahead. I'll keep the stool warm for you."

Trip approached the officer, whose green eyes flickered with interest. Wordlessly, he gestured to the chair opposite him and Trip took the offered seat. Trip noticed a bottle of whiskey on the table and two glasses. If the guy was planning on drinking himself to oblivion, he wasn't doing a good job of it. The level of alcohol was still at the neck of the bottle.

"You expectin' anyone?"

The officer shrugged. "Nah. You'll do. Wanna drink? I'll pour."

"Sure." Trip watched him as he poured the whiskey into the glasses. He would have been handsome, if his mouth wasn't turned down at the corners. Trip thought of his mother saying, "Don't scowl like that; your face will freeze that way." This man's face was permanently frozen.

"Heard you got attacked by a crazy Vulcan," he said. "You all right?"

Trip gave him an annoyed look. "Everyone keeps askin' me that. I'm fine."

"Just checking. Guys over here tend to be overprotective of their buddies, especially when one of their own gets hurt." The man shrugged again and added, "I can understand the sentiment."

Trip noticed the changes over the man's face and thought, Okay, this man is pretty protective of the ones under his command. Lee said he was a first officer. You don't reach that rank without some smarts or a lot of help. Seems like a decent sort, except Lee said he doesn't like Andorians.

"Lee told me you were an engineer. I've got some interest in that area. What'd you do in your previous life?"

"You mean before I got tangled with the Andorians?" A note of bitterness crept into his tone. "Warp mechanics, mostly. I was a junior engineer on the Shenandoah."

"The Shenandoah? My brother was a consultant on their ship design."

The man grinned and Trip was startled at the transformation. "No kidding. Did a damn good job of it, too. In fact—"

That was the start of an enjoyable hour of talking about all kinds of engineering and security protocols. For a man who had been "an embarrassment" to Starfleet, he knew his business. When he'd started to lose Trip in an explanation, he didn't hesitate to backtrack and rephrase it in words Trip understood. Again, Trip thought, Starfleet's loss. This guy is brilliant. I could see him captaining his own ship someday, if he hadn't gotten into trouble.

Trip avoided mentioning the Andorians, but to his surprise, the man brought it up himself. "I've got myself a temper," he admitted. "Now, I know I should know better, but their arrogance and their ignorance...it makes me want to wipe those smirks off their faces. They're just as bad as the Vulcans, except they actually show it. I don't know which on of the two is worse."

Trip hid his grimace under a gulp of whiskey. "Seems like there are some people who don't care much for either one. Or anyone else, for that matter."

"Yeah, that's why a bunch of 'em have decided to take a stand. They want to protect what's theirs. Not just in the Consulate, but all over San Francisco. Probably all over the planet. I'm not here a good bit of the time, so I don't know much about 'em, but I try to find out as much about 'em as I can and keep in touch with the ones I've met." He leaned forward, his green eyes intense. "If you want, I could share what I've got, if you're so inclined."

Trip inclined his head, pretending to think it over. It was interesting that he'd referred to this group as "they" and "them" and not "we" and "us". If this man was a member, he wouldn't have talked about them in third-person. Which meant that there was more to him than people assumed.

That, and the look in his eyes told Trip that he wasn't as dumb as he seemed.

"Deal. I'm interested." Trip extended his hand and the man shook it. "Well, since it looks like we've got a partnership here, what's your name? I think it's rude to just say, 'hey you'."

The grimace on his face melted into a genuine smile. "Call me Jeremiah."

Four

Trip's Quarters, Enterprise


Travis blinked, then glanced at Hoshi, who had a shadowed look in her eyes. He noticed that Doctor Reed was also looking at her with an unreadable expression. Trip gazed at the captain steadily, but Hoshi's features didn't change.

T'Pol's eyebrow was up to her hairline. Vulcans weren't supposed to show emotion, but this was as close to surprise as Trip had seen her so far. "Captain Hayes? He was the mole within that organization?"

"Well, yeah, he wasn't a captain then, T'Pol." Trip sighed and shrugged. "Some of what he told me was the truth. At the time, he was a first officer, but of the Shenandoah, not some podunk support ship. He has some engineering background, but actually came up the ranks as an Armory officer. As for his temper, well—" he coughed and gave Hoshi a look of apology.

