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Those Who Come After

Officer's Lounge <Deck 30> [Gibraltar Station]

The Officer's Lounge is a quiet, subdued space, perfect for relaxing and socializing. The doors are ribbed mahogany, inlaid with circular windows, each with the Starfleet Delta etched in its center. They are placed to fore and aft of the room, on the port side. Between the doors is a long bar, swirled black marble supporting a white top rimmed with mahogany. The bar curves slightly at either end to enclose the area behind, where twin replicators serve the mundane orders. There is space under the bar for exotic liquors from many parts of the galaxy, and an Antarean ice-crystal sculpture is placed on the wall for decoration. Seven low stools, each made of dark metal with navy blue cushions, sit before the bar for use by the patrons. There is an open space starboard of the bar that extends for a few feet until a step up to a raised platform. Just before the steps are two tables, each a white quarter-wedge with two dark chairs. The room's fore and aft walls widen a bit at the platform to create a large seating area. Four square white tables, each ringed by four dark chairs, are the main seating. Couches built against the fore and aft walls provide more, each with a half-wedge white table before it. Three more small white tables complete the arrangement, each set in front of one of the windows, two dark chairs complementing every one. The central table of these three has a 3-D chess set upon it for use by the lounge's patrons. The windows themselves look out onto the black of space, providing an excellent view of the planet below. The carpeting is a deep blue, the walls paneled in a light gray that almost looks maroon under some lights. Soft mood lighting is provided by panels on the steps, decorative lights at the doors and behind the bar, and by hidden panels in the ceiling.

Winifred Brooks

Alpha shift has ended and various officers are in the lounge relaxing, chatting, and generally winding down after their workday. One such officer sits alone at one of the tables near the windows. There's a plate of food in front of her--something noodly with a creamy-looking sauce--and a glass of tea. The food's barely touched, though, and the young woman sits with her chin cradled in one hand, staring out the window.

Solvek walks into the lounge, his expression as stern as usual. He scans the room and notices the person he has been spending time with. He heads over to her table. "Would it be agreeable to you if I joined you at this table?" he asks softly.

Fred looks up from her reverie, blinking for a moment, and then smiles. "Of course... sit down. I was just having dinner. Without any work for once." She gestures to the chair across from her.

Solvek sits arcoss from Fred. "Is this a rare occurance for you?" His tone is not one of concern but one of curiosity.

That elicits a laugh. "Are you kidding? Haven't you noticed I always have a PADD? I'm pretty much always working." Fred pauses. "Well. Maybe not working on official stuff, but working on some sort of research, or reading papers, or whatever."

"Then it is good that you finally have some time without work." Solvek nods, affirming his own words. "How has your week been? I must apologize for my absence. The formal preparations for the Ambassadorial ball and an issue of some importance have caused my duties to overflow into the time I set aside for outside projects."

Fred shrugs. "It's alright. I've been working, mostly. I went to see the Counselor... figured I'd better get it out of the way." She looks down at her plate, frowning, and takes a bite of her food, as if reminded of something.

Solvek frowns as she takes a bite. "Winifred, is something troubling you?" His tone now sounds somewhat concorned.

Fred blinks and looks up. "What? Troubling me? No, nothing. I mean... yes. Maybe." She sighs, looks back down at her plate, stirring the noodles with her fork. "I've just been really... on edge lately. I'm not sure why."

Solvek stares at Fred for a moment. He looks like he wants to ask further questions on the subject. "How was your visit with Commander Salvir?" He obviously lets the subject pass.

Noodles pushed around with a fork are not noodles being eaten, but Fred keeps on pushing them about. "It was alright. He wasn't as... pushy as the other Counselors I'd talked to. Didn't ask a single thing about my cadet cruise, for once. Wanted to know how I was, if there was anything I wanted to talk about. He said he thought I had a good handle on my problems and what I wanted to do about them." She shakes her head and chuckles under her breath--a sort of 'I can't quite believe it' chuckle. "I'm s'posed to go back next week."

Solvek watches as she pushes her food about. He expression darkens a bit. "Are you certain as to your state of knowledge pertaining to your current troubles?" Apparently he is going to pry a bit. How non-Vulcan of him.

Fred looks up and blinks. "What... do you mean?"

Solvek thinks before he clarifies, "I am asking if you are certain that you are unsure as to what is making you 'on edge'?"

Ames comes through the door from Starboard Walkway <Deck 30>.
Ames has arrived.

Fred sighs. "I have some ideas... but none of them really make much sense. It's all rather silly." She finally take a bite of the noodles. Ha!

Solvek presses on, "Please elaborate. I am certain that I will not find them 'silly'. I have learned recently that discussing a problem often allows one to more easily ascertain the solution."

Brooks and Solvek are sitting at one of the tables by the windows. Fred has a plate of noodles in cream sauce and a glass of tea in front of her; Solvek has nothing. They appear to be having a discussion of some sort. "It's just... me being overly emotional about things that aren't important, is all." Uh-huh, right, sure. "Y'know, I was wondering... can humans learn Vulcan mental discipline? Like, adult humans." That's said in a tone of definite changing-the-damn-subject.

Walking into the officer's lounge, a thoughtful look on her face, is Rose Ames. She walks over to the replicator, getting a glass of orange juice from it, before looking around, spotting Winifred and Solvek. She turns towards them and walks towards the two, "Mind if I join you?"

Solvek tilts his head a bit. He surveys Fred a bit more before before responding to her question, "It is not unheard of for adult humans to learn the teachings and disciplines of Surak, however, I am told the process is quite difficult and, if not done correctly, can permenantly scar the human psyche." He looks up to Ames as she approaches, "As I am currently a guest, I shall allow Ms. Brooks to make the decision on that matter, Commander Ames."

"D'you think I could learn?" Fred practically shoots the question back, and then blinks, looking over at Ames. "Oh... ummm... no, not at all, Commander. Have a seat." She looks surprisingly... relieved.

Ames moves to sit at the table, then, "Thank you, Lieutenant. Commander." She glances between the two, "Surak's teachings are quite interesting, I find." She sets her glass down in front of her, "I had the opportunity to study them during my youth, as a matter of fact."

Solvek frowns at Fred, "I am uncertain, Winifred. That is a subject that would be determined on Vulcan by a disciple far more qualified that I. It saddens me to say that I have yet to achieve Kohlinar, and therefore am unqualified to judge the mental strengths of others." He pauses for a moment and then turns to Ames, slighty quirking his left brow.

"Mmm. Well. I guess that'd have to wait, then." Fred shrinks back a bit, frowning at her plate, and returns to eating. 'Cause otherwise her food'll get cold, and that just won't do.

Ames looks over at Solvek, "In my youth, Commander, most human telepaths were trained by the Vulcans, and part of that training involved the teachings of Surak." She looks a bit uncomfortable discussing this, but she is doing her best to supress it.

T'Lyt comes through the door from Starboard Walkway <Deck 30>.
T'Lyt has arrived.

Solvek, Ames, and Brooks are seated at a table. Brooks is eating a plate of noodles with cream sauce, Ames has a glass of orange juice, and Solvek has nothing. "Have the Teachings assisted you in the supression of outside thoughts and emotions?" Solvek's tone seems to indicate that he is quite interested in the fact that Ames is a telepath.

Now that the conversation's off of her, Fred just totally focuses on her food, shrinking even a bit more. She looks to Ames curiously at Solvek's question, but it wouldn't take a telepath to notice she's not looking at the First Officer.

Ames offers a slight nod to Solvek, "They have, though I still possess some difficulty should I have to.. touch somebody else. It is something I prefer to avoid, as a matter of course." She takes a drink of her orange juice, then looks at Brooks, "So, if I may be so bold as to ask... why did... why do... you want to learn Vulcan discipline techniques?"

... and in walks T'Lyt. Yet another telepathic sorta person to make Fred wanna drop dead, poor girl. Worst of all, she of course moves over to where Brooks is presently 'surrounded.' "Commander", T'Lyt says to Ames, nodding her head. Then she simply nods her head to Solvek, as if not needing more of a greeting for him, before turning to offer "Lieutenant" to Brooks. "Might I join you?", she then asks... probably of everyone, although she directs it mainly at the ranking officer -- Solvek.

Solvek gives a slight nod to Ames response. He then looks to his sister and returns her nod adding in response to her questi,n. "I am merely a guest at this table, therefore it is not my decision to make." His eyes move to Brooks who, he notices, is attempting to disappear into the wall of the Lounge.

Fred shrugs a bit, looks up at T'Lyt, just long enough to say, "Go ahead." She looks away quickly, yet despite the fact that Ames asked the question she directs the response mostly to Solvek. Funny, given that she was barely looking at him a moment ago. "Umm. Just... I've been a little over-emotional lately, and I'd like to calm my mind. It's easier. For work."

T'Lyt follows Solvek's look to Brooks. When she's given leave to sit, she does so. She remains quiet for the moment, as if listening to the current conversation.

Ames considers Brooks' answer, "Perhaps. But there are methods of emotional control that are less... drastic. Enough to calm the excessive emotion, while still allowing you to maintain some degree of emotion." She glances at Solvek and T'Lyt, quieting now.

Solvek nods in agreement. "Ames is quite correct in her statement. One of these methods is the practice of meditation. It would allow you to clear your mind and focus on what you intend to focus upon. Furthermore, this method seems to have little, if any, negative side effects if it is not successful."

Fred rolls her shoulders, still looking mostly at Solvek. "Tried that. Tried... oh, several things. Sometimes they work for a while, but it never sticks too well. Figured maybe I'd get a bit more drastic. But I'll keep looking... got to be something that'll work." She pauses. "Anyhow, umm... how're you both, Commander Ames, Lieutenant T'Lyt?"

"I'm well", T'Lyt replies. "Might I ask, Lieutenant, what forms of meditation you've attempted?" Putting her elbows on the table, she laces her fingers together and steeples her index fingers. As she finishes her question, she brings the tips of her index fingers, still together, back to her lower lip.

Ames shrugs slightly, "I'm doing fairly well. I am still trying decide what to attend the Masquerade Ball as... I've been drawing a blank as to good ideas."

Solvek sits quietly. Apparently his question has already been asked, no doubt by the other Vulcan. His eyes are fixed on Fred. Attempting to read her expression while trying not to intrude on her feelings.

"Oh, umm... yoga, tantric methods, a few Bajoran methods, something I learned from a Betazoid... a bunch more from Earth and elsewhere I don't remember the names of. You forget it all when you try it for, oh, three years." Fred shrugs a bit. It's unclear whether it's the topic or the scrutiny that makes her uncomfortable, but it's clear she is uncomfortable. She looks to Ames, seeming to latch on to the woman's comment. "Oh, you should ask Captain Hawkins. I did, and she had a great idea. She said I should go as a valkyrie, and once I thought the idea over I really liked it." She glances at Solvek, briefly, as she says this, then looks back to Ames.

"I see", T'Lyt says. "Perhaps your lack of finding an appropriate meditative method has more to do with your lack of focus than with your lack of knowledge of possible techniques. A great deal of Vulcan meditative practices rely a great deal on familiarity and repetition. Perhaps even a very simple form will begin to help -- if you practice it for a length of time of a year or more." Her index fingers came away from her lower lip as she spoke, almost pointing at Brooks while her mouth moved. Then, she folds her arms atop each other on the table in front of her. "Have you eaten?" she asks of Solvek.

Ames considers Brooks' suggestion, then smiles, "I think I'll take that suggestion, Lieutenant. I'm sure the Captain would have some great ideas on costumes." She leans back in her seat, staring off into space as she thinks.

As Brooks mentions her costume, Solvek's eyes widen slightly and then narrow. The narrowing is obviously not directed at anyone at the table. He then turns to T'Lyt. "I believe Ms. Brooks wishes to find a solution that will produce results in a swifter manner than the meditative techniques of our race." He pauses and frowns, "No, I have yet to eat. It has been 9 hours since my last meal."

T'Lyt rises after hearing that Solvek hasn't eaten, nodding to him. Looking, then, to Ames, she says, "Lieutenant Brooks' suggestion is logical. Earth's twentieth-century literature contains a fascinating array of costumed characters. Certainly, one from among them will suit you." That said, she starts for the bar and its replicators.

A flash of irritation crosses Fred's face at T'Lyt's comment, but is swiftly gone. "I'll think about that," she says. "Maybe you're right." She frowns at Solvek as he mentions not having eaten for 9 hours, but doesn't say anything, watching T'Lyt go instead.

Ames watches Brooks face, a look of concern on her own face, then looks among the others, "If you'll all pardon me, I must get going. The Everest is due to arrive any minute now, and I believe I was the one selected to welcome her Captain to the Antares region. Have a good day, Commander. Lieutenants."

Solvek nods to Ames as she makes to leave, "It was agreeable speaking with you Commander. Your input to our discussion was quite stimulating. I wish you well in your search for a suitable costume for the ball." He turns to Brooks and frowns again. He looks like he wants to say something but does nothing.

T'Lyt pauses a moment in her steps towards the replicators to nod to Ames. Arriving there, she orders two bowls of fruit and two cups of a typical Vulcan tea. Tray in hand, she starts back to the table.

Brooks looks to Ames and nods as she leaves. "Good night, Commander," she says softly. And then it's back to focusing on her food, finishing it up, picking at it mostly. Solvek at least would know that Fred rarely 'picks' at her food--usually food enough for three people gets practically inhaled. Maybe she's just not hungry for once.

In the brief moment that no one else is at the table, Solvek leans closer to Brooks and seems to say something to her. Straightening, he looks towards his sister and the food that she is bringing.

T'Lyt sets the tray down on the table and places a bowl and a cup in front of Solvek, keeping her bowl and cup on the tray in front of herself as she sits down. She offers Solvek his fork before picking up her own.

Brooks looks up as Solvek whispers to her and flashes him a smile. As T'Lyt returns her expression goes neutral again and she says, "Umm, well, I don't want to interrupt your dinners, I'm sure you have plenty to talk about..."

Solvek takes the fork he is offered and begins to eat. He looks at Brooks and replies, "No, it is perfectly fine. I do not believe that my sister or I would mind your presence. Company is always a positive stimulus to encourage more... 'interesting' conversations."

T'Lyt merely nods her head in agreement with her brother's words, picking up her own fork to spear a bit of fruit from her own bowl.

"Oh. Okay. Umm. Well. Okay." Brooks pauses a moment, seeming a bit at a loss. "Did I give you the most recent calculations on the Maelstrom's status? Oh, of course I did." Way to be lame, Fred.

Solvek swallows his bit of food before replying, "Yes, I find it quite disturbing that the Maelstrom's 'orbit' has deteriorated one years' worth of time in the course of two months. One could presume that, following this pattern, it will continue to rapidly deteriorate at an accelerated pace."

T'Lyt's brow arches upwards. "Is there any danger to the station?" she wonders between pieces of fruit going into her mouth.

"If it comes here, probably. Every ship that goes in disappears. So do the probes we send, unless we send 'em only to thou outskirts." Fred sighs, but this is clearly a much 'safer' topic of discussion. She even seems a bit more animated. "According to my current calculations, the Maelstrom's path should take it into this system in four years. However, its movement and rate of speed are only accelerating that. Two months ago, the estimate was five years... and it seems to be increasing steadily. Taking into account the likely gains in speed, I think it'll more likely be here by the end of the year." Pause. "I have informed the Captain. So you don't have to worry about that."

"I must, indeed, worry about it. If it will be here in a year's time, assuming no increase in the rate of acceleration, I must begin working with my department to organize the proper utilization of resources for an evacuation," T'Lyt says. Her voice is as flat and 'Vulcan' as ever, of course.

Solvek seems to sigh a bit. "Eight months. The only actual means of safety would be to send a call to Starfleet Command for a movement request at this moment, as the current procedures involve moving the population of this base to the planet below. This plan is somewhat flawed, due to the fact that the Maelstrom is large enough that, in the event of a collision, the planet would be consumed as well."

Fred shrugs uncomfortably. "I could be wrong. It could change course, or slow down... or speed up. I only just finished these calculations this afternoon, and I went straight to the Captain. She'll figure out what to do, and so will all of you. I just have to keep up on all the new data and make sure I get the Maelstrom's course plotted as accurately as I can."

T'Lyt nods. "Your diligence is exemplary, Lieutenant", she says. "Such early warning as you've provided for us may well make a difference in the safe removal of many people from the station -- if it should become necessary." Another bit of fruit goes into her mouth.

"That should prove easier, with the arrival of Ensign Andrews. She seems to have a rather direct interest in the Maelstrom as well." Solvek seems rather proud. Perhaps a fit of nostalgia has hit him?

"A new officer for Sciences?" T'Lyt questions of Solvek.

Brooks shrugs. "I was just doing my job. People seem surprised when I do, though they shouldn't, 'cause what are we here for if not to work?" As Solvek talks of Ensign Andrews, Fred's expression goes even more neutral. "She's nice enough. Spends a lot of time on pretty esoteric things, though. We'll have to see if any of it pans out."

Solvek looks to T'Lyt, swallowing another bite from his bowl. "Yes. She is a descendant of Commander Ames and has rather innovative theories on the actual purpose of the Maelstrom. However, her interest nonetheless will assist in furthering our tests and hypotheses." He turns to Fred, "I am led to presume that you are referring to her interest in temporal physics with your statement of 'esoteric things,' Winifred?"

T'Lyt nods, adding, "Still, your work is sound, inventive, and in the situation with the Ferengi proved to be invaluable," to Brooks. She quiets when Solvek speaks, putting the last bit of fruit from her bowl into her mouth.

Fred actually blushes a bit. "I'm just doing my job," she repeats, mumbling a bit. Then, louder, to Solvek, "Yeah, that's what I meant. I mean, it's a viable hypothesis, but I think she's too attached to it to be willing to objectively interpret the data." She shrugs. "But I'm not the Chief, so it's not my place."

Solvek, apparently feeling that that line of conversation has closed, moves to a different subject. "I am curious, you mentioned that you spoke with Captain Hawkins about your costuming idea. Was there a particular reason that you chose the Captain for advice?"

The moment Solvek asks that question, Fred becomes incredibly interested in her empty plate. "Oh. Well. Umm. She just seemed, y'know, I figured she'd have some good ideas, and I was stumped, and she was there in the lounge, so I asked. No big deal." Dissembling much, are we? And leaving something out, most likely. "But, I mean, if it's not a good idea, I can do something different, I just figured it'd work. I really don't know much about this sort of thing..."

T'Lyt arches a brow, again, then glances over at Solvek, then back to Brooks. She doesn't say anything, however. She picks up her teacup and takes a sip.

Solvek follows T'Lyt's suit and takes a sip of his tea. He then looks to Brooks, "No, you do not need to do something different. Your choice will do. It is just rather... puzzling that Hawkins would choose that particular figure of human mythology."

Brooks blinks to this. "Puzzling? Why? She said she thought it'd work well for me. I'm not sure why. I'm hardly a Scandinavian shield-maiden, or some escort for the dead."

T'Lyt comments, "The Captain perhaps tied it to some aspect of your personality."

Solvek ponders this statement for a moment before giving his own opinion. "Or perhaps the Captain chose it for the fact that Norse mythology is an area of Earth history that she knows I am rather intrigued by." His tone has a hint of irritation.

T'Lyt's eyebrow rises and she hesitates a moment, her teacup held in both hands, before taking another sip -- and another long look at Solvek.

That plate is just terribly interesting. "Ah. I see." Fred clears her throat, and then looks up. "Well. Umm. I wish she'd mentioned that. I just wanted advice, not... not..." She can't seem to find the proper word, and sighs, squeezing her eyes shut a moment. When she opens them, she says, "Anyhow. I need to get going. There's data to collect, and calculate, and... such. I'll... umm... I'll see you both later. Have a good day." She stands, leaving her dishes, and starts walking to the door. Briskly.

T'Lyt's teacup hits the floor as she gasps. Glancing about, she rises, tea on the leg of her uniform and on the floor. "I will need to change into a fresh uniform before duty", she says, picking up the teacup to put it on her tray.

Solvek blinks forcibly at the same time that T'Lyt gasps, and turns. "I believe you are correct, sister. I will speak with you at another time. I must attend to this matter on my own. Have a satisfactory day." He stands and follows Brooks at a much swifter pace than usual.

T'Lyt merely nods her head and collects the dishes on the table to take to the replicator.

(The camera follows Solvek out of the Lounge and onto the Promenade.)

Starboard Walkway <Deck 30> [Gibraltar Station]

The Promenade is an airy, open cylinder that stretches for five decks. Around the outside of this cylinder on each deck are walkways that allow for easy foot traffic between the various establishments lining the walls. The outer wall of these walkways are paneled in light gray except where interrupted by doors and openings. Some establishments are open to the Promenade, allowing one to look inside before entering, while some merely have a door with a plaque declaring what is beyond. The inner side is bordered by a low rail. Beyond this rail one can look down at the trees of the garden below or up at the higher levels of the Promenade. The lighting on the Promenade adjusts according to the time--by day it is quite bright, dimming at around 1800 until its darkest point (though still light enough to see clearly) at midnight. From here it slowly brightens until reaching its full, daytime brightness once more at 0600. Vertical alert tracers line the doors and other openings, showing the status of the station.

Winifred Brooks

The Promenade is not the best place to have a breakdown, so Fred is a little difficult to track down... but one can find her in an alcove, seemingly reading a map of the station. She has her elbows on the console and is leaning forward. If one got close enough, and one was a Vulcan, they could probably hear the soft, muffled sobs that she's attempting to get under control.

Solvek finds Brooks with minimal difficulty. He slowly approaches her and lightly places a hand on her shoulder to let her know that he is there. "Winifred, I believe it is time for you and I to actually fully discuss what has been troubling you. Perhaps not here, but in a place more private... my office, or perhaps one of our quarters. Whatever is 'comfortable' for you."

Brooks practically jumps as she's touched, whirling around to reveal a face covered in tears. For a moment that face shows only fear, and she shrinks back, shaking her head. "I don't... I don't want to... please, I don't... I..." She takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, obviously trying to get a hold of herself. "I'm sorry," she whispers. "It's just... I'm sorry." When her eyes open the fear is gone, but the tears are still there. "My quarters are closest." Her voice is still soft. "But you don't have to do this. Really. I'll be fine."

"Actually, I believe I should, if not only for your sake, but for your crewmates' sake, myself included. Your troubles obviously have something to do with me personally, or perhaps my appearance, and therefore I should be the one to assist you in solving the matter." Solvek's tone is one of concern rather than offense.

T'Lyt comes through the door from Officer's Lounge <Deck 30>.
T'Lyt has arrived.

Brooks is standing in an alcove, her back to a map of the station. Her face, tear-streaked as it is, is mostly hidden by Solvek, who's standing in front of her. She shakes her head. "You don't have to. I'll be fine. I've been fine. I just... I've been upset, since the bombings. That's all. I'll get over it. Please, I don't need your... charity, or your concern for the crew. I know you're my friend, but you have more important things to worry about than me." Her tone is half-bitter, half-pained. "I just need to go calm down, alright?"

T'Lyt, having taken a moment to put the dishes in the replicator, steps out of the lounge. She's heading in the direction of the turbolift at a brisk pace -- the right pants-leg of her uniform soaked with tea. She doesn't react or even let on that she noticed Brooks' display, continuing along.

Solvek almost looks hurt by this statement. "Actually, at this moment, your emotional well-being takes priority for my duties as First Officer. So your statement was incorrect. Let us go to your quarters so that we may speak more openly."

T'Lyt walks down the corridor toward Aft Walkway <Deck 30>.
T'Lyt has left.

Brooks squeezes her eyes shut again. A few deep breaths later, she seems calm enough to keep an even tone. She reaches up to wipe her face and says, "This is ridiculous. But, if you insist, we can talk about it, alright?"

Solvek nods and gestures for Brooks to lead the way. "I do insist."

(The scene cuts to a small, windowless room...)

Junior Officer's Quarters 3901 <Deck 39> [Gibraltar Station]

Though relatively small in comparison to other suites aboard the base, these quarters are still spacious and comfortable. The main room is a square that makes up half the rectangle of these quarters. A white sofa, just large enough for two people, is placed against the wall to the right of the main door. A small fern sits upon a smoked glass coffee table in front of the sofa. Twin chairs of the same plush style as the sofa complete the seating arrangement. There is a replicator, small table, and two chairs to the left of the room, a walkway dividing the two areas. At the end of this walkway is the door leading to the bedroom, directly across from the main door. The bed is twin size, with maroon comforter and gray pillow. There is a closet and cupboards for the occupant's belongings, and a bathroom complete with shower. The carpeting throughout the quarters is gray, the walls paneled in the same color. Soft lighting comes from panels in the ceiling, and there are twin vertical alert tracers on either side of the door.

Winifred Brooks

As they enter her quarters, Fred calls for the computer to turn up the lights. Her quarters are as usual... clean except for a scattering of PADDs. She goes toward the replicator. "D'you want anything...?"

Solvek does a quick glance around the room. He looks at the scattering of PADDs and frowns a bit. He turns as Fred offers and considers a moment, "I will have a glass of water."

Fred gestures. "Sit, please..." She dials up a glass of water, and also a mug of chamomile tea. "Much as I might wish for something stronger, I do have to work tomorrow." She sighs, walks over, hands over the glass of water.

"Your choice is logical." Solvek pauses and sits down on one of the chairs, "Now, to attend to the matter we moved to discuss. What is troubling you?" Whoa, the Vulcan cuts to the chase.

Fred sits herself... drops into the chair, really... and sighs, putting her tea on the table in front of her. "It's nothing, really. I just... I've been on edge a lot lately. Nightmares. So I overreact to things, that's all."

Solvek looks at Fred, his expression says that her response isn't what he wanted. He pushes on, "What are your nightmares about?"

Fred doesn't answer at first. She pulls her legs up onto the chair with her, balling up almost defensively. When she does speak it's slow, soft, and she doesn't look at Solvek. Her eyes focus on the fern on the table instead. "I've had nightmares ever since I got back from my cadet cruise. About the things that happened... the things I saw... the things I did. I've tried meditation, and medicine, and therapy, and... nothing's worked. Nothing. For a while, sometimes, it'll seem to work, but then the nightmares just... come back. When I came out here I thought I'd finally beaten it. I'd been doing this meditative technique for eight months, and if I was still having nightmares it was less frequently and they bothered me less. I started going out, talking to people... making friends... and then... and then I got taken hostage, injured. So they came back, worse than ever."

Solvek looks around the room again, his eyes finally settling on a wall where one would normally place a window. "What did you see and do on the planet?" On a roll of kindness tonight, aren't you Solvek?

Fred curls up even more, wrapping her arms around her legs. "Everyone else died. Everyone. I... I told the counselors that most of them died in the crash, because I didn't want them to know what really happened... I don't... I don't want it to have really happened. If most of them died in the crash, and everyone else starved, and I just got lucky and found food, that's better, right? For their families, and their friends..."

"To lie about the circumstances of ones death is a great dishonor in many civilizations, Earth's included. Therefore, while it may ease your pain it is a disgrace to their life that the truth be withheld." Solvek is now looking directly at Fred. "I believe it would be easier for you to release this fear if you told another individual about what occurred. That is why I sit here in your quarters."

Fred squeezes her eyes shut. "You don't understand. No one understands. It was horrible, and they don't want to know, trust me, they're happier..." She sighs. "I was on an Intrepid. We crashed on the planet, but we managed to land, somewhat... a lot of people did die in the crash, but enough survived that the Captain set us to work on trying to fix the comm systems. He had us camp outside the ship... I don't know why. But it was a mistake." She pauses, swallows. "The natives came on the fourth night. They had vehicles, and weapons, and mostly numbers. They attacked, and we tried to fight, but... the Captain ordered several people to the nearby caves. We ran, and hid until the natives left. When they went, they took everyone... wounded, dead. Everyone. They ransacked the ship, too, so we had hardly any supplