A Cry in the Dark

By Distracted

Rating: PG-13

Genres: adventure romance

Keywords: first contact

This story has been read by 674 people.
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This story is number 4 in the series Virtual Season Five

A Cry in the Dark

By Distracted

Rating: PG 13 -mostly for disturbing scenes of dead bodies and language, not smut.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns 'em, but they killed 'em... so I'm doing my part to keep 'em alive.
Category: Adventure, Romance, Angst, A little TNG crossover (sort of)
Summary: Here's my take on a first contact story. This is a sequel to my story, Kiss and Make Up. It's my first attempt at any significant plot line besides boy-meets-Vulcan, so I'd appreciate constructive criticism.

She woke up, and they were gone. At first, she didn’t understand. Since long before she was born, she’d felt both of them in her mind… loving… comforting… teaching. The silence frightened her.

Papa said stay here, she thought. He’d given her that yucky stuff to drink, and tucked her in. Papa said go to sleep.

But she couldn’t sleep. The silence in her head had woken her up. She tried again with all her might to call them, and felt a distant touch… a strange one… not Mama… not Papa. She sat up in the huge bed and slipped her legs over the side, dangling them in the air until the tips of her toes touched the cold metal floor. She walked to the door, her small bare feet peeking out from beneath the hem of her nightgown as she stretched her hand above her head to reach the door control. She pressed her small palm over the control, and the door opened onto the enormous empty corridor. She softly padded down the dimly lit hallway toward the last place she had seen Mama. Papa had been crying, she remembered, when she’d kissed Mama good night. It had frightened her when Mama’s mind had left hers, but Papa had told her that Mama was only sleeping, and had put her to bed with a kiss. Now he was gone too.

She entered the room with all of the scary shiny things. Papa had said they would make Mama better. She saw her Mama lying on the bed… so still… just the way she’d been lying last night. Papa sat in a chair by the bed with his head on Mama’s belly and one arm around her waist. His other arm hung at his side. She walked up to them and took Papa’s hand, patting it with her opposite hand to wake him up. His hand was cold, and he didn’t move, no matter how hard she tried to wake him. She began to cry silently. When no one came to dry her tears, she sat down on the cold floor near Papa’s feet, crying louder and louder until her terrified wails echoed in the ship’s deserted hallways and in the lonely, empty place in her mind where her parent’s love had once been.

T’Pol awakened with a start, a child’s agonized sobbing echoing in her mind. The dream had been so real… the terror so intense… that she thought for a moment that she was not alone in the room. She closed her eyes again and breathed deeply for several moments, trying to calm her racing pulse. She heard the door to her quarters open without warning. T’Pol opened her eyes and looked at the chronometer… 0400 hours. The fear and concern she felt in the bond told her the identity of her early morning visitor.

Trip Tucker entered the room, still half asleep with his hair sticking up in all directions and dressed only in a t-shirt and undershorts. He rushed to her side, kneeling by the side of the bed.

“Are you all right?” he asked in a concerned whisper, raising a hand to cup the side of her face. “I heard… no, I felt… you screamin’ and cryin’!” His face revealed his abject terror of anything in the universe that could possibly frighten T’Pol enough to make her scream.

T’Pol laid a gentle hand on his as he caressed her cheek, and returned comfort and affection to him through the bond.

“It was not my distress you felt, husband,” she reassured him.

“What was it then?” he asked in puzzlement. “A dream?”

“I’m not sure,” T’Pol admitted reluctantly. “It felt almost as if there were another person sharing our bond.” She looked at Trip as if she were unsure of whether he would believe her. “I believe it was a child… a child who requires our assistance.”

Trip sighed, then looked at her with a sad smile, his fingers leaving her cheek to gently comb through the silky hair at her temple.

“I miss her too, darlin’,” he whispered. She could sense his grief, made easier to bear after six month’s time, but no less intense than the day their daughter was lost to them. T’Pol tried to comfort him by grasping both of his hands in hers.

“This was not a dream or a hallucination, Trip,” she told him. “I still grieve for Elizabeth, just as you do, but this was something else…”

The comm in T’Pol’s quarters sounded loudly, interrupting her in mid-sentence.

“Archer to T’Pol.” The captain’s voice sounded hoarse and fatigued.

T’Pol wearily roused herself from the bed to answer. “Yes, Captain,” she replied, her voice giving no indication of her need for more rest.

“You’re up!” Archer responded in surprise.

“I am now, Captain,” replied T’Pol dryly. “May I assist you?”

“Sorry about the early hour, Commander…,” he said in an amused tone of voice. “…but I need all command staff in my ready room in fifteen minutes. We have a situation.”

T’Pol glanced at Trip with one brow raised. He silently got up and headed toward the door. “Yes, Captain. Fifteen minutes,” T’Pol confirmed.

Trip lifted the false key pad by the door and checked the proximity monitor. There seemed to be an unusual amount of traffic in the hallway for that time of the morning. Before he could make his escape, the comm sounded again.

“Archer to T’Pol.”

“Yes, Captain?” she answered, as she opened her closet to choose a clean uniform for the day. You look wonderful in red, offered Trip with a smile as he stood at the door. She raised a brow at him and chose the red one.

“If you happen to see Commander Tucker, would you please inform him of our staff meeting?” asked Archer blandly. He’d obviously already tried Trip’s quarters without success.

“If I see him, I will be sure to do so,” replied T’Pol in a similar tone of voice.

Trip grinned and rolled his eyes. He spotted a gap in hallway traffic on the monitor, and slipped out the door, sprinting for his quarters and palming the door shut just as Lieutenant Malcolm Reed rounded the corner, headed for the captain’s ready room.

As Malcolm passed by Ensign Hoshi Sato’s quarters, her door opened. Her face lit up with a pleased smile as she stepped out to walk beside him.

“Good morning, Malcolm,” she said cheerfully.

Feeling rather encouraged by her use of his given name, Malcolm searched for something appropriately complimentary to say.

“You’re … ah … very chipper this morning,” he ventured with a small smile. “Are you usually so happy this early in the morning?”

Hoshi shrugged. “Not always … sometimes I’m a grouch.” She met his eyes and grinned. “Must be the company,” she added, her eyes sparkling with mischief.

