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By Alison M. DOBELL
SUMMARY: "Trip and Malcolm learn more about the Zenari and wish they hadn't. Sub-Commander T'Pol is getting more and more anxious about the crew trapped on Zeon."
The Chief Engineer stared at Dr Phlox. Mouth hanging open, a look of utter amazement on his face. Lt.. Reed recovered first. "Just how old are you?"
Impossibly the weakened doctor chuckled. Weary though he was it heartened Trip to hear it. "Let's just say myself and the Sub-Commander could have shared a creche."
"Okay," Said Trip slowly. "Then how old is T'Pol?"
The chuckle became a light laugh which tapered off into a fit of painful coughing. The Commander felt guilty being the cause of it but the Denobulan would not let him take the blame. "Relax, Commander."
"Trip. It wasn't your fault, I just forgot myself for a moment."
"I still can't believe ya spent 18 years studying for this moment."
"Not exactly *this* moment but certainly this contingency."
Lt Reed interrupted, his eyes bright. "Doctor, for what you say to have merit you had to have known the future actions of these people. Which means..."
"Enough to say you are on the right lines, Malcolm." Cut in Dr. Phlox quickly.
The Lieutenant frowned then realised he was trying to prevent him saying too much. He nodded in understanding. Wished there were some way the three of them could speak more freely. A thought occurred to Trip. "How are you and the Sub-Commander supposed to help us?"
"Every ship needs a doctor and if I do say so myself you won't find another doctor so highly qualified."
Trip frowned, that was not what he meant and they all knew it. He sucked his bottom lip. "An' T'Pol?"
"A little logic goes a long way, Commander."
He was about to correct the Denobulan again about using his nickname when he caught the expression on his friend's face and nodded instead. He wondered if there was a hidden camera on them as well as a listening device. Wished he could find it and rip it the hell out so they could formulate a plan without being overheard. The doctor seemed to divine what he was thinking. "I am feeling exceptionally tired, gentlemen. Normally I would meditate with the Sub-Commander but she is not here. I cannot sleep properly without meditating."
Trip picked up on the hint. "Perhaps I can help ya?"
"That would be most appreciated, Trip."
Dr Phlox looked at Lt. Reed. "Perhaps you would benefit also?"
Lt. Reed nodded carefully. "Just tell me what to do."
The doctor directed them to breathe deeply, letting their breaths fall into natural synch while Lt. Reed placed one hand on the top of Trip's head and the other lightly on the top of the doctor's.
"That's it, you're doing fine. Try to leave your worry and anxiety behind you. Clear your minds and breathe with me..."
They did and in short order found themselves quickly drifting into a very deep state of meditative trance. Dr. Phlox carefully guided them and took them deeper and deeper until they reached what he called a *safe place*. The *inner sanctum*. They could not see, touch or taste anything and there was no sense of smell. But they could hear and that was all they needed.
*Now doc, what the hell is going on?*
*The reason myself and the Sub-Commander prepared for this day is because of what we found out while working within the Vulcan Science Directorate almost twenty years ago*
*Your pardon* Thought Lt Reed. *You were in the Vulcan Science Directorate?*
*Of course. Due to my expertise gained from my time spent on the Vulcan homeworld and the fact that I am both well traveled and conversant in many cultures, I was deemed to be an asset which would be most useful*
*In what way?*
*This is neither the time or the place to go into that, Lieutenant*
*Yeah Malcolm, don't get sidetracked - remember?*
*What can you tell us?*
*Sub-Commander T'Pol and certain other colleagues within the Directorate had long suspected the truth about time travel. We were faced with concrete proof in the most dramatic way. The information that coded source provided shook the pillars of Vulcan intelligence to the core but even faced with such evidence many Vulcans still would not believe it. The official denial has remained Vulcan policy to this very day*
*I don't understand* Said Trip. *Where's the logic in denyin' the truth?*
*It isn't a case of logic Trip but fear*
*The majority of Vulcans went into denial for a reason. The truth was too bitter a pill to take. It would have turned Vulcan society on its' head and sent the homeworld into a state of panic*
*Because of the Romulan problem*
*Ya mean what happened at first contact?*
There was a long weighty pause. *No*
*First contact was the current dilemma leading to your predicament*
*That doesn't make sense, doc. We have nothin' to do with what the Vulcans did nearly 100 years ago*
*Nevertheless the two incidents are connected*
*The folding of the time line*
*You have heard of superstring and the folding of space?*
*And that affects us how?*
*We are in the Delphic Expanse. What I referred to earlier as a kind of sticky cobweb. This cobweb has holes in it. It is not uniform and it has many peculiarities*
Lt Reed was getting an uncomfortable feeling in his gut. *What sort of peculiarities?*
*Suffice it to say that if it were possible to navigate we could master the intricacies of time travel and instantaneous bi-location*
*Are ya sayin' what I think you're sayin'?*
*Yes, Trip. Imagine having the ability to go anywhere in a split second simply by willing it to be so*
*That's what the Zenari have accomplished*
Lt Reed's thought sounded strained. *That's how they got to all those locations in time and space to create those disasters?*
*Yes. It may have looked random to an outsider but there was a very clear methodology*
*Which was?* Asked Trip.
