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"FAITH OF THE HEART"
By Alison M. DOBELL
SUMMARY": "When members of the crew go suddenly missing, Captain Archer finds the only witness is unable to tell them anything. Lt Reed takes it upon himself to turn detective."
* * * * *
It was hard. The most difficult thing she had ever done. Yet Sub-Commander T'Pol carried herself with a grace and detachment that drew grudging respect from Captain Vornak. He found himself curious not only about the Sub-Commander but also about her time aboard Enterprise. An earth star ship of all things. Why High Command had ever sanctioned such a display of idiocy was beyond him yet in saner moments he could concede there was wisdom to be had in keeping a close eye on the Humans. Such an impatient volatile race. Ruled by passions that caused endless dysfunction to their Vulcan elders.
The meal was eaten in silence. Calm permeated the table. Captain Vornak kept his attention on his food. Eating judiciously, only the occasional glance at T'Pol indicated any awareness of her presence. Lieutenant Rolrak was less restrained, a clear curiosity sparking in his solemn eyes. T'Pol ignored them both, using the time to meditate and center herself as best she could. Her mind in such turmoil. Her heart in pieces so small that dust particles would seem like mountains next to them. No more tears. No more sorrow. No more anything. As she finished her salad it was a rude shock to hear the
"Sub-Commander T'Pol, I am curious. How long were you aboard the earth
*Not long enough* thought T'Pol dryly. "Eight months, Captain."
He gave a look of distaste. "How did you bear the smell?"
Her look was flat, emotionless. "The doctor gave me nasal suppressors."
"Still, it must have been most uncomfortable for you." Said Lieutenant Rolrak politely.
"It is no doubt a relief for you to be back on a Vulcan vessel." Pressed the lieutenant. "Soon you will return to Vulcan and be able to immerse yourself back into our society. See your family. Attend to duty."
Duty. She felt a fierce burn of anger at the assumption that her time aboard Enterprise had been some kind of folly, a distraction not worthy of note. Duty indeed. When she said nothing Captain Vornak flicked a hand for the table to be cleared and waited while sparkling water was placed on the table. A bowl of exotic Vulcan fruits was placed in the center of the table. He then selected a fruit and carefully sliced an inner section from it which he dropped in his glass with the tongs provided. T'Pol watched him add water from the glass pitcher. She followed suit then Lt Rolrak did the same. The fruit flavoured the sparkling water in a most delicious and delicate manner. It helped to soothe her nerves but not her heart.
"You have nothing to say of duty?" Said the Captain.
"What would you have me say? I was ordered to serve aboard Enterprise as the science officer and did so."
"You do not seem happy to have left."
For a moment she just froze. Her reaction seemed curious to Lt Rolrak who decided to watch her more carefully. After a few moments T'Pol answered. "To my surprise I found myself becoming accustomed to the Human capacity for 'socialising'. Their constant need to interact with one another whether in verbal exchanges or the sharing of chores. What at first seemed clumsy and vulgar took on new meaning."
The Captain frowned, not liking the sound of that. "New meaning?"
T'Pol stiffened slightly. She had not meant to say that last sentence out loud. She must be more careful. "Yes. Humans have a unique if chaotic culture. There are fine points to their emotional bias that show them to be far more subtle that previously expected. Showing their feelings can also be an effective way to mask them."
Captain Vornak frowned. "Explain."
"Sometimes, when a human is upset he or she will act with false cheer to hide that fact."
She shook her head. "No. You misunderstand. Humans do this to hide their hurt, their pain. To retreat from a sadness otherwise shared."
Lieutenant Rolrak was fascinated. "Unless I am mistaken you appear to have become quite enamoured of their culture, Sub-Commander."
*If you only knew how much, you would not allow me to sit at the same table let alone eat with you* "I merely observed in order to better understand them."
"And did you understand them, Sub-Commander?" Asked the Captain mildly.
"Yes, though I would not presume to understand them fully. After all, they are not Vulcan."
"They did not. Enterprise only returned fire after being attacked
Captain Vornak's eyebrows rose slowly. A look of stern disbelief on his face. "Why do you lie for them?"
"I do not lie. The Romulan vessel appeared and stated we were in Romulan space. Captain Archer asked me if this was true, I told him it was not. It was at this point that the Romulan vessel opened fire."
"There is no reason for the Romulans to attack an earth vessel. I find your account flawed and can only conclude that your judgment has been affected by prolonged proximity to humans."
"The Romulan vessel appeared to come out of nowhere. The Captain deduced - correctly - that it must have been cloaked. The unexpected attack rendered the hull plating inoperable and repeated attacks disabled the Enterprise's weapons and propulsion."
"What Captain Archer called 'dead in the water'?" Queried Captain Vornak.
"A colourful but accurate phrase."
"Captain Archer also claimed the Romulan vessel then left."
"That is correct, Captain."
Captain Vornak and Lt Rolrak exchanged a look. The last assertion more damning than the rest.