His brow wrinkled at that, as he tried to decide whether she was serious, or just teasing him again about always being so gloomy. They entered the empty turbolift and traveled for a few seconds in silence while he remained deep in thought. Hoshi laughed lightly and reached up to kiss him on the cheek just before the doors opened onto the bridge.

“Don’t think so hard, Malcolm,” she told him playfully. “You’ll get wrinkles before you’re forty!” She smiled at him and stepped out onto the bridge, heading for the captain’s ready room. He touched his cheek with a bemused smile on his face, and then followed her to the staff meeting.

Captain Jonathan Archer did a mental roll call of the sleepy faces before him.

“Now that we’re all here, I’d like to say I’m sorry for cutting your sleep time short,” he told his senior staff with an apologetic smile. “Unfortunately, about thirty minutes ago, Crewman McNamara, here …,” he tipped his head toward the red-haired … and red-faced … junior crewman sitting to his left. “…informed me of a situation requiring our immediate attention.” Turning to the freckle-faced young man, he nodded, indicating that he should begin his report.

The nervous crewman swallowed, then said in a slightly shaky voice, “I was assigned to Communications this shift,” he began, glancing over at Ensign Sato with a shy smile. She nodded encouragingly.

McNamara cleared his throat and continued with more confidence. “At approximately 0200 I received a transmission in an unknown language. The Universal Translator didn’t recognize it. Since we’re still in Denobulan space, I contacted Earth’s embassy on Denobula to see if they could at least identify the language. I received a message from the embassy requesting that Enterprise proceed with all speed to identify the source of the transmission. It’s a distress call, you see. The ship that sent it is expected to arrive on Denobula in about five days. It’s carrying an ambassador who’s supposed to be taking a post on Denobula. The embassy also sent an entire language database from the Denobulan Institute of Alien Language Study. I incorporated it into the Universal Translator program… after checking it thoroughly for programs that might harm our system, of course.” He looked again at Ensign Sato for reassurance. She smiled at him, impressed by his initiative. McNamara blushed.

“So what did you find, Crewman?” asked Lieutenant Reed impatiently, eager to cut to the chase, and not particularly fond of the way Hoshi was smiling at the impertinent whelp.

“Um … well …,” began the newly flustered young man as he pushed the PADD he held in his hand toward the armory officer. “…Here’s a translation of the message, sir.”

Malcolm pulled the PADD toward him and played the translated message for everyone to hear. A female voice could be heard through the static.

“… This is the Betazoid Royal Courier Imzadi requesting immediate medical assistance. We are en route to Denobula, carrying Ambassador Ariana of the Sixth House and her family. The entire crew has fallen ill, and two of us are dead. We are unable to determine the source of the infection. If you receive this message and intend to provide assistance, please do so with full isolation precautions …. This is the Betazoid Royal Courier Imzadi requesting …” Malcolm stopped the recording.

“Betazoid?” Archer asked T’Pol. “Is that a species the Vulcans have dealt with?”

T’Pol’s brow had gone up when she’d heard the identity of the distressed ship, and had stayed up for the duration of the recorded message. She now had a very thoughtful expression on her face.

“Yes, Captain…,” she replied. “Vulcan attempted to establish diplomatic relations with Betazed nearly a decade ago. Most Betazoids are empathic and telepathic to a greater or lesser extent. This is very likely why my people found it difficult to associate with them. Vulcans dislike being in the presence of someone who is able to sense any emotion, no matter how well suppressed it may be. Betazoids also tend to be frankly honest to the point of rudeness. This was not a trait that stood them in good stead during diplomatic dealings with my people.”

Archer chuckled. “An emotionally open, honest race that makes the Vulcans squirm …. Sounds like my kind of people!”

T’Pol sighed. “Rather than dwell on my people’s diplomatic failures, wouldn’t it be wiser to find this ship and render assistance?” she asked matter-of-factly.

Archer shook his head and smiled. “You’re quite correct, Commander,” he replied. Directing his attention to the entire command staff, he began to outline their plan of action.

“We’ve located the ship, and as we’ve been speaking we’ve been heading toward it at maximum warp. I anticipate we’ll arrive in its vicinity within thirty minutes. Lieutenant Reed, you will lead an away team in full EV suits. The ship specs the Denobulans sent us indicate a cargo bay large enough to accommodate a shuttlepod, so Ensign Mayweather will pilot Shuttlepod One directly into the ship. I want a two man MACO escort to provide muscle just in case this illness causes violent tendencies… I don’t want a repeat of the Seleya … Records indicate a crew complement of six, and three passengers… two adults and one child. This is a search and rescue mission, people. Find everyone who’s alive and get them off the ship. Dr. Phlox will brief you on the types of samples he will need to determine the source of infection and how to treat it. Remember to maintain strict isolation precautions. No one wants to put Enterprise in danger, even to help these people, and if you’re careful, there’ll be no problems …. Hoshi, I need you to review the Betazoid language and cultural database the Denobulans sent us. This is a first contact situation, and I don’t want to make any mistakes ...” Archer took a deep breath and scanned the room. “Any questions or comments?” he asked, hoping that if he’d forgotten anything, someone in the room would call it to his attention.

T’Pol’s determined expression caught Archer’s eye. “Captain, I request permission to join the away team,” she said.

Archer’s eyes narrowed. “The fewer members of my crew who have to set foot on that ship, the better, Commander. You’ll have plenty of data to work with once we download the ship’s log. I’d rather you stay on board.”

T’Pol sighed. “Captain …,” she said reluctantly. “There is a powerful telepath on board that vessel who is terrified and dangerously unstable. She has already made contact with my mind once, less than an hour ago. I believe that I may be able to communicate with her more easily if I accompany the away team.” T’Pol met his eyes directly, trying to impress upon him the seriousness of her request.

Archer considered this new information thoughtfully.

Commander Tucker made eye contact with T’Pol.

If you’re goin’, I’m goin’ too! he told her silently.

There is no logic in exposing yourself unnecessarily, replied T’Pol. She is a child. I will not be in physical danger from her, and my EV suit will protect me from infection. If you insist on going with me, it will raise suspicions about the nature of our relationship.

Trip broke eye contact with T’Pol when he noticed Hoshi looking at him strangely. He shook his head ruefully and sighed. He had to admit … T’Pol had a point… but he didn’t have to like it.

“All right …,” Archer conceded, “Commander T’Pol will join the away team.” He looked at her with an “I hope you know what you’re doing” expression on his face. She nodded her thanks.