*They were practising. Using species and settlements with no direct correlation to each other to experiment and perfect their future plans*
*So you're sayin' they screwed up the past in order to screw up the future?*
*That's what I said* he paused. *How does this help us now?*
*The Zenari are wary of Humans*
*Why? We're the new kids on the block an' it's not as if we have any tricks up our sleeves to dazzle the natives*
*It is not your tricks that concern them*
*It is the application of your DNA*
*What about our DNA?* Asked a cautious Lt Reed.
*It has a profound application when in contact with certain other species*
*I don't follow*
*The Zenari want to keep those species apart*
*They want to isolate the Human Race because of our biological potential?*
*That is an excellent way of putting it, Lieutenant, and what better way to totally isolate Humanity than by wiping it out?*
*Holy shit! That's what this is all about isn't it?*
*I'm afraid I don't quite agree. If it were that simple we would already be dead.*
Silence. Lt Reed tried again.
*Doctor? Is that or is that not so?*
*It is accurate as far as it goes.* He agreed reluctantly.
*Well stop making us bleed for every word, doc, just spit it out*
*There is more than the Human Race at stake gentlemen,*
* * * * *
Captain Jonathan Archer looked at the way Ensign Hoshi Sato was fidgeting. Her eyes flicking up to lock on his almost fearfully. Ensign Travis Mayweather stood next to her, a very visible and solid support mechanism. The Captain schooled his features into one of concern. "Ensign Sato, what's wrong?"
"Captain, I'm sorry to bother you. I know how busy you are and how crazy things have been..."
He cut her off. "Just tell me what it is. Maybe I can help?"
"Yes, sir. I know this may sound silly but I went down to sickbay to get something for a blinding headache when I saw the doctor..." She trailed off as a feeling of nausea assailed her. She closed her eyes and fought to retain her equilibrium. The Captain leaned forward in his chair.
"Ensign? Are you ill? Can I get you anything? A glass of water perhaps?"
She opened her eyes and shook her head carefully, feeling embarrassed for making such a fuss. "I'm sorry Captain it's just that when I saw the doctor he was.... he was...."
Her voice trailed off helplessly. "Go on, Ensign, he was what?"
She made a face. "Eating his bat."
The Captain stared at her. "What?"
"He was eating his bat. I know because he had his mouth open as he chewed, as if he wanted me to see the fur and hear the bones crack. It was horrible."
"I imagine it was." The Captain paused and stared at her for a moment. "What do you wish me to do?"
Now that it came to it she felt utterly foolish. "Nothing, sir, I just thought you should know."
"I am sure there must be a perfectly logical explanation, Ensign, and when I can think of it I'll tell you."
That produced a weak forced smile. She knew he was trying to cheer her up, make light of it, but it did not help. Hoshi got up. "Thank you for listening, sir."
"Was that all, Ensign?"
"Yes, Captain. To be honest it creeped me out. I needed to talk about it with someone."
"I'm glad you did. Do you want to lie down for a while?"
"No, sir, thank you sir. I already feel much better and me and Travis will be back on duty shortly."
"As long as you're sure?"
"Yes sir, thank you sir."
He watched them leave with a thoughtful expression on his face. His look lingered on Travis, something about the young man's demeanour bothering him. Once he was alone the shade disassociated from the Captain's body to contact the Ambassador. Captain Archer sat slumped in his seat, eyes closed, body too weary to stay awake without the alien stimulus of the shade. Ran Tok descended through the floors of Enterprise, his shade turned clear so as not to attract attention. Through the deep vaults of space he changed back into his cloudy column of darkness and drifted down through the ceiling of the Audience Chamber to take his place on the empty dais. Ambassador Chot was waiting. Eternally patient. As the column semi-solidified the Master at Arms bowed. "Ambassador."
"Ran Tok, you have news?"
"The Captain does not suspect but neither does he know what we seek. I could find no trace of the Commander's shade. The Vulcan must have destroyed it, Excellency."
"There is something else. A small thing perhaps."
"There is an Ensign, Ensign Travis Mayweather. I could detect no detail from his thoughts but he seemed particularly alert and wary. He watched the Captain very closely."
"I do not know, Excellency. It may simply be that he is not happy with his Captain but I sense it was something more."
"Then you must return and continue your surveillance."
"For how long, Excellency?"
"Until we are able to give them what they want."
"And what of the others? The Human engineer managed to locate the Denobulan."
"Yes. It was interesting. I had not expected such a reckless rescue attempt. These Humans are both resourceful and determined."
"They are foolish, Excellency."
"Alone perhaps, but see how they make alliances which add to their strength. The spy has endured much for them and I do not think we will be able to break him. Such loyalty between different species is rare. Then there is the Vulcan."
"Is she the One, Excellency?"
"We cannot be sure but her decision to remain with these Humans would point to it. We must however be sure."
"How can we do that, Excellency?"
"We must find out her attachments."
"And if she has none?"
"Then she will not be missed." For a moment silence fell and neither broke it. Time passed unmarked. The Ambassador straightened a little. "Return. Monitor the Captain a little longer and observe the Vulcan. Do not touch her mind. We cannot afford to risk being detected."
"She may already know. It would explain why we cannot find the Commander's shade."
"I think she has hidden it, Excellency."
"You have proof?"
"Find me the proof."
"What of the other Ensign? The linguist?"
"Ah, she apprehends fear easily, Excellency. A pity for one so gifted to be so weak."
"It appears she observed the Denobulan's shade eating some of his creatures in the infirmary. The sight sickened and frightened her so much that she reported the matter to the Captain."
"Does she suspect?"
"You say she is weak?"
"Then if we cannot find what we want from the Denobulan and the Captain we will try the linguist. For one gifted in so many languages she must know the unspoken language that passes between species."
"The non-verbal language of the body, Ran Tok. The small signs and sounds that give away unconscious thought. Such observations could prove invaluable indicators of thought and intent."
"Do you wish her taken?"
Ran Tok bowed low then as he straightened his shadow bled upwards like a smeared smudge and he rose up through the ceiling and out of sight. Making his silent way back to Enterprise. The tiny jolt when he re-entered the Captain's body enough to stir him. The Master at Arms bled some of his energy into the carbon based lifeform and stabilised him. The Captain stretched and yawned. Must have fallen asleep. Funny but he felt refreshed, renewed. Smiling slightly he got up and went to the washroom to freshen up then made his way on to the bridge. They should be close to the rendezvous point by now and he for one could not wait to take on the extra resources of the MACOs. The sooner they picked the marines up the sooner they could return to Zeon. Let the Zenari try to stop him then. There was no way he intended to leave this area of the Expanse without his missing crew members. No way he wanted to continue this mission without his best friend. As he stepped on to the bridge, Ensign Sato put her hand to her earpiece and turned to look back at him. A look of concern on her face.
"Yes, Ensign, what is it?"
"We're receiving a transmission, Captain."
Surprise lit his face. He glanced across at Sub-Commander T'Pol. He was wary now. The Human was slowly learning his place in the food chain. "What are they saying?"
Hoshi shook her head. "Hard to decipher, Captain. It's not any language I've heard before." She paused, tilted her head then suddenly the whole ship shook and shuddered hard.
Ensign Mayweather looked up in alarm. "We're under attack, sir!"
The Captain looked stern as he slipped quickly into his chair. "Any idea who's firing at us or why?"
Rostov was manning Lt. Reed's tactical station. He looked up with an expression of horror on his face. "Captain, the configuration of the vessel matches the orb that attacked Earth!"
Captain Archer's head spun round sharply. "What?"
Sub-Commander T'Pol confirmed their worst fears. "Captain, we're being attacked by the Xindi!"
* * * * *
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Two folks have made comments
Great suspense! Keep it coming!
Oh very cool, very cool twists and turns.
I like. Oh dear how will they find out T'Pol's attachments???? And what will they do to Trip?
Malcolm!!! YES!!! you are on it.
Pholx, always more to you than we see.