He was going insane.
Perched on the edge of his bunk and wearing nothing more than a sheet, Master Chief Petty Officer Colin Mackenzie watched quietly as Ally Li searched for her uniform. Stark naked herself, she moved easily around his cabin, totally comfortable with her nudity in his presence. Although a part of him stirred at the sight, another part - a deeper part - was silently shrieking.
She'd shown up at his door just hours after they'd had an explosive argument in Engineering. Mac couldn't even remember what they were arguing about, only that it had ended with Lieutenant Commander Drahn breaking them apart before they came to actual blows. The Andorian had been furious at the two of them and, as he left Engineering, Mac just knew he'd be seeing Li later that night. When his door buzzed at twenty-three thirty, he let Ally in without a word. They hadn't said a word since.
They were too busy.
Things had made a lot more sense when they were on Challenger. Since coming to Endeavour, their ... relationship had turned into a frustrating mess, one now based more on sex than any real emotion, and it was slowly driving Mac crazy. They would bicker and argue, growing more furious at each other with every passing day until one of them would show up at the other's quarters. Hours would pass as they vented their frustrations in the most passionate way possible. Afterwards, things would be back to normal for a while; they'd be able to get along for a couple of hours and sometimes even days. In rare instances, they might even be able to act like an honest to God couple, but it wouldn't last.
It never lasted.
“Are you going to get dressed or just watch me?” Ally asked with a grin as she bent over to pick up her bra, presenting him with a glorious view of her naked ass. For an unnecessarily long moment, she stayed in that position and Mac felt his body responding.
“We need to talk, Ally,” he said instead of grabbing her and throwing her onto the bed as he wanted to. His tone told her everything but then, that wasn't a surprise. How many times had they had this conversation since Pacifica?
“Strewth,” she muttered as she straightened, “not this again.” Spearing him with an annoyed look, she frowned. “Can't you just enjoy what we've got?”
“What do we have?” Mac asked as he leaned forward to rest his face in his hands. “Bloody good sex, but is that it?” He rubbed his temples as she pulled on her panties. Damn, but that was right sexy.
“I don't believe this,” Li muttered, giving him another frustrated look. As always, her Perth accent was thick when she was frustrated. “Uncomplicated sex and you're bitching about it?” Her bra went on as she continued her mini-rant. “Next you'll be wanting a commitment or something.” She pinned him with a look. “You sure you're not a sheila?”
“Don't dodge the sodding issue!” he snapped. “We can't keep doing this! What the hell are we?” His question, long avoided by them both, hung in the air.
“I ... I don't know,” she finally said in response after a long moment of consideration. Her shoulders slumped as if in defeat and Mac knew exactly how she felt. Dressed only in her underwear, she dropped down beside him on the narrow bunk and they sat together in silence. “We're really buggered up, aren't we?” Ally asked softly. She leaned into him and he draped his arm over her shoulder.
“DCO to Engineering,” the shipwide comm announced suddenly, breaking the moment, and Ally stirred. Without a word, Mac pulled his arm free and she stood. Their eyes met and he offered her a sardonic half-frown.
“Duty calls,” he muttered, and she gave him a sad smile. Dressing quietly, she watched him as he watched her.
“Can I come by later?” Ally asked as she pulled on her duty jacket. He gave her a look, not entirely understanding what she was asking. “So we can talk,” she finished and he nodded. “Just talk,” she warned, and Mac gave her an indignant frown.
“You started it this time,” he pointed out sharply, and she opened her mouth to respond. “Sorry,” Mac muttered as he realized they were sliding right back into their old habits. Ally smirked at him as she headed to the door. For a moment, she paused there, hesitating as she gave him a long look that he couldn't hope to decipher. Finally, she nodded and disappeared through the doorway.