“Please get suited up or attend to your assigned duties, everyone. I will ask Dr. Phlox to meet the away team in the launch bay to review sample collection procedures and medical isolation protocols,” Archer finished.

The comm sounded. The young ensign at helm said, “We’ve arrived, Captain. The ship is within close sensor range.”

“Any lifesigns?” called Archer to the junior officer at the science station as he entered the bridge from his ready room. Ensign Sato took her station, and the remainder of the command staff all piled into the turbolift. The young ensign at T’Pol’s station checked his sensor readings for several seconds. He looked up with a rueful expression. “I only see one, Captain.”

Archer sighed as he took the command chair. He only hoped that they were not too late.

Lieutenant Reed’s breath rasped harshly in his ears in the confines of his EV suit. The away team had disembarked from the shuttlepod into a cargo bay which was frigid and devoid of atmosphere. Each of them carried either a transport case for tissue and blood samples or a portable piece of automated medical equipment. Dr. Phlox had considered it wise to find out more about the nature of the infection before allowing the away team back on Enterprise. He would be coordinating their preliminary medical investigation from his lab in Sickbay. Malcolm had determined that the best course of action would be to split the away team in two, sending T’Pol and one MACO after the only living passenger, while the other three members of the away team searched the ship and obtained the information they would require to determine the cause of the deadly infection that had apparently killed nearly everyone on board.

As they approached the airlock that led to the rest of the ship, Malcolm noticed a stack of objects that didn’t look like cargo.

“I guess we’ve found out why they evacuated the atmosphere in here,” he said to Travis over the EV suit comm. He approached the pile of body bags… five in all. “This is almost the whole bloody crew!” he muttered.

“Commander, why don’t you go ahead with Rogers,” said Malcolm to T’Pol, indicating the MACO who stood beside her with a wave of his hand. “Finding the one person who’s still alive on this death ship has first priority. The rest of us will stay here and collect ‘samples’.”

“Agreed,” replied T’Pol. She entered the open airlock and waited for Rogers to follow her before she triggered the door and began to pressurize the chamber. Malcolm, Travis, and the second MACO, a huge muscular fellow by the name of Ramirez, began the unpleasant task of opening body bags. The corpses were frozen solid after being exposed to the icy vacuum in the landing bay, so it was impossible to collect the samples Phlox had asked for.

“Damn it to bloody hell!” exclaimed Malcolm as he opened the last bag. “They’re all women!” The exposure to vacuum had deformed their features somewhat, but he could see that the dead crew members … and they were all ship’s crew in matching black uniforms with gold trim … were at one time quite attractive young women.

“I think I’m gonna throw up,” said Travis weakly.

“I wouldn’t advise it, Ensign,” replied Malcolm, feeling somewhat queasy himself. “I’ve done it before, and it’s a most unpleasant experience in an EV suit.”

“Reed to Dr. Phlox,” he called over the comm.

“Yes, Lieutenant… have you found something to analyze?” asked Phlox with macabre eagerness.

“In a manner of speaking, we have, Doctor … but we can’t collect samples from a body frozen solid from exposure to space,” Malcolm replied.

“I suggest you attempt to find an unfrozen specimen, Lieutenant. The organism that caused this infection is not likely to survive exposure to a vacuum. I need living microorganisms to do my analysis,” responded the doctor.

“Understood, Doctor,” said Malcolm. They closed the body bags up again. Ramirez crossed himself and knelt for a moment near the bags before they entered the airlock.

“Maybe we could have a funeral for ‘em when this is all over,” said Travis, continuing to look at the pitiful pile of bodies until the airlock swung shut.

“I’ll be sure and mention that to the captain when we’re back on board,” Malcolm replied, placing a sympathetic hand on his shoulder.

Rogers preceded T’Pol out of the airlock, his phase pistol drawn and set to stun.

“You are most unlikely to require a weapon, Corporal,” said T’Pol dryly. “The only living persons currently on this vessel are members of our away team and one small child.”

The MACO scanned the corridor, alert for any movement. “Just following protocol, Ma’am.” He lowered his weapon, but didn’t put it away, and looked back at T’Pol for further instructions. T’Pol pointed her tricorder down the hallway.

“The life signs are in this direction,” she said.

As they approached the ship’s small sickbay, T’Pol could feel a presence in the back of her mind. She received no images… there was no attempt to communicate. It simply felt as if someone were observing her every move. It was an unsettling sensation. The two of them entered the room and were faced with an appalling sight. Laid out on the bed as if prepared for a state funeral was an attractive woman dressed in an elaborate robe of gold brocade. Her coal-black curls were piled on top of her head and surrounded by a gold circlet. She appeared to be a human woman in her early forties, but T’Pol knew she could only be the Betazoid ambassador. The woman had been carefully made up, and her perfectly manicured hands were folded on her chest. If it had not been for the absolute pallor of her skin and the total absence of movement, T’Pol would have believed her to be sleeping. Sitting beside the bed on a chair with his head pillowed on the woman’s abdomen and one muscular arm wrapped around her waist was one of the most aesthetically pleasing humanoid males that T’Pol had ever seen. He was dressed in loose-fitting maroon silk trousers and a flowing silk robe which fell open to reveal his bare muscular chest. His shoulder-length black hair fell in ringlets on either side of his face, while his bangs were gathered into a golden barrette on the crown of his head. He appeared to be at least a decade younger than the woman in his embrace. His dark eyes, seemingly bottomless black pools with no visible pupils, stared sightlessly at the woman’s face as if, even in death, he was unable to bear the thought of never seeing her alive again. The man’s free arm hung lifelessly at his side. On the floor beneath his hand was a small recording device.

T’Pol picked up the device and activated it. A beautifully melodious baritone voice began to speak. T’Pol felt the watcher in her mind take notice.

“I am Daron, consort to Ambassador Ariana of Betazed, daughter of the Sixth House of Betazed and heir to the Matriarch of the Ruling Council. As I record this message, my daughter Lianna and I are the only occupants of this ship who have not yet succumbed to the illness that has killed the crew and taken my Imzadi from me.” The speaker stopped for a moment as a fit of dry coughing overcame him, and then continued in a determined manner.