"Matt's usually pretty controlled, but when he thinks there's an injustice, he's the first to get caught in the fray," Hoshi said. "And the bit about the Andorians...it was only after Columbia's last visit to Andoria that he settled some issues with them. If I remember right, he actually volunteered for that mission, ten years ago. We weren't...together...then, but he and I had some arguments about his getting involved."

Malcolm's mouth tightened, but he only asked, "'Jeremiah'? I thought his name was Matthew."

Travis answered that question, for he'd been Matt Hayes's science officer previous to his posting as Enterprise's First Officer. "It is. Jeremiah is Captain Hayes's first name, but he usually goes by his middle name. His grandfather's name was Jeremiah and he and Matt didn't get along very well."

Malcolm nodded and addressed Hoshi again. "How long have you known Captain Hayes?"

"Twelve years. I was teaching at the United Earth Air Forces Academy, on leave from Starfleet. He's from Colorado Springs and I met him on campus. He'd done a teaching stint at their Piloting School, trying to 'instill some sense into those punk pilots'." She chuckled at the memory. "Even then, he was pretty protective of the men and women under his command."

Trip grinned. "Yeah, sounds just like him. I thought maybe he was attached to Covert Ops or something. He certainly acted like it. Anyway, the day's events weren't over yet—"

*****

March 17, 2141 Vulcan Consulate, San Francisco

They were being followed.

Trip knew it within two blocks of leaving the pub. He glanced at Nate Kemper; the MACO only nodded in agreement. Whoever it was had done it before; Trip wasn't sure just whathad tipped him off to the man's presence, only that his senses were hypersensitive. It wasn't Lee and it sure wasn't Jeremiah, but how he could tell the difference, he couldn't say. He just knew.

By tacit agreement, he and Nate took a long, circuitous route back to the Consulate. They strolled along the Marina, sampled some seafood from a dockside restaurant and chatted about the various boats moored there. Trip, with his sailing and diving background, regaled Nate with some of his more hair-raising tales from off the Florida coast. Their shadow kept up with them every step of the way.

"Ever miss Florida, Ensign?"

Trip glanced at Nate, who sat at a nearby bench. "Yeah, I suppose so. San Fran is nice, but it ain't the same. Weather's a bit too cold for my liking and the fog...brrr. I prefer the warm water of the Gulf. Nothin' quite like it, ya know."

"Yeah, I can relate. I'm from Cape Cod, and it sure isn't the same." Kemper closed his eyes and enjoyed the ocean breeze. "When we get some leave, I'm gonna take you to my sister's place and I'm going to introduce you to Maine lobster and real New England clam chowder. Not the stuff that Starfleet thinks is clam chowder."

"I'd enjoy that, and maybe you can come down to Florida and experience my momma's pan-fried catfish. Family recipe." Trip watched the shadow out of the corner of his eye and judged the distance between them. Their "friend" made sure to keep out of his and Nate's direct line-of-sight. Trip glanced at Kemper, whose right hand rested on his lap, his fingers around the grip of a tiny dart pistol.

Trip spotted a three-masted ship in a nearby berth. Its name was on the bow in green scrolled letters: Le'matya. He frowned as he stared at the lettering, trying to remember where he'd heard the word before. Le'matya. That isn't Standard English. Is it Vulcan? What's a Vulcan doing with a boat? I thought they hated the water...their planet's mostly desert...

The clouds passed over the moon and blackness engulfed the wharf. Trip felt his mind wander as he tried to remember...

*****

It was dark night, like this one, and he stared out into the gloom, hardly breathing, but every nerve was strung tightly like a harp string. The environment was unforgiving; he knew it had claimed many young lives, and he was determined not to join their number. Unfortunately, the le' matyas were numerous this season and were competing for the same prey. He picked his way across the rocky terrain and tried to control his fear, but he knew they were out there and they were looking for him. It was safer to travel by night, for the day was merciless, and many had made the mistake of sleeping at night.

A howl chilled his blood. That one sounded close, too close. He quickened his steps; perhaps if he got out of its range, it would lose interest. Or if he reached one of the stone mesas, it wouldn't follow him. His heartbeat sped up, sweat dotted his brow, but his hands and feet were steady.

The scrape of claws against stone was his only warning. Then the hunter leaped at him...

*****

"Ensign! Behind you!"