He dozed for a couple of minutes after she left, eventually forcing himself to get up at the behest of his bladder. Quickly dressing, he stepped out into the narrow corridor and made his way to the Enlisted Head. Having spent more than a little time in Ally’s quarters, Mac was a bit jealous that the officer quarters had their own bathrooms. It was ironic, he mused as he walked the short way to the Head, that the enlisted personnel made up the bulk of Starfleet and did most of the actual work, yet the commissioned officers hogged the glory and the credit. On paper, the officers provided overall management and leadership in their areas of responsibility, but in reality, too many of them couldn't lead their way out of a paper bag. It fell to his NCOs, senior enlisted personnel who actually had a clue about commanding men and women, to pick up the slack.
As he entered the Head, Mac noticed two of his younger crewmen - Bernstein and al-Rishawi - horsing around with wet towels. The moment they saw him, both apprentice crewmen snapped to attention, their faces betraying their sudden anxiety at his presence. It was understandable: as the Chief of the Boat, he had nearly absolute power over the enlisted personnel; and only the captain or the first officer dared to question his decisions.
“Knock it off,” he ordered with as light a tone as he could muster.
“Aye aye, Master Chief,” the two replied in unison and Mac nearly shook his head as he walked to the nearest empty stall. That was something else he was having to get accustomed to. When he had joined Starfleet nearly twelve years ago, rank was more of a courtesy than an actual job description and, aside from determining seniority among equals, had little real bearing on day-to-day activities. All that changed with the integration of the MACOs.
Seemingly overnight, Starfleet became an actual military force. Rank suddenly meant something and, by dint of being the senior-most enlisted man aboard Endeavour, Mac found himself holding the unexpected job of being an administrator instead of an engineering specialist. Now the only times he was on the Engineering deck were those rare instances where duty required his presence or an emergency meant that extra bodies were needed.
On the bright side, it gave him unprecedented access to Captain Tucker, which allowed Mac the opportunity to really look out for the enlisted crewmen. Tucker actually listened to Mackenzie's concerns and usually implemented requested changes; on those rare instances where he didn't, the captain generally had a good reason.
Only cold water was coming out of the communal sink and he made a mental note to flag it to Engineering later. Drying his hands under the heated blower, he studied the floor of the Head with a critical eye, noting that it was dirtier than he liked it. Mac paused for a moment as he mentally reviewed the duty roster and tried to recall what department's turn it was to clean the Head. He smiled slightly at the realization that the Roughnecks were scheduled next. Karanja would probably get a kick out of having her battle-hardened grunts clean these floors.
As he leisurely wandered back toward his quarters, it finally occurred to Mac that there was an unusual amount of activity taking place and it irked him that he didn't know why; as Chief of the Boat, it was his job to know everything that was happening aboard Endeavour before anyone, even the captain.
"What's going on?" he asked a passing crewman, ignoring the look of muted surprise that flashed across the engineering specialist's face.
"Everyone's just worried about the Roughneck op, Master Chief," was the reply and Mac frowned. He'd warned Karanja to have her team standing by for combat operations shortly after the captain returned, but he should have been informed once the green light was given. That Karanja hadn't felt the need to give him a heads-up could only mean that she'd heard about his argument with Ally in Engineering and had correctly assumed he would be ... busy; though the ex-MACO pretended to be nothing more than a grunt, Mac had learned she was dangerously intuitive and had probably long since figured out the nature of his contentious relationship with Li. Guilt washed over him then; his men and women could be in harm's way even now and he'd just spent the last three hours in Ally's arms. This is why we have to stop, he told himself.
Within minutes, he was on the bridge, detouring only briefly to visit his quarters and finish dressing. The bridge was a hive of activity which, given the circumstances, was to be expected; what was surprising, however, was the presence of the Alpha-shift comm officer. Lieutenant Devereux was not scheduled to be duty officer for Gamma-shift, which meant that someone had roused her specifically for the operation. Once more, guilt surged through Mac; normally, he'd be the one to do that as a subtle way to remind the junior officers of his own unique power on the ship.