“The first member of the crew became ill only a few days after our departure from Betazed. Within three days she was dead, and the other crew members soon followed. This morning, I found the captain dead at the helm. Although she dismissed me as inconsequential… a useless but decorative trophy male… I could not help but develop respect for her in this difficult situation. I regret that I am now so weakened by this illness that I was unable to preserve her body for burial the way I have done with the others. She stayed at her post until the last, only deactivating the engines when it appeared that we would be risking contamination of an inhabited world should we continue with no one at the helm. Her recorded distress beacon is the reason you are here listening to this message. I find it ironic that I should be the last adult left alive. Perhaps the captain was correct in her assessment of my lack of usefulness. I know nothing of starships, and even less of medicine.” He paused to catch his breath, his wheezing audibly worsening as he continued to speak.

“I lost Ariana two hours ago. Her death frightened Lianna badly, so I gave her a sleeping draught and put her to bed. I wasn’t sure of the dosage, so I don’t know how long she will sleep. I hope you find her before she wakes up. She has never been without one of us in her mind to keep her company. I’m not sure how she’ll react to being alone. If there are no telepaths among you, it would be prudent for you to keep her sedated until you can deliver her into the care of her grandmother on Betazed. Betazoid children normally do not come into their full telepathic powers until puberty, but Lianna is an exception. She was born fully telepathic and empathic, with powers greater than any single adult Betazoid now living. Her mother and I have spent the four years since her birth trying to teach her control, but she’s still a baby, and can be dangerous when she’s upset.”

The recorded voice was now a whisper, as if the effort required to continue speaking was too much to bear. “I have prepared Ariana for burial as best as I am able. Please see that her body is returned to Betazed …. and please take care of my baby girl. She is the treasure of all Betazed. If she lives to adulthood with her sanity intact, she will undoubtedly be the next ruler of our planet … but, for now, she needs comfort and someone to love her.”

The recording ended. Rogers cleared his throat and sniffed, not trusting himself to speak without an embarrassing display of emotion. T’Pol closed her eyes and breathed deeply until she regained control. Opening her eyes once again, she ignored the emotionally distressing display in the center of the room and walked along its periphery, scanning with her tricorder. She stopped at a storage cabinet on the far wall near the floor. Silently, she faced the cabinet and sat down on the floor, closing her eyes in meditation. Rogers stood behind her with a puzzled look on his face, but said nothing to disturb her concentration.

T’Pol opened her eyes in the white space. A small child in a ruffled pink nightgown stood before her, regarding her solemnly with huge black pupil-less eyes just like her father’s.

Hello … I am T’Pol, T’Pol ventured hesitantly.

The child straightened, and said in a voice much too old for her years, I am Lianna, daughter of the Sixth House of Betazed. Her heart-shaped face was stern and proud. Then she spoiled the effect by sticking her right thumb in her mouth.

T’Pol suppressed her amusement. Were you listening to your father’s message? she asked.

The child’s eyes filled with tears as she pulled her thumb out of her mouth. Mama and Papa are gone. They left me all alone, she said in a small, heartbroken voice.

T’Pol sighed. She had no experience with grieving four year olds, and was not sure what to say to the child to comfort her. Your father has asked me to take you home to your grandmother. He loved you very much and has asked me to take care of you. I am sure that it would please him if you would come with me to my ship so that I may do so... Will you come? T’Pol stood and held her hand out to the little girl, one brow raised questioningly.

Lianna put her thumb back into her mouth and reached for T’Pol’s right hand with her left, gripping it tightly and looking up at her with a look of complete trust that caused a painful tightening in T’Pol’s chest.

I will keep this one safe, T’Pol thought fiercely. I will allow nothing to harm her.

Rogers watched in amazement as a tiny moppet with a head full of tangled black ringlets climbed out of the storage cabinet and, without a word, climbed into the commander’s lap as she sat on the floor in her EV suit and wrapped both arms around her waist.

“Rogers to Lieutenant Reed,” said the MACO over the suit-to-suit comm.

“Reed here,” replied Malcolm.

“The commander has located the surviving passenger and we are on our way to the cargo bay.” reported Rogers.

“Excellent work, Corporal. You may begin re-pressurizing the cargo bay when you arrive. The rest of us will be along shortly.”

“Understood, Lieutenant.”

Malcolm, Travis and Ramirez walked toward the bridge of the small vessel. Travis couldn’t help noticing the signs of obvious wealth surrounding him. The ship appeared to be brand new… all of her equipment and fittings shone with gold overlay. The corridor was painted a rich burgundy, and had real wood wainscoting and crystal light fixtures. This was definitely someone’s private yacht and not a commercial vessel. They stepped on to the small but well-appointed bridge. Sitting at the helm was an elegant-looking middle-aged woman. Her raven hair had begun to go grey at the temples, but it was obvious that in her youth she must have been a great beauty. She wore a solid black uniform with gold trim identical to the uniforms worn by the deceased crew members in the cargo bay. Malcolm scanned her with his tricorder. She was quite dead, apparently for less than twenty-four hours if her body temperature readings were accurate. He rolled up her sleeve and began to take the necessary tissue and blood samples, forcefully suppressing his observation that she looked very much like his mother.

Perhaps I should send Mother a letter, he thought absently, as he fed samples into the genetic sequencer for analysis and transmitted the resulting data to Dr. Phlox back on Enterprise.

Travis located the ship’s log, and downloaded a copy for future analysis. Ramirez left the bridge to retrieve a stasis capsule from the shuttlepod to preserve the remains of the Imzadi’s captain for further study and eventual burial. When all was in readiness, the away team… plus one very exhausted little girl who slept fitfully in T’Pol’s arms… returned to Enterprise. The Imzadi was taken in tow, its interior vented to the cold vacuum of space to preserve the bodies within it and sterilize its interior. The two ships traveled in tandem toward Betazed at maximum warp.

Captain Archer entered Sickbay with Commander Tucker at his heels.

“Malcolm said he’s got her in decon with the kid without her EV suit on, Jon! Why the hell would he risk her like that?” asked Trip angrily as they came through the door. Dr. Phlox heard them enter and turned from the electron microscope to greet them with a smile.

“Ah! I’m so glad you gentlemen are here! I have some wonderful news!” he said.

“Your news better be that T’Pol’s okay, or I’m gonna have a serious problem with the way you’ve handled this situation!” threatened Trip.

“Please calm down, Mr. Tucker! Commander T’Pol is in no danger whatsoever, and in a very short time I will have enough vaccine to protect the entire crew,” Phlox smiled proudly at them both.

Archer looked at Phlox in amazement. “The away team’s only been back for two hours! How did you come up with a vaccine for an alien infection so quickly?”

“That’s just it, Jon!” said Phlox with excitement. “Just look at this!” He turned and put the electron microscope image of the organism he’d been studying on the wall monitor. “This is the virus that was present in the blood samples Lieutenant Reed provided...” The image was of an oval structure bristling with smaller round objects, looking for all the world like an egg stuck with hundreds of round-headed pins. He brought up a second image. “… and this one is the human influenza virus,” he said triumphantly.

Trip squinted at the images, and then looked at the doctor with a shrug. “They look exactly the same to me!” he said.

“Precisely!” exclaimed Phlox.

Archer’s eyes widened in shock. “Do you mean to tell me these people all died of the flu?” he demanded.

“They died of the strain of influenza that caused Earth’s last pandemic back in 2010, to be precise, Captain,” Phlox replied.

“How would a human influenza virus end up on a Betazoid ship if Humans and Betazoids have never been in contact with each other?” asked Archer with a mystified expression.

“That’s an excellent question, Captain. I believe the answer to the mystery may lie in the Imzadi’s log. If we can determine the ship’s ports of call and previous passengers, we may be able to discover the source of contamination. The 2010 pandemic strain of influenza is a virus which is commonly used for research purposes in virology laboratories on many worlds. It shouldn’t be too difficult to determine if the Imzadi’s crew was exposed to it. In the meantime, a vaccine for the crew will be extremely easy to synthesize, as it will be based on a vaccine which is already in common use for all Starfleet personnel.”

“What about T’Pol?” Trip insisted. “She hasn’t been vaccinated.”

“Vulcans are not susceptible to human influenza, Commander. As I told you before, Commander T’Pol will be perfectly safe,” Phlox said reassuringly. “Besides, it’s not as if we had any choice about leaving her in decon with the child. Crewman Cutler is still in observation in biobed two, recovering from the migraine headache that resulted from the child’s very vigorous telepathic objections to being separated from T’Pol. She’s developed quite an amazing attachment in only a few hours.”

“So when are they gettin’ out?” asked Trip in a somewhat calmer tone of voice. “The rest of the away team was cleared an hour ago.”

“The external decontamination cycle will be complete within the hour, but I’ll need to keep the child here for at least three more days for observation. I’ve begun prophylactic antiviral treatment, but she was initially exposed several days ago, and may develop signs of infection despite treatment. Because she isn’t old enough to remain alone in the isolation chamber, Commander T’Pol will need to remain with her.”

“Three days!” exclaimed both Archer and Trip in unison. Phlox looked at them in amusement.

Archer glanced at Trip, giving him a sympathetic grin, and then told Phlox, “Three days is a long time to deprive me of my first officer just so she can babysit for you!”

“Just let me know where I can find another telepathic babysitter, Captain, and you may have your first officer back. In the mean time, Crewman Cutler will certainly attest to the fact that I need Commander T’Pol more than you do,” replied Phlox with a grin.

“All right, Phlox. I suppose we can get along without her for a few days. Just let me know when the vaccine is ready. Trip and I have a couple of sirloin steaks and a game of one-on-one basketball planned for this evening. Care to make a bet?” Archer asked teasingly.

“A bottle of Andorian ale on Commander Tucker,” Phlox fired back. Trip grinned proudly and Archer looked at Phlox indignantly.

“I just have the feeling that Mr. Tucker may feel the need to work off a little energy tonight. That just might give him an edge,” finished Phlox enigmatically. Trip gave him a quelling look, and Archer laughed aloud.

“You just might have a point, there, Phlox. He does look a little… frustrated.” Archer grinned conspiratorially at Phlox, and continued to chuckle as he left Sickbay. Trip looked back at Phlox, and then, smiling and shaking his head, followed Archer out.

“Are you hungry, Lianna?” asked T’Pol as she rubbed decon gel over the little girl’s back and shoulders. They were both sitting in their underwear under the ultraviolet lights of the decon chamber.

The child nodded. “Can I have some uttaberry pie?” she asked. “That’s my favorite.”

“I’m afraid Chef will have difficulty obtaining ingredients from Betazed until we arrive there, Lianna. In addition, pie lacks sufficient nutrients to serve as an entire meal. Perhaps you might enjoy a delicacy from Earth which I have recently discovered. It is called a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” replied T’Pol. She finished applying gel to Lianna’s legs, and then began applying the gel to her own body.

Lianna stuck out her lower lip in an unmistakable pout. “I’d rather have uttaberry pie,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest and looking miserably down at the floor. T’Pol continued to apply decon gel in silence, ignoring the child’s obvious attempts to manipulate her into providing food of questionable nutritional value.

Phlox’s voice sounded over the comm. “How are things going in there, Commander?”

“We have completed the gel application, Doctor, and have begun discussing our dinner options,” replied T’Pol. “Would you please ask Chef to prepare a glass of milk, one iced tea, two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, …” Lianna let out a heavy sigh. T’Pol glanced in her direction. One brow went up. “… and two pieces of blueberry pie.”

Trip returned to his quarters at 2000 hours and, pulling off his sweaty t-shirt and shorts, headed for the shower. Phlox had apparently been right about his energy level … he’d beaten Jon by two points. Trip stepped under the showerhead, luxuriating in the feel of the warm water cascading over his body. ’Course, this’d be a lot more fun if T’Pol was in here with me, he thought. His eyes closed and a smile appeared on his face as he recalled her reaction the first time he’d suggested it. Apparently, it was a favorite fantasy of hers that she’d been too embarrassed to indulge in. Since the evening a week before when he’d first offered to ‘conserve water’, this was the first time he’d showered alone. He soaped and rinsed quickly, before the memory of recent showers got him into a state for which there would be no satisfactory remedy for at least three days.

Lying on his bunk, dressed in a clean t-shirt and undershorts, and still acutely feeling the lack of T’Pol’s warm body next to his, Trip closed his eyes and entered meditation, hoping to find her waiting for him. He was not disappointed.

Hey, darlin’. Miss me yet? he asked with a flirtatious grin as he stood before her in the white space.

T’Pol opened her eyes and looked up from the seated position.

Please join me, husband, she told him serenely. I have just begun my meditation for the evening.

Trip took a seat facing her and slowed his breathing rate to match hers. They sat in companionable silence for thirty minutes.

Where’s the kid? whispered Trip, as T’Pol began to stir from her motionless position.

Her name is Lianna…, T’Pol corrected softly, …and she is sleeping.

Trip leaned forward on his knees and brushed T’Pol’s lips gently with his own.

I’ve been meanin’ to ask…, he whispered. If we can hug and kiss and all in here… What’s keepin’ us from tryin’ somethin’ a little more… satisfyin’? He grinned suggestively at her, and then kissed her again with considerably more passion. T’Pol rose to her knees and pressed her body against his, eagerly returning his kiss. Over her shoulder, the round pillow covered bed that she’d become adept at conjuring from the whiteness suddenly appeared. Trip chuckled and stood with her in his arms. He carried her to the bed and gently laid her on it, then covered her body with his own, reveling in the feel of her curves against him. He gazed deeply into her eyes, awed by the desire that he saw in them.

You’re Trip-T’hy’la, said a small voice by the side of the bed. Both of them froze, and then looked toward the voice in shock.

Lianna had a smile on her small face. Are you wrestling? she asked happily. Mama and Papa like to wrestle in the bed, too, but they always put up shields so I can’t watch. Can I watch you?

Trip sighed heavily, resting his forehead on T’Pol’s for a moment, and then rolled to the side.

Very nice to meet you, Lianna…, he said with exaggerated formality as he sat up in the bed with his legs crossed. … but please just call me Trip. The other part is a real private name. Only T’Pol calls me that one, he explained with a sidelong glance at T’Pol. How much did this kid know about them anyway?

Lianna…, added T’Pol gently as she sat up as well. It’s not polite to read someone’s private thoughts without their permission.

The little girl looked momentarily chastened. That’s what Papa says, she said. But that’s what you call him. You’re thinkin’ it now!

T’Pol’s brow went up. Apparently she was completely unable to shield her thoughts from the girl. The implications were disturbing.

Is t’hy’la like imzadi? Lianna asked curiously.

T’Pol thought for a moment. She had, of course, translated the name of the Betazoid ship in the course of her preparations for the away mission. The Betazoid database had given several definitions for the word imzadi… beloved… first love… only love… a love that transcends all obstacles…

I believe that in this instance, the meanings are identical, she told the child, looking sidelong at Trip almost shyly as she did so.

Thought so! crowed Lianna in delight. Mama hates it when Papa calls her imzadi where someone else can hear. She says it’s private. When she bought our ship, she promised Papa that he could name it. Her small face lit up at the recollection. Mama was mad when he picked that name, but she promised…

Lianna’s smile disappeared and her eyes suddenly filled with tears. Trip realized that, for a short time, she had forgotten that her parents were dead. He moved over and patted the bed between himself and T’Pol.

C’mon up here, munchkin. How ‘bout a bedtime story? he asked her with a sympathetic smile.

Lianna wiped her eyes and climbed up on the bed between them, smiling a watery little smile.

Trip thought for a moment. Once upon a time, there were three little pigs, he began. Lianna looked at him in puzzlement.

What’s a pig? she asked.

Trip sighed. This parenting thing was harder than it looked.

T’Pol spent the first few hours of her first full day in isolation with a PADD, editing the entertainment choices that had been provided for the child by her well-meaning husband. She reviewed plot summaries of the selections he’d suggested and eliminated Cinderella, Bambi, Annie, and a host of other choices as inappropriate for a grieving child. She failed to understand the preoccupation with the death of parental figures that seemed to play such a large role in human entertainment for small children.

Once Lianna was suitably entertained, T’Pol began her exploration of the Imzadi’s log. She looked up when she heard Lianna cough. The little girl was lying on her abdomen on one of the bunks with her chin in both hands, completely absorbed in the recording before her. Her cheeks were flushed, and as T’Pol watched, she coughed again. T’Pol felt a pang of alarm.

“Lianna, how do you feel?” she asked the child calmly…firmly suppressing her panic as deeply as possible to prevent Lianna from sensing it.

Lianna looked up from her movie with a smile, and winced as she moved her neck. “Head hurts,” she said distractedly, rubbing the back of her neck as the cartoon claimed her attention again.

T’Pol got on the comm. “T’Pol to Dr. Phlox,” she said urgently.

“Phlox here,” answered the doctor in his usual cheerful tones.

“I believe we may have a problem,” she said.

Captain Archer sat at the desk in his quarters, reviewing the doctor’s plan for mass immunizations for the entire crew to begin at 0800 the following morning. Lianna and T’Pol’s stint in isolation had been extended from three… to five… and now to seven days, but thanks to the antiviral therapy that Phlox had initiated when Lianna had come aboard, the child now appeared to be recovering. Enterprise, with the Imzadi in tow, would arrive at Betazed in less than a week, and he still had nothing to tell the head of the planet’s governing body about the source of the virus that had killed her daughter and son-in-law.

“T’Pol to Captain Archer,” sounded the comm. T’Pol’s voice was controlled, clipped, and very, very Vulcan.

Well… she sounds pissed! thought Archer.

“Archer here,” he responded.

“I have discovered the source of the virus which killed the passengers and crew of the Imzadi, Captain. I am transmitting my complete report to your quarters. Although it is a private vessel, the Imzadi was apparently commandeered by the Ambassador’s mother to provide transportation for a trio of Vulcan virologists who’d been invited to do research on Betazed as part of another attempt to establish diplomatic relations between our peoples. The scientists used Imzadi’s cargo bay to transport their specimens. I have contacted them on Betazed. The head researcher informed me that there had been a stasis pod malfunction while they were on board the Imzadi, but as the only virus released was a harmless research tool known to be infectious only to humans, and since there were no humans in Betazoid space, he saw no logical reason to cause panic among such an excitable species as the Betazoids. I … informed… him of his error.”

Archer winced at that. Wouldn’t he have loved to be a fly on the wall during that conversation!

“I also suggested that, as my report to the Matriarch of the Ruling Council of Betazed would include full information concerning the source of the virus that killed her family members, he should contact his superiors for advice about how to avoid a major diplomatic incident,” finished T’Pol.

“Thank you very much for your help, Commander,” said Archer with sincerity. “I’ll be sure to give you credit for everything you’ve done when I speak with the Matriarch. Maybe your involvement will make it possible to salvage relations between Vulcan and Betazed after everything calms down.”

“One can only hope that the Matriarch has a forgiving nature,” replied T’Pol dryly.

“How’s Lianna?” asked Archer. He knew that T’Pol had been staying up nights nursing the little girl, and that her anger at the researchers stemmed less from their inadvertent sabotage of Vulcan/Betazoid relations than it did from her affection for the child.

“The muscle aches and fever have resolved,” T’Pol told him. “She is still weak, but she will recover.”

“I’m very happy to hear that, Commander. I’m looking forward to meeting her when Phlox releases you both from isolation,” said Archer with a smile.

“I believe he plans to do so as soon as everyone is vaccinated…just as a precaution. This strain of influenza is almost as virulent in humans as it has proven to be in Betazoids,” replied T’Pol.

“I guess I’d better get to it then,” said Archer briskly. “That’s what I was working on when you called.”

“Understood, Captain. T’Pol out.”

As T’Pol and Lianna stepped hand-in-hand out of the isolation chamber, they were met by cheers, whistles and applause. T’Pol graced everyone with her signature brow raise. Alarmed by the noise, Lianna hid behind T’Pol, peeking around one leg uncertainly. Then the feelings of welcome and joy at her recovery from everyone in the room registered in her mind. She stepped out with a smile on her face, gazing in wonder at the balloons and streamers hanging from the ceiling. The entire command staff was present to welcome her on board, and she looked from one face to another as if she were searching for someone. Her face lit up when she found him.

“Trip-T’hy’la!” she exclaimed as she ran to him. He swept her up in his arms and gave her a big hug. Private… remember? he reminded her silently, a broad grin on his face. Sorry! she sent back, not looking the least bit remorseful. He laughed and squeezed her tighter, then realized that everyone was looking at them in surprise.

“She’s sure taken a liking to you at first sight!” laughed Hoshi with a puzzled expression. T’hy’la… she thought. Now where have I heard that word before?

Trip laughed weakly. “I just sent her some movies and we talked some… over the comm…. “

“He told me bedtime stories… like the one about the pigs!” added Lianna excitedly.

“There’s cake!” Trip interjected hurriedly before Lianna had the chance to volunteer any more information. He put the little girl down and pointed toward the rolling cart that Chef had brought over from the kitchen. On it was a sheet cake with words “Welcome Lianna“ written in the Betazoid language in pink icing.

Trip stepped back and watched the little girl make a beeline for the cake. He walked over to Hoshi, who seemed lost in thought. “The Betazoid script’s a nice touch, Hoshi, but I don’t think she can read yet,” he murmured to her under his breath. She started and looked at him strangely, then his comment registered.

“I thought we’d send the log recordings with her, and she’ll be able to look at them when she’s older and remember us,” Hoshi said with a self-deprecating smile and a shrug. “Maybe this’ll give her some good memories to balance out the bad ones.” Trip smiled at her gratefully and squeezed her shoulder, then went to join T’Pol and Lianna as they cut the cake.

Hoshi reached behind her and picked up the PADD and stylus she’d taken to carrying around with her everywhere since the captain had charged her with learning everything in the Betazoid database in less than two weeks. She entered the word t’hy’la.

It’s Vulcan! she thought in surprise. Why would a Betazoid child use a Vulcan word? She pulled up the definition. … a term of endearment used between bond-mates…. cross reference bond-mates… An astonished smile broke out on her face, and she looked across the room at Commanders Tucker and T’Pol as they took turns feeding bites of cake to an already very sugar-laden little girl.

“Oh my God!” she whispered, unheard by anyone in the room… the sound of her voice masked by the uproar of a party in full swing. “They’re not fooling around… They’re married!”

Captain Archer sat in the command chair on the bridge, gazing at the luminous silhouette of Betazed as the Enterprise became the first human vessel to orbit the planet. He’d spoken with Lianna’s grandmother… Amelia, Daughter of the Sixth House and Matriarch of the Ruling Council of Betazed… he mentally amended… and delivered his condolences and a copy of T’Pol’s investigative report. The Imzadi had been repressurized, and the deceased were placed into impervious containers and transported directly to a sealed facility on the planet below. Commander Tucker, Commander T’Pol, Ensign Mayweather, Lieutenant Reed, and Ensign Sato, able to enter the ship without EV suits because they were immune or had been vaccinated, took a shuttlepod once again into the Imzadi’s cargo bay and took up posts on the Imzadi. They planned to fly the small ship directly to the spacedock facility at Betazed’s main orbital station, where it would undergo a final sterilization before returning to duty. Commander Tucker was able to get the engines running again in very short order, and the small ship got underway. Lianna accompanied them. Given the chair on the bridge reserved for the second in command, she gazed excitedly out of the main view port as the ship approached the station. T’Pol, seated in the command chair, gave her a nod. Lianna got down from her chair and climbed into Hoshi’s lap as she sat at the communications station. Hoshi held the comm headset to the child’s head.

“This is the Betazoid ship Imzadi …,” the little girl said in the Betazoid language. She looked questioningly at Hoshi.

“We request …,” whispered Hoshi with an encouraging smile.

Lianna smiled broadly and continued. “We request permission to dock,” she finished proudly.

“Acknowledged, Imzadi,” came the amused reply. “You may proceed.”

Ensign Mayweather piloted the small ship toward the berth that had been reserved for it. Following a successful docking, the landing party would continue to the main station in the shuttlepod. Malcolm Reed, included in the party by virtue of his role as a member of the away team which originally investigated the Imzadi, but with nothing to do which fell within his area of expertise, contented himself with admiring the way Hoshi dealt with the tiny girl who sat on her lap.

She’s very good with children, he thought.

He gazed wistfully at the way she ran her fingers through the child’s curls, wishing that she’d someday run her fingers through his hair like that. The two of them were beautiful together. With their heads side-by-side, their hair and skin color were so similar that they could almost pass for mother and child, if it weren’t for the little girl’s unsettling pupil-less black eyes. Just as the thought occurred to him, the child suddenly locked eyes with him from across the room. He smiled at her uncertainly. She grinned back. He saw her whisper something in Hoshi’s ear, and then kiss her on one cheek. She repeated the process with the opposite ear and cheek. Hoshi looked at him from across the room and gave him a brilliant smile. He smiled back.

I wish I knew what just happened, he thought.

I gave her one from me, and one from you, said a mischievous, childish voice in his mind. Don’t worry … She liked it!

Malcolm stared wide-eyed at the little girl. She just giggled.

Ensign Mayweather executed a flawless landing onto the station’s landing deck. Lianna was the first to disembark from the shuttlepod. She turned and grabbed first Commander T’Pol’s hand, and then Commander Tucker’s, and the three of them walked together across the landing deck to meet the welcoming party standing at its edge. As soon as Lianna recognized the woman standing at the head of the group, she dropped hands with her friends from Enterprise and sprinted across the field. Her ecstatic telepathic greeting caused everyone on the station to wince.


She ran to the dignified grey-haired woman in the ornate gilded robes and leapt into her arms. The elderly woman staggered a bit, and was steadied by two very attractive young male bodyguards who stood at each of her elbows, apparently for that very purpose.

After her initial boisterous greeting, Lianna rapidly became more subdued, as her grandmother silently took her to task for her very un-royal behavior. The Matriarch continued to hold her, however, and she placed her forehead in contact with the child’s forehead, closing her eyes. Through the link which the little girl still maintained with her, T’Pol could feel Lianna’s contentment and joy at finally being able to make full telepathic contact with a member of her own race who loved her. The child’s grandmother was a powerful telepath… nearly as powerful as Lianna herself… and within a few moments she knew everything about Lianna’s new friends on Enterprise that the child did. T’Pol realized with alarm that this included information which she would definitely prefer not to be revealed to the other members of the landing party.

Lianna slipped down from her grandmother’s arms and, sliding out of the grasp of one of the Matriarch’s bodyguards, ran back across the landing field, taking Trip and T’Pol by the hand again and towing them toward the waiting Matriarch. By this time, the rest of the landing party had caught up with them.

The Matriarch regarded the group with solemn dignity.

“I wish to thank all of you for bringing my granddaughter safely home to me,” she said sincerely. “The services for my daughter, her consort, and the crew of the Imzadi will be held on the grounds of the Sixth House tomorrow morning. I would be honored if you and your captain would attend.”

T’Pol realized that, as the ranking officer in the group, it was her responsibility to accept the Matriarch’s invitation.

“We grieve with thee, Amelia of the Sixth House,” she said solemnly. “You honor us with your invitation.”

“I have reviewed your report, Commander T’Pol of Vulcan,” replied the Matriarch with rigid control. “I am very grateful for your role in bringing those responsible for my daughter’s death to justice. The authorities on Vulcan have assured me that those involved will be appropriately reprimanded. It is my hope that this incident will not bring an end to the attempts our peoples have made to establish diplomatic relations.”

“That is my hope as well,” replied T’Pol.

If you wish, I will request that your captain allow you and your mate to remain here for several days for diplomatic purposes. There will be no need to dissemble in our company. It’s the least I can do for the two of you after the way you have taken my grandchild into your hearts. The dignified elderly woman stood looking at them in silence, giving no external sign of her telepathic communication.

Trip and T’Pol looked at each other. Both of them had heard the Matriarch’s offer. The remainder of the away team showed no sign that they’d heard anything out of the ordinary.

“We would enjoy spending a little more time with Lianna while we’re here,” offered Trip. He looked to T’Pol for support.

“Indeed,” she agreed. “Perhaps our captain would agree to a few days of shore leave.”

“I will be happy to discuss the possibility with him,” replied the Matriarch.

Trip entered T’Pol’s quarters without knocking, knowing through their bond that she was in deep meditation and not wanting to disturb her. He could sense that she was attempting to deal with the distressing emotions that their encounter with the Imzadi had triggered. He sat at the meditation table across from her and entered the white space with her, remaining perfectly silent and calm. They breathed in unison for nearly an hour before T’Pol spoke.

“It is late, husband,” she whispered, her eyes still closed. “You should sleep before the service tomorrow.”

“I’m not goin’ to bed without my wife tonight,” he told her. “You’re havin’ trouble with this, aren’t ya?”

“Confronting mortality is a disturbing experience,” replied T’Pol.

“I suppose it is …,” said Trip with a sigh. “… But we’ve all gotta die sometime.”

“I am not disturbed by the fact that I will someday die,” T’Pol countered. “It would not be logical to be disturbed by a necessary biological process.”

She opened her eyes and gazed into his. He felt her sadness like a weight in his chest. “What I am coming to terms with is that, unless I die prematurely by illness or accident, you will someday die and leave me alone. It is not a concept that I am able to accept without a considerable amount of distress.”

Trip got up from the floor and extended his hand. He gave her a loving smile, mirrored by his love for her in the bond.

“It sounds like I need to remind you that we’re both alive now, and together, and in love,” he told her firmly. She took his hand and stood up beside him. He pulled her into an embrace, pressing her cheek against his chest and wrapping her securely in his arms.

“I’m not goin’ anywhere any time soon, darlin’,” he murmured into her hair. They stood locked in each other’s arms for an endless time.

Finally, Trip sighed and pulled away.

“It’s been a rough day …,” he told her. She nodded and stepped away from him, preparing herself for his departure.

“I’m ready for a shower …,” he said instead. “How’s about we practice a little water conservation?” Trip laughed at the surge of surprise and anticipation in the bond. T’Pol raised a brow at him and led the way to the bathroom.




Like Bluetiger, I was caught off guard with the 2010 date of the flu epidemic.  I had to back click to see when you\'d written this....very impressive guess work / research / excellent deductive reasoning :)

I\'m reading this series for the first time - just excellent...thank you.

(December 2010)




When I wrote that I thought I was talking about Avian Flu.  I'm not a prophet, though.  I just read the medical literature in infectious disease every now and then.  A deadly flu pandemic's been expected for years.  So far, knock on wood, the strain hasn't been quite as virulent as everyone feared, but I'm still getting my H1N1 nasal spray this week just in case.  :D


I absolutely love this series. I had forgotten how wonderful Trip. T'Pol and Lianna were together. Such a warm and wonderful relationship between the three. When I reread this line it gave me pause. “They died of the strain of influenza that caused Earth’s last pandemic back in 2010, are you by any chance a prophet, Distracted? I sure am glad to see this again.

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