Kemper's shout broke Trip out of his daze. Another body slammed into him and knocked him backwards. He heard the sharp whine of Kemper's dart pistol, felt the man stiffen and become a dead weight. Unfortunately, they were already moving on pure momentum and Trip's feet felt nothing but air. He took a deep breath and twisted his body so he entered the water feet-first. The shock of the cold water nearly drove the air from his lungs.

Damn, I didn't realize the Pacific could be so cold! His sense of self-preservation kicked in and he began to struggle to the surface. Something made him glance below him and there, falling fast, was his attacker. Trip reversed course, diving until he reached the man and grabbed him by the collar. Although Trip was well-versed in lifesaving techniques, he realized that there was no way he'd make it to the surface with the added weight.

Then, miraculously, he felt someone else take up the slack. Trip kicked his way until his head broke the surface. He coughed, spit out water and gulped great lungfuls of air. He saw Kemper on the dock, along with some bystanders. To his great shock, one of those bystanders gazed down at him with a look of mixed chagrin and disapproval.

What the hell is Soval doing here? Trip glanced at his rescuer and found another shock. Brown hair, green eyes, and an expression that could shatter titanium.

"You get yourself into the worst situations, don't you, Ensign?" said Jonathan Archer.

*****

"I tell ya, Jon, I'm fine! Can you call the Healer off?"

"Trip, sit down and shut up." Jonathan's voice was brusque. "Doctor Ayakamura insisted on examining you, too. What the hell were you doing out at the marina? And how'd you end up in the water? You could catch pneumonia or something!" He glared at Trip and stopped Trip's complaint cold. "This is the second time in less than a week that you've ended up needing care. I swear, you attract trouble like a magnet. You're supposed to protect me and I'm the one who saves your ass."

"Hey, it wasn't my fault this time, just like the first time wasn't my fault," Trip shot back, irritated at the condescending attitude. "For your information, I actually enjoy bein' near the water, and Kemper and I were talkin' about the differences between Florida and Cape Cod, nothing earth-shattering, then this bozo comes rushin' up and tackles me and I end up in the water. He's damn lucky I decided to save his sorry hide instead of lettin' him drown!"

"And you nearly drowned trying to save him. Trip, I understand you want to save the world—"

"Dammit, the guy's a potential suspect, Jon. He tried to assault me; I didn't do anythin' to him." Trip realized he and Jon were shouting at each other at the top of their lungs. The fact hit Jon at the same time, and a chagrined smile came across the diplomat's face. "'Sides, what were you and Soval doin' at the marina? Vulcans don't hang around the water...or so I was led to believe."

"We were on our way back to the Consulate from a dinner at the Rofarions' Consulate. For some reason, Soval told the driver to take the long way around. I didn't understand why, and he didn't tell me. Then we hear an alert from the marina guard and since we were close by, we decided to see if we could help. I got there just in time to see you fall over the edge of the dock and I dove in after you." Jon chuckled to himself. "Thank God I still play in San Fran's water polo league. Anyway, I saw you were in trouble and...the rest you know."

Trip blinked. "Wait a minute. Soval made the diversion?"

"Yeah. It thought it was out of character for him, but he must have sensed something was wrong and came charging to the rescue. At least, as much as a Vulcan would, anyway. It was fortunate that he did; we could have lost you."

Trip shook his head and replayed the incident in his mind. There was something nagging at him, like a sore tooth, something that happened just before the attack. Something had warned him, made him aware of his surroundings, more than his usual sharp senses could convey. What had it been? It was like a memory, just floating out of reach...

Memory. He sat up bolt upright. That's it. Some kind of memory, but...he frowned as he realized, Wait a minute...it can't be my memory. I've walked in the Australian Outback before at night, but not like that. And what I felt and saw and heard...it's all wrong. If it ain't mine, then whose is it?

"Trip?" Jonathan turned from furious to concerned in a blink of an eye. "What is it? What's wrong?"

He clasped his hands together to keep them from shaking. "Jon, where's Soval? I've gotta talk to him. It's kinda urgent—"

A calm voice made both of them look at the doorway. "Ensign Tucker," said Ambassador Soval. Although the Vulcan's face was calm, there was strain in his eyes. Strain and something else that Trip had never seen before in a Vulcan.

Fear. What's he scared of? He can't be scared of me, can he?

And a ghost of a smile flittered across Soval's lips, as if Soval had heard his thoughts. "Ensign Tucker—Trip—I must speak with you. I believe I have something here—" he tapped his temple with a slender finger, "—that may belong to you."

*****

Trip's Quarters, Enterprise

Silence fell over the listeners in Trip's cabin. No one even moved for a long minute. Then T'Pol stared at Trip with that "putting-it-together" expression of hers and said, "Bleedthrough."

Malcolm raised his eyebrows and said, "Certain Humans are particularly esper-sensitive, but it's not the norm. Lieutenant Commander—Trip--I assume you were given the standard tests when you entered Starfleet?"

"Sure was, Doc. I tested out normal. That was why we were all flabbergasted at how the hell it happened." Trip glanced at Jon, who shrugged. "Jon, didn't one of the Healers—T'Inya, I think it was—think proximity had somethin' to do with it?"

Jon nodded and addressed both Malcolm and Phlox in particular. Both men looked interested in the possibility. "That's her theory. I think a good bit of it is just learning to read people. The more you work with someone, the better you know their habits and quirks. But to the point where it actually changes your brain chemistry? Maybe, but there isn't any actual proof."

Malcolm had a gleam in his eye, one that Trip had seen before. He sighed and gave the doctor a weak smile. "Lemme guess. Sometime soon, you want me in Sickbay and hooked up to some of your brain scannin' stuff."

"I assure you, it won't hurt a bit, Trip. It may give you a bit of a tickle, though—"

Trip groaned as the others laughed. "That makes me feel so much better, Doc. Anyway, what happened next might give ya some basis for your theory..."

*****

March 17/18, 2141, Vulcan Consulate, San Francisco

Soval exercised ambassadorial prerogative and ordered the room closed to everyone, save Jon Archer, Doctor T'Inya, Doctor Ayakamura, and Major T'Lydya. Nate Kemper insisted on staying, and Trip refused to do anything without his presence, so Soval relented. It was close to midnight when everything was settled.

"Nathan, Jonathan, please be vigilant," Soval said. "If there is any sign of distress, assist the doctors. Major T'Lydya, I understand you are well-versed in the traditional mental techniques?"

T'Lydya nodded and replied, "Yes, Ambassador, I am."

"Very well. Will you serve as Ensign Tucker's 'ground' while Doctor T'Inya will serve as mine?"

"Certainly, Ambassador." The major moved over to Trip' side and gave him a look of reassurance. The cold expression had completely melted, and she used the same tone she'd used to talk to T'Saiya. "Do not worry, Ensign. This will be resolved momentarily."

"No offense, Major, but I'll be glad to get this resolved as soon as possible. This thing makes me nervous as all get-out."

She nodded. "That is understandable."

Soval addressed Trip again. "Use whatever techniques you know to calm yourself. I will attempt to join your mind."

"Okay." He closed his eyes and went through the calming exercises he'd learned when he was in the aikido dojo. Breathe in, breathe out, from your center. Be rooted, like the ancient tree. Focus your concentration inward...

"Trip, open your eyes for a moment."

He did and was puzzled at Soval's strange expression. "What's wrong?"

"In your security training, were you taught how to withstand mental coercion?"

"Um...somewhat, but it probably wouldn't hold out long against someone a lot stronger than I am," he admitted. "Is there a problem?"

Soval gazed at him with (for a Vulcan) a perplexed expression. "I am having difficulty gaining access to your thoughts. We will have to take a different approach." He glanced at Jon. "Jonathan, talk to him. Trip, focus on his voice."

Jon frowned and asked, "What should I say?"

"Anything. Tell him a tale, perhaps."

"Okay." Jon nodded at Trip, who closed his eyes again. "Let me tell you about my dad, and his dream to go among the stars...he studied aerospace engineering at Virginia Tech and then at MIT. He was interested in the past to shape the future; he didn't care about cultural barriers, really, so when the Vulcans offered to share their information, he jumped at the chance. I suppose he approached engineering and ship-building like a religion...with respect and reverence, no matter where it came from..."

Trip could see that. As Jon described his father, Trip heard the awe and hero-worship in the diplomat's voice. He had actually met the venerable Henry Archer once, at a lecture at the University of Florida, and he had been practically tongue-tied as he had shook Archer's hand. In fact, Trip had considered switching his concentration from security to engineering right there. Then Henry Archer had said something that made an impression on him:

"Engineers aren't a dime a dozen, Charles, but good Security officers are even rarer. A Security officer with a decent engineering background is almost impossible to find. You need to be well-rounded, Charles. It will benefit you greatly in the future."

And of course, Archer had been right. Trip used his engineering background in good stead in weapons and defense development. Many of the design engineers he worked with lacked the real-life, practical applications of their inventions. The security officers lacked the understanding of the workings of their firearms. "As long as it works," was the general attitude.

Trip snorted in derision, and the unseen observer agreed with him. Such thoughts were short-sighted and caused more harm than good. Closed minds, closed hearts. The ancient Vulcan maxim floated to the surface of his thoughts. How many Vulcans had chosen to ignore such practical wisdom?

The mental picture changed. Trip was once again in the desert, but he wasn't a young child watching out for dangerous le'matyas. He was older, an adult, and he stood in a stone pavilion, with his family behind him, standing across from a woman wearing a nearly transparent gown and a veil, and between them the Vulcan priestess—

Trip felt a surge of heat through his blood as he gazed at the woman, T'Rhea, her name was; gazed upon her like a hungry dog would stare at a juicy bone. He could feel her response...and suddenly, Trip identified what had caused T'Saiya to "go crazy", and why Jon had been adamant that T'Saiya not touch him...

This is a private thing among Vulcans. Outworlders should not know about this, the observer said with a tinge of embarrassment and unease. This is a Time when logic fails us, and the basest of emotions overwhelm us. It is considered...distasteful, but it is the price we pay for suppressing our emotions.

If y'all didn't suppress 'em, you wouldn't have to go through this, Trip retorted, as another pleasurable shiver went through him.

Emotions are not logical.

The hell they aren't. If ya'll dig deep enough, they have their own kind of logic.


A spark of reluctant curiosity, then the mental landscape changed again. Can you explain this to me, then? A mist came over them, with the unmistakable tang of the sea. Trip found himself on a boat in the Gulf, taking watch at the wheel. He knew this place, and knew what was going to happen...and he felt the sharp surge of fear.

Oh no, no, not this. Oh God, not this. I wouldn't want anyone to experience this memory...

I don't understand this...this frightens me, Trip. I don't understand...

*****

There was a sharp shriek at the stern of the boat and his heart froze at the anguished sound. Lizzie! Oh my God, what is she doin' awake? His training kicked in and he screamed at the top of his lungs, "Woman overboard! Woman overboard!"

Another cry, this time from his mother. "Lizzie slipped and fell overboard! I can't see her!"

Trip's hands tightened on the wheel. He wanted to charge into the Gulf and search for Lizzie, but his post was at the wheel, at the helm. His heart was torn in two. What to do?

"Honey, where are you? We can't see you!"

"I'm here, Momma! I'm here! The water's so cold, Momma! I'm tryin' to tread water, but it's so cold and I'm so tired!"

"Keep callin' so we can find ya! Alexandra, throw a life preserver in her direction." Charles Tucker Junior, Trip's father, shouted back in a calm voice. Trip heard the suppressed terror; his youngest daughter was somewhere out there, in the darkness, and although she was a good swimmer, an eight-year-old wouldn't last long in the freezing water...

"Yes, Daddy." Alexandra Tucker, Trip's older sister, seized a life preserver, listened for Lizzie's cries, then threw it in her sister's direction. "Lizzie, swim for it!"

"Where is it, Alex? I can't see it!"

Lizzie yelled and screamed at the top of her lungs. Trip closed his eyes to hear better. Wait a minute...there, to starboard, to the right, was that—?

A bright light erupted from the starboard side of the family boat. "There she is!" cried Alex. She pointed at an area lit by the cone of the searchlight. "She's over there! I can just make out her life jacket—"

"Momma, Daddy, hurry!" Lizzie shrieked.

"Calm down, we can see you," Alex called out. "Look to your left; there's the life preserver. Can you get to it?"

"I'll-I'll try, Alex. My arms and legs are goin numb..."

Charles hollered up to Trip at the helm. "Twenty degrees starboard, son! Take it nice and slow! We gotta get to her, and you're the one to do it!"