* * * * *
Dr Phlox was concerned. The appearance of a very upset Commander and a distressed Lt Hess made him anxious on more than one level. Something infinitely patient stirred and uncoiled in his consciousness. So subtle he did not notice it on anything but the most tenuous of levels. He only went to Lieutenant Hess first because the Commander insisted. The Denobulan gave the engineer a nod and examined the lieutenant gently, his murmured speech falling on ears that struggled to follow the words he uttered with such soothing calm.
"Lieutenant," Said the doctor gently. "Describe your dream."
She began to resist until Commander Tucker touched her arm, their eyes meeting and sharing different traumas but the same kind of pain. Suddenly she understood. Instinctively gave up her struggle for his sake. He noticed and felt strangely moved. As if given a gift he could not afford. Dr Phlox listened in silence, all the while checking her vital signs and doing a thorough but not intrusive examination. When she finished he spoke so mildly that she had already started answering his questions before her brain caught up with the details.
"Why do you think you were raped?"
"I could feel it. The penetration. The fear of being immoblised. The brutality." She shuddered and dislodged more tears which fell like wet diamonds from her eyes. As she spoke the Commander trembled, little shocks skittering along his nerve endings like prompts to memories buried so deep no one would ever find them. Only he could dig that deep and only on this level. The lieutenantís recall was sparking one of his own. The pain of it like nails driven deep pinning his body and soul to someone else's cross. *T'Pol!*
The revelation did not so much surprise him as add to his trauma. Gone, she was gone. Had left him. And now Lieutenant Hess was turning the key in a very twisted lock. The contents still hidden from him though their effect was not. He felt as if he were being slowly crucified. It took willpower and effort to remain where he was. To give Lieutenant Hess the support of his physical presence when inside his mind was screaming in agony. Dr. Phlox gave him a swift anxious look then hurriedly got back to Lieutenant Hess. The sooner he completed his preliminary exam of her the sooner he could get to treating the Commander. The lieutenant's eyes had grown very round, her whole intent fixed on a point just passed Trip's shoulder. He did not turn around to look. If he did he could not guarantee that he would not keep walking. Dr. Phlox spoke gently to her. "What do you recall now?"
She was shaking her head. Heartbeat as erratic as hell. "Not recall, *see*."
The doctor was puzzled. "See? What do you see?"
She turned her head slowly and fixed bright burning eyes on his. The intensity almost burned his multiple retinas. "They know we are here."
Dr Phlox felt a chill touch his heart. "Who know we are here?"
As if he was forgotten, Lt Hess turned and looked at Trip. The Commander could not move. He felt a crushing weight constricting the very beat of his heart. *T'Pol. Oh God, don't let anythin' happen to T'Pol!*
"They are coming." She whispered to him.
It was like seeing something durable crack. A hairline fracture at first, so fine that the eye doubts it is really there. As Dr Phlox watched the Commander's face he realised he was going into deep shock. Quickly he grabbed a loaded hypospray and pressed it to his neck, injecting straight into the jugular. There was an oddly soft strangled sound from the Commander. Then, before the doctor could catch him, he simply crumpled to the ground. Dr Phlox felt a moment of panic then calm flooded into his mind. He knelt next to the unconscious man and laid a hand on his forehead and closed his eyes. His hand began to glow, a bioluminescent pulse that brightened to fade so that it could brighten again. Like a heartbeat of light it throbbed gently but persistently, calming the erratic human heartbeat before joining with it and leaving the doctor feeling content but strangely bereft. As if a part of him that had become precious was now no more than an echo of what was. Not even a memory.
* * * * *
Dr. Lerik went to his quarters and locked the door. The information they had gleaned as they fled the planet surface had first alarmed then illuminated him. With that understanding came the knowledge that they had been inadvertently handed a unique opportunity. But was the information correct? Could it be trusted? Even though he had witnessed some of it with his own eyes he was not sure he could trust what he had seen. The doctor schooled himself then bathed carefully before drying off and donning his meditation robe. Not all of his colleagues were in favour of his proposal but the doctor knew the pace of change was building up speed and if they did not take control of it now they would be unable to predict the outcome let alone manipulate it. He lit the candle and settled on his cushion, breathing evening out then going deeper and deeper as he triggered the meditative trance state. The Vulcan equivalent of Zen skinny dipping. In some things Humans and Vulcans had more in common than he could know.
* * * * *
Commander Tucker was unconscious and lying on a biobed in sickbay. Lieutenant Hess sat on the bed next to him feeling guilty. This was her fault. She had monopolised his time and weighed him down with her foolish nightmares while the Commander was deep in grief over the loss of the Sub-Commander. She hung her head and bit back tears. A happy humming sound alerted her to the return of Dr. Phlox. He smiled at her and spoke in his cheerful bouncy manner, his eyes the only calm and steady thing about him.
"I am glad to see you looking rested, Lieutenant."
She glanced at him. Grateful for his help but feeling somehow as if she was unworthy. "I did this, didn't I doctor?"
His countenance clouded slightly. "What did you do, Lieutenant Hess?"
She nodded towards the inert Commander. "The Commander would have been alright if he hadn't been babysitting me."
The doctor shook his head, moving round to check the Commander's biosigns but keeping a close eye on the lieutenant as well. "Nonsense, if anything you helped him."
"Helped him how? By getting him interred in sickbay with me?"
To her consternation Dr Phlox chuckled lightly. Her frown deepened as he tempered his mirth. The lieutenant was right. This was hardly a laughing matter yet the blame did not belong on her shoulders. He often marveled at the human capacity to apportion blame to themselves when none was necessary. Sometimes bad things happened. "Commander Tucker is suffering exceptional grief over the recall of the Sub-Commander to Vulcan. You caused him a welcome if unlooked for distraction. Your *nightmare* helped to ease his concern for the Sub-Commander by invoking concern for you."
She looked doubtful. A look of sorrow on her face as she regarded the Commander's sleeping form. "Can you help him?"
"Are you not more concerned with whether I can help you?" He asked gently.
Lt Hess took a deep breath. As she slowly let the breath out she found her priorities had changed. She shook her head. "No. Nightmares I can handle. I'm not sure how I would cope with the loss of a loved one." Her voice tailed off sadly. Her mood introspective.
"Lieutenant, Sub-Commander T'Pol is not dead and if there is one thing I have learnt about the Commander it is that he is not one to give up easily."
She fastened him with an intense look. "The Sub-Commander has returned to the Vulcan home world, doctor."
"I am well aware of that."
"What can he possibly do to alter that?"
The doctor gave both humans a fond look. "Never underestimate the ability of the human spirit to rise above whatever obstacles are set before it." He paused. "Now. About those nightmares of yours...."
* * * * *
He was dreaming he had to be. Yet the images had a reality to them that was so vivid they confused him. Pain was etched in red, burning like coals in his mind, the flames licking at his subconscious as his heart cried out for what was lost. Something incredibly gentle stole through his broken heart, easing the pain though it did not diminish. It was an odd contradiction that never penetrated his traumatised thoughts. Was simply accepted. He felt a gentle wash of love, his mind crying out. Something even more generous than he was mopping up the tears. His heart expanding to encompass everything he was, all he could be, everything he could offer on the altar of his love. Any gift. Any suffering embraced willingly if it would only bring her back to him. Tears were his only comfort. Waking his downfall. So he slept in the deep chasm of longing that strived to draw body and soul together beyond the reach of pain.
At first he was alone. The yawning abyss of separation a real agony he could not span. Gradually he became aware that someone was talking. So far away. Muffled and indistinct yet his heart began to beat faster. His senses amplified while his mind wondered what was happening. It seemed to him he recognised the calm cadence of the voice. His heart missed a beat. A frantic joy beat at the walls of his heart demanding to be let in. This had to be a dream. A beautiful, delicious dream. *T'Pol?*
His awed mention of her name stunned the rare creature of his choice and
He wept. *I've missed ya so much...*
*Are you well, beloved?*
*I am now*
He felt her concern and hurried to reassure her.
*I am uninjured, darlin'. Just missin' ya."
*As I miss you*
*Where are ya?*
*On the way back to Vulcan*
*Are ya sleepin'?*
A pause, then slow thoughts percolated back to him as if she was trying to work out how it could be possible. *No. I am awake*
That excited him. Tremors going through his body which he tried to subdue. This could after all be just a dream. *We've never done this before. I didn't think it was possible*
*Nor I* A longer pause. *Are you awake?*
*Nah, the doc jumped me with a hypospray*
She sounded alarmed. *You are in sickbay?*
He chuckled. A beautiful slide of humor that caressed her starved mind and fed hope to her flagging heart. *Yeah*
*You said you were uninjured*
His mind smiled at the gentle reproof. *I had to bring Lieutenant Hess to see the doc. She's been having terrible nightmares. Worse even than the ones we were having'*
*You must tell him*
*Something is very wrong*
She felt him sigh. *I know darlin', this separation is killing' me too.*
"The fever... The pun far..."
He picked up the creeping panic in her thoughts. "Is under control for now." He soothed gently.
*The nightmares are the key*
*The key to what?*
She answered him with another question. *Did the lieutenant confide her nightmares to you?*
*Tell me about them*
He hesitated. Suddenly reluctant. *T'Pol. Honey. This isn't the time or place...*
*There is only now, beloved* She cautioned him gently.
He was about to acquiesce when his mind shuddered. Waves of darkness ripped through the distant meld. Pain sparkled in his brain with empathic resonance. He shook as if electrocuted then a moment of respite allowed his shocked lungs to replenish lost air. *T'Pol? Are ya alright? What the hell happened?*
Her thoughts sounded calm but fragmented. Like a connection losing power. *We are under attack*
Attack? *Who the hell is attacking ya?*
A long pause. *The Romulans*
* * * * *
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Three people have made comments
I love it!!!!!!!! T'Pol and Trip sound very much in character
Just when I think the story might be winding down, you present us with more layers to unfold. Just amazing. I look forward to the next chapter. I've had to print the stories from the beginning so I could go back and keep straight all the complexities. I don't know how you do it.
Oh WOW!!! Totally WOW!!!
As Classic said just as you think you are on the downswing the coaster starts climbing a very steep incline!