The viewscreen was dominated by a grunts-eye view of the target building, an image no doubt transmitted from some piece of Lieutenant Commander Eisler's specialized combat gear. As he took in the situation, Mac couldn't help but to think that, despite the fact it was on a space station, the building looked just like his favorite pub in London.
"...and twelve Orion bio-signatures on the lower level," Commander Eisler's voice was saying, his voice being broadcast to everyone on the bridge. "We can't get a clear reading on the second story; Endeavour, can you assist?" From her station, Devereux gave the officer at the SCI board a telling look, a clear indication to speak.
"Negative, TAC-Six," Lieutenant Ricker replied, her voice tinged with annoyance. "Our scans are being blocked."
"Then we do this the old-fashioned way," Eisler declared. "Roughnecks are a go. TAC-Six out."
His face creased in a frown, the lieutenant commander ended the transmission before returning his attention to the building before them. Crouching at his side, Scott felt his heart rate begin to accelerate and focused on keeping his breathing steady. Around him, the members of his team began to fidget, eager to get moving, to actually do something. Sometimes this was the hardest part of a combat operation, and Reynolds once more silently cursed Captain Tucker for talking him into the battlefield commission.
Use of the transporters had figured heavily in the assault plan. Unable to penetrate the pattern scrambler that seemed to surround the Orion bar, the Roughnecks had instead deployed into numerous adjacent buildings. The lateness of the hour helped somewhat; few of the buildings that the Roughnecks beamed into were even occupied. Unfortunately, the bar itself was filled to capacity: their best estimates placed the number at around seventy.
Turning his eyes back to the target building, Scott was momentarily amazed at how ... normal this entire section of the station looked. Despite knowing they were surrounded by durasteel, the entire corridor looked as though it could have been plucked from Anytown, USA. Many of the buildings - including the target - had a faux stone exterior, and more than a few had actual roofs; though what purpose a roof served on a space station completely eluded him. After a brief moment of reflection, he decided it must have some sort of psychological effect on the station-dwellers; Green Sector was, after all, one of the three sectors most heavily modified from the original Vulcan design.
"How many did you have to kill to get this location?" Karanja softly asked Commander Eisler, her tone light.
"Just two," Eisler responded flatly and Scott gave him a look: he didn't sound as if he was joking. At his words, Gunny Karanja's smile broadened into an actual grin; she clearly liked the new TAC officer and Scott wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.
"Three in position," CPO Luckabaugh's voice whispered across the intrasquad frequency, advising Scott that Third Squad was in place on various rooftops. As the stealth specialists, Luck's squad was nearly always given sniper duties and this time was no different. "Two hostiles sighted," the chief petty officer continued from his place of concealment. "Both have religion." It was sniper slang for having someone lined up for a shot, and Reynolds glanced at Eisler. For a moment, the tactical officer was unmoving, his eyes continuing to study the target building. Finally, he nodded.
“Send them to their Maker,” Karanja instructed Luckabaugh. A heartbeat passed in absolute silence as the snipers took their shots.
“Targets reduced,” Luckabaugh relayed and Eisler began to rise from his crouch.
“Give the order, Lieutenant,” the tactical officer said, hefting his rifle and glancing at the rest of Second Squad.
"This is Roughneck Six," Reynolds whispered into the comm. "Execute."
It was over nearly before it began.
Darting from their places of concealment, First and Second Squads advanced on the target building in a rapid bounding overwatch - a maneuver that allowed one squad to advance as the other covered them - even as Third Squad unleashed a sudden volley of grenades from their positions. The effect was immediate.
Smashing through the viewports that doubled as windows, the grenades exploded with either blinding flashes meant to dazzle and incapacitate or with great plumes of smoke that obscured vision and impaired breathing. Through the front entrance First Squad went, bunched up behind PO1 Mitchell who bore the transparent reflec shield; the modern descendant of the shields used by twentieth and twenty-first century SWAT units when they breached a location, it gave him perfect field of vision and reflected nearly all energy beams. Second Squad did the same at the side entrance, with PO1 Quinn in the breaching position. Their faces concealed under protective bio-filter masks that would protect them from both the smoke and Orion pheromones, the Starfleet assault team seemed to appear out of nowhere, a faceless enemy that had no remorse. Suddenly realizing that they were under attack, the bar attendees reacted as quickly as they could.
It was nowhere quick enough.
Most of the barflies were little more than jumped-up pickpockets or con artists and fell in the opening moments of the assault, many to their own confused crossfire. All twelve of the ground-floor Orions were fairly skilled for pirates and smugglers, effective fighters against poorly armed crews of non-military transports, but they simply stood no chance against a well-trained, highly disciplined Starfleet assault team.
Especially one that was out for revenge.
Five of the twelve Orions had fallen before they were even aware that the Starfleet team had entered the building, another three went down in the chaos of their foolhardy counterattack, and three more fell during the retreat that turned into a rout. That left one.
And naturally, he was the most dangerous.
He faked an injury during the counterattack and waited until the two squads were moving to secure the upper levels before opening up. A perfectly placed shot dropped PO1 Creed - the disruptor beam burned right through his face plate and into the flesh below. Even as the big Texan was falling, the Orion was shifting fire, his disruptor spitting bolts that sent the two squads scrambling for cover. Petty Officer 2nd Class Dobell took a shot to the leg and fell; her sudden cry distracted Riley for the half heartbeat it took for the Orion to draw a bead on him. Before the petty officer hit the floor, the smuggler was looking for his fourth target.
In the sudden chaos, Reynolds could hear the pounding of footsteps on the upper floor and, out of the corner of his eye, saw Commander Eisler darting for the stairs, his modified pulse rifle at the ready. Swallowing a curse at idiot officers with no sense of personal safety, he sprinted after him, shouting for Karanja to take command of the team. Up the stairs he went, ignoring the voice in his head that was screaming at him, telling him just how bad an idea this was.
Eisler was crouched at the top of the stairwell waiting for him and, with rapid hand signals, gave him commands. Nodding his acknowledgment and thankful the man wasn't a complete idiot, Reynolds pulled a stun grenade free of his tac-vest and armed it, watching as the senior officer did the same. As one, they sent their grenades skittering down the hallway. Twin hollow thumps sounded through the building as they detonated, and Eisler moved forward almost immediately. Scott flanked him without a word.
Reeling from the effects of the stun grenades, two Orion males staggered into the hallway, disruptors in hand and, without even breaking stride, Eisler dropped them both with well-placed shots from his pulse rifle. He gestured sharply with his head - an unspoken command to cover the doorway - and Reynolds gave a sharp nod in return before taking a half-step forward, his rifle held at the ready.
He'd barely covered a meter when something exploded through the wall, hammering into him like a truck and sending him careening into the opposite wall. He bounced once, struck the floor with bone-rattling force, and spent an impossibly long moment trying to draw oxygen back into his lungs. For an equally long moment, he struggled to rise but his limbs weren't responding. His vision swam and he blinked several times in an attempt to clear the dancing spots away. Six - no, four - men were in the tiny corridor and two of them looked to be Vulcans with the same hand wrapped in gauze. The four men coalesced into two and Scott started in surprise.
His rifle no longer in hand and his bio-mask knocked free, Commander Eisler had drawn a pair of long knives and was circling the one-handed Vulcan, a soft stream of what had to be German obscenities coming from his mouth. The Vulcan already had a number of cuts - most self-inflicted from smashing through the wall to hit Scott - and his left arm was secured in an immobilizing strap that was wrapped around his chest. Eyes wild, the Vulcan made no attempt to conceal the fury on his face as he glared at Eisler, his murderous intent clear. Warily, they circled, eyes unblinking.
Incredibly fast, Commander Eisler lunged forward, his left hand knife plunging deep into the Vulcan's stomach. With a roar of mingled pain and rage, the Vulcan reacted instantly, backhanding the TAC officer with a mighty blow that sent him tumbling back into the far wall some three meters away. From where he lay, Scott could feel the impact travel through the wall as Eisler struck it. With barely a sound, the senior tactical officer crumpled into an unmoving heap.
Gasping with pain, the Vulcan pulled the knife from his stomach, wincing at the sudden gush of blood that poured forth. Cradling the gut wound for a moment, he gave Eisler's still form a dark and terrible look before taking a step forward, the knife held firmly in his uninjured fist. He's going to kill the commander, Scott realized and cast around for a weapon, finally forcing his unwilling arms to respond. His hand closed around the grip of a rifle and he drew it to him, immediately realizing that it wasn't his. The weight was wrong - it was too damned heavy - and the grip felt odd for some reason. A quick glance down identified it as Eisler's, and Scott mentally shrugged; he'd wanted to shoot it anyway.
“Hey,” he said with a grimace. The Vulcan's head snapped around, eyes narrowing at the sight of Reynolds propped up against the wall pointing an unwavering rifle at him. A dozen emotions flickered across the Vulcan's face, none of them pleasant, and Scott smiled through the grimace. “Drop the knife,” he ordered in flawless Vulcan. The bar below had grown silent and Reynolds knew it was only a matter of time before reinforcements arrived. Another flash of emotion crossed the Vulcan's face and he gave the knife a brief but telling glance. “Drop the knife,” Scott repeated, rotating the rifle's selector switch to full auto with his thumb. The click echoed loudly in corridor. “Or I drop you.” The Vulcan smiled then, a cold and bleak expression that held no trace of cooperation, and tensed to move.
Scott squeezed the trigger.
At this range, even the stun bolts could be lethal and, like the rubber bullets used in centuries past, the pulses of phased particles struck with bruising force. As the wounded Vulcan was bringing the knife up to throw it, Eisler's modified EM-41 was spitting out a stream of excited plasma bolts that tore into the Vulcan and sent him reeling backwards. Three pulses slammed into his abdomen, one dangerously close to the knife wound that already seeped blood, as the fourth and fifth shots struck him in the upper chest. Spinning around under the force of the shots, the Vulcan slammed into the wall and collapsed, the knife falling from his limp fingers. The weapon still trained on the unmoving Vulcan, Scott waited, halfway expecting him to get up again.
“Seven, Six,” Reynolds spoke into his intra-squad comm; the gunny's official designation was Roughneck Seven. “Report.” Karanja's voice came back instantly and not over the comm.
“Area secure, sir,” she replied as she appeared at the top of stairs. “We lost Creed.” She frowned at that. “Dobell, Riley and Gray were hit but nothing too serious.” Glancing at Eisler's still form, she spoke again, this time shouting over her shoulder for the team medic. “Doc! Get your ass up here!” Scott lowered the rifle, confident that she could cover the Vulcan, and adjusted his throat mike.
“Roughneck Six to Endeavour," he spoke into it and the response was almost instantaneous.
"Endeavour," came Lieutenant Devereux's voice.
"Tango secure. Requires immediate medical attention." He paused for the briefest of moments. “TAC-Six down, one KIA, three-” A sharp twinge in his chest warned him of probable fractured ribs. “Four wounded.”
"Stand by, Roughneck Six," Devereux responded. Scott let out a deep breath and waited.
Waiting was not his strong suit.
His impatience concealed behind a practiced mask of calm, Soval schooled himself to stillness as he silently observed T'Pol gradually regain consciousness. He had roused himself from meditation the moment his sharp hearing detected the change in Captain Tucker's breathing patterns, recognizing at once that the human sensed his bonded mate about to wake. Rising to his feet, Soval took several steps away from T'Pol's biobed, coming to a halt beside the now alert Commodore Archer; knowing that the commander would be at least momentarily disoriented, Soval did not wish a Vulcan male to be the first face she saw.
T'Pol opened her eyes slowly, still groggy from the sedative that Phlox had given her earlier, and almost immediately looked to the captain. Tucker let out a relieved breath as he leaned forward to within centimeters of his mate's face.
"You had me worried," the captain said softly in oddly accented Vulcan. He offered his left hand, fingers extended, and T'Pol reciprocated without thought or hesitation. As they touched, Soval thought that he could see the barest hint of a smile on her face.
"That was not my intention," she replied before pausing and continuing in English, "darlin'." The endearment was spoken in clear imitation of the captain and Tucker's sudden grin lit up his face. Glancing away from the intimate moment, Soval found himself fighting an inappropriate smile.
"You know," Commodore Archer whispered as he slid off of his bed, "if you would have told me they'd end up like this based on their first meeting, I'd have said you were crazy."
"They were antagonistic?" Soval asked, already suspecting the answer. He recalled T'Pol's first report on the command staff of the NX-01: she had singled Tucker out as an example of nearly everything wrong with humanity, citing only his sense of loyalty as a positive feature. Soval realized that he should have suspected her interest in the human even then.
"Oh yeah," Archer replied, chuckling at the memory. "Trip offered her his hand and she turned her back on him." The commodore gave another shake of his head. "For a while," he confessed to Soval, "I wasn't exactly sure what they really thought about each other." Doctor Phlox chuckled softly from where he stood as Archer continued with a smile. "Meeting their son kind of cleared it up for me."
"I would imagine so," Soval remarked dryly. He had analyzed nearly all of the classified reports from Enterprise's time in the Expanse, and their encounter with the future NX-01 had been fascinating to read. Though he still found the concept of time travel difficult to fathom, the evidence was far too conclusive to dismiss. A stray thought occurred to him: he would very much have liked to have met the half-Vulcan, half-human captain.
"Do you remember T'Pol's expression when you told us that Trip was Lorian's father?" Archer asked Phlox with a smile; the Denobulan returned it with one of his own.
"Indeed I do," the doctor replied. "She appeared..."
"Freaked out?" Archer suggested. He and the doctor chuckled.
"That is hardly an accurate assessment, Commodore," T'Pol commented abruptly as she sat up on the biobed. "I was merely ... unprepared for the revelation." Soval inclined his head slightly to her in greeting, noting that she and the captain once more appeared as nothing more than fellow officers.
"You had us worried there, Commander," Archer said, unknowingly repeating the captain's earlier words. She exchanged a brief amused glance with Tucker before replying.
"That was not my intention, Commodore," T'Pol responded as her mate smirked. Once more, she looked into Tucker's eyes and Soval could feel the force of their bond.
"Trip's got people hunting for Tolaris," Commodore Archer said quietly, his tone mirroring the guilt in his eyes.
"I know," she replied simply. For a moment, the commodore looked confused, going so far as to open his mouth to question exactly when Tucker had filled her in, but understanding flickered suddenly in his eyes. Phlox, who had unobtrusively approached the bed to monitor its readouts, cleared his throat.
"I will release you to quarters," the doctor said with a slight smile, "providing you agree to rest." The Denobulan's eyes shifted to Tucker for a heartbeat. "Just rest," he insisted. As the captain flushed with embarrassment, Commodore Archer snickered and Soval glanced away to hide his own amusement. Tucker opened his mouth, no doubt to defend himself, when the intraship comm suddenly sounded.
“COB to Sickbay; prepare for incoming wounded.”
And just like that, the atmosphere of levity was broken.
Within minutes, a squad of soldiers entered, bearing three stretchers. Soval recognized Lieutenant Commander Eisler upon one of the litters and the Vulcan Tolaris on a second, but the third defied identification. Phlox gave the unidentified human less than a cursory look, easily recognizing a lost cause, before quickly directing the soldiers to place Eisler and Tolaris on separate biobeds. He exchanged rapid words with one of the soldiers - a medic, Soval presumed - before turning his attention to the two patients.
Glancing briefly at T'Pol, the ambassador was momentarily startled to see that she had taken Captain Tucker's hand and clung to it as if it were a lifeline. Though her face betrayed no hint to her emotional state, her eyes were riveted on the face of Tolaris and Soval felt emotion stirring deep within him. With an effort, he let the anger flow over and through him, let his inner balance reassert itself.
It proved to be considerably more difficult than he anticipated.
The human medic dropped his gear and, pausing only long enough to run his hands through the sterilizing field, slid into the role of nurse with an ease that impressed Soval. Minutes passed in near silence, broken only by the occasional grunt or sigh from the Denobulan as he worked.
Finally, Phlox stepped back from the unconscious Vulcan, a frown on his expressive face. He gave the medic a nod of dismissal as Commodore Archer spoke.
“Well?” the commodore asked, and the doctor sighed.
“He's dying,” the Denobulan said simply, and Tucker gave him a look of frustration.
“You're a miracle worker, Phlox,” Captain Tucker replied sharply. “Can't you do anything?” The doctor’s face was grim.
“None of his injuries are life threatening,” Phlox explained as he brought up different readouts on the overhead display. “Painful, yes, but not terminal.” Pointing to a new display of characters, he continued. “However, he received an injection of pain suppressors approximately six hours ago and this ... eh ... pain relief was contaminated with an aggressive strain of the Mu'barin plague.”
“So,” Archer said with surprise, “whoever treated him wanted him to die?”
“It would appear so, Commodore,” the doctor said glumly.
“We need to know if he was working for the Romulans,” Tucker pointed out. “Can you wake him up?” Phlox shook his head.
“Captain,” he said with another frown, “his entire body is systematically shutting down. I couldn't wake him up if I tried.”
From where he stood, Soval could see the effect of the doctor's words upon the three Starfleet officers. Archer and Tucker both shot nearly identical glares at the still form of the apostate, their eyes betraying the raw hatred they held for the man, even as T'Pol visibly relaxed. She had yet to release her mate's hand, though, and that was telling to a fellow Vulcan. Anger pulsed within Soval but he pushed it down.
“Captain,” Soval said softly, his voice carrying across the room, “there is another way.” Tucker glanced at him, understanding flickering quickly across his face.
“You sure?” he asked and Soval gave him a flat look. Had the situation been any less dire, the ambassador was sure that the captain would have smiled. Instead, he nodded and gave a discreet hand gesture to Commodore Archer, an unspoken “suggestion” to move out of the way, as Phlox drew the privacy curtain forward.
Without a word, Soval approached the unconscious Vulcan and placed his fingertips to the appropriate contact points. He took a steadying breath before whispering the ritualistic words that would allow him to access the wounded Vulcan's inner thoughts.
“My mind to your mind,” Soval whispered, and felt the expected sensation of motion without movement. “My thoughts to your thoughts.” It was as if he were falling from an impossible height, or flying through an endless void at an inconceivably vast speed. “Our thoughts are joining.” Faster, his fall accelerated and he could sense the younger Vulcan's katra nearing. “Our thoughts are one,” Soval finished and opened his mind's eye.
To his surprise, Soval faced the Fire Plains ... or rather, a memory of them. He breathed in the smell of home, felt the agreeable heat of the sun upon his skin, heard the distant sounds of life. Blinking away the moment, he returned his focus to the purpose of the meld.
“You are Tolaris.” He identified the ghostly half-image of the younger Vulcan as it took shape in his mind's eye.
“And you are Soval,” the apostate replied. “I know what you seek.” And, for a fraction of a second, Tolaris’ image twisted into something hideous, a bleak reflection of the corruption that tainted his katra.
"Will you surrender the information willingly?" Soval asked grimly, already aware of the answer. He was not disappointed.
"I will not!" Tolaris snarled and Soval almost - almost - smiled. The primal Vulcan in him exulted in that moment: a measure of justice and revenge would be meted out this day.
"Then you leave me no choice," Soval declared and, for the first time in his adult life, willingly let his control slip.
His fury at this Vulcan swelled within him, a raging torrent of winter that tried to sweep away logic, and Soval unleashed it all. It smashed into Tolaris’ mental shields like a blizzard of ice, slicing through them as if they were little more than wet tissue paper. As his wrath swelled, Soval felt the dying Vulcan convulse on the biobed, heard Phlox's startled exclamation at the precipitous dive the wounded Vulcan's vitals abruptly took, but remained intent on his goal.
And yet, despite his pain, despite knowing that he was already dead, Tolaris rallied himself and erected telepathic defenses. Focusing his talents, the younger Vulcan became a sizzling inferno hotter than a sun's core and hurled his formidable strength at Soval in a last ditch attempt to keep his secrets. Fire met ice and was swept aside.
And Tolaris obeyed.
In seconds, Soval had found what he sought and, with great difficulty, forced his anger down. It was still there - a sphere of absolute zero that churned deep within his stomach - but his ruthless iron will contained it, keeping it suppressed. For less than a heartbeat, he flashed through Tolaris' memories, witnessing violations both mental and physical. T'Pol had not been the first. The fury pushed at his control, and urged to be let loose upon this ... creature, but Soval held it in check, maintaining his control. A cherished image swam up from Tolaris' mind then, an image from years past of a female struggling against a forced meld.
Soval's control faltered. Wrath exploded from him, and, in the moment before he could reassert control, raw emotion dictated his actions. The blizzard of ice slashed through everything that made Tolaris what he was, searing away identity and personality and katra.
He was still screaming when Soval pulled his fingers from the contact points, a wordless shriek of absolute agony and horror that echoed through the sickbay. His face creased in an angry frown, the ambassador glared at the dying Vulcan for a long moment, unaware of the ominous aspect he presented. Phlox moved into his line of sight, a hand-held scanner already buzzing. The Denobulan looked up, meeting Soval's eyes.
"Sedate him if you wish," the ambassador stated, his mask of Vulcan indifference firmly back in place. “He will not regain coherence before death.” The momentary loss of control was gone, and Soval realized that he was unconcerned at his lapse. He looked up, locking gazes with Tucker.
"Did you get it?" the captain asked softly, his fingers yet interlaced with Commander T'Pol's. Tucker did not even give the screaming Tolaris a second look.
"I did." Soval drew a deep, cleansing breath as Phlox administered a hypospray to the dying Vulcan; at once, the screaming ceased. "He was, as you suspected, working for the Romulans." Tucker exchanged a grim look with Commodore Archer as Soval continued. "And there is more. They are coming."
"When?" Archer asked and already, Soval could see the three Starfleet officers planning strategies. As the ambassador opened his mouth to reply, the lights in sickbay abruptly flickered and an alarm began to sound.
"Tactical alert!" the intraship comm blared. “Senior officers to the bridge!”
“Guess that answers that,” Tucker muttered as he extracted his hand from T'Pol's grasp. He narrowed his eyes at her. “Don't even think about it,” he ordered and, in response, she raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Without another word to her or Soval, Tucker turned toward the door, Commodore Archer falling into step beside him. “Professor,” the captain said to one of the soldiers as he passed through the door, “you're with me.”
“Is it always like this among humans?” Soval asked softly, noting the flash of amusement in T'Pol's eyes as the three officers vanished through the doorway.
“Usually,” she replied. The ambassador didn't move, but one eyebrow raised in consternation as he commented.
The End of STAR TREK: Endeavour: "Vigrid"