"Yes, sir!" Trip shouted back. He fired up the engines, glad for its steady hum, and slowly turned the wheel in the direction his father indicated. Under his steady hand, the boat crept through the darkness towards his sister...

"Okay, son, full stop!"

"Full stop, aye!" Trip cut the engine.

The next thirty minutes passed in a blur. Charles and Trip's younger brother Eddie fished a soaked and shivering Lizzie out of the water. They immediately took her below and into a warm bath to bring up her body temperature, then Elaine Tucker dressed her in warm, dry clothes and bundled her up in blankets. Alexandra heated some hot cocoa in mugs and passed them to her brothers, sister, mother and father.

The entire time, Trip didn't leave his post at the helm. Alex pressed the mug into his hands and said, "Go below, Trip. I'll take care of things up here. Go on, Lizzie needs you." He didn't have to be told twice. He flew down the narrow stairs to the lower deck and sprinted toward the cabin that Lizzie and Alex shared in the aft section of the boat.

Lizzie sat in her bunk, her eyes wide with drowsiness, clutching the blankets all around her. Elaine and Charles sat on either side of her. Charles smiled as he saw Trip and he whispered, "Lizzie, Trip's here."

Lizzie sniffled and said, "I'm sorry, I—"

"S'okay, Lizzie. I'm just glad you're all right." Trip sat down, put his mug on the night table and gripped his sister's hands. "What were ya doin' up, anyway?"

"I couldn't sleep and I wanted to see what ya were doin'," Lizzie murmured. She was fading fast, now that the adrenalin rush was over. "I musta slipped and fell over the railin'...I didn't mean—"

"Things happen. S'okay. Just get some rest, Lizzie. We can talk in the mornin'."

Her voice was little more than a sigh. "Okay, Trip." Then just before she fell asleep, she murmured, "Thanks for rescuin' me."

"You'd do the same f'me," Trip whispered back.

Eventually, Alex and Eddie came in to watch Lizzie so their parents could get some well-deserved rest, but Trip never left his sister's side. In fact, he fell asleep there, holding her hands.

*****

There ain't nothin' to explain,
Trip told the unseen observer.

You could have rushed to your sister's aid, yet you did not, the voice said, a tinge of respect and understanding in his voice. Most Humans I know would have done so immediately.

He gave another mental snort at the image of Jonathan Archer, diving off the pier to save Trip's life. Not that I didn't want to, and not that I didn't think about it. I wanted to dive in and save Lizzie. She's my sister. But I couldn't leave the wheel unattended. Someone had to steer the ship to get to her. I helped rescue her too, just in a different way.

Family means so much to you, does it not?


Trip swallowed a lump in his throat. Yeah.

I understand now. Yes, there is an elegant...logic in the emotions you felt at the time. Thank you for such a valuable gift, Trip. I understand.


He was stunned. Soval considered this, one of his worst memories, as a gift? Then he realized that this provided Soval some insight into Human behavior. Soval's memory of the marriage ceremony helped explain T'Saiya's "attack" on him, and the "desert memory" had been a test, a test that he now better understood. The inadvertent memory transfer had been a blessing, in a roundabout way.

You're welcome. And thanks for the "gifts" in kind.

*****

Slowly, Trip became aware of the "real" world. Major T'Lydya dropped her hand from Trip's face as Doctor T'Inya did the same for Soval. Trip suddenly felt the tears coursing down his cheeks; he reached up and scrubbed at them. As his vision cleared, he saw the Jon was crying too, and Nate looked somewhat stricken, and Trip wondered just how much he'd said aloud while in the meld.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, turned and saw T'Lydya with compassion in her eyes. She did not cry, but the dark amber-gold eyes had lost their hard edge. Trip felt a warm wave of reassurance flow from her into him, and it eased the heartache somewhat.

"Are you uninjured, Trip?"

He nodded, noticing that Soval had called him by his name, not his rank. "Yeah, I'm okay. Wow, if that's what you got from me, no wonder you were confused."

A hint of a smile passed over Soval's lips. He looked like he'd aged ten years in a half an hour, but there was a sense of peace that hadn't been there before. "It was...puzzling, but it was also quite...enlightening. We should both rest, Trip. There are important issues that we must address in the morning."

Trip nodded and yawned. T'Lydya helped him lie down on the cot. By the time the others had left the room, he was already fast asleep, and dreaming of a planet with red deserts.

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October 2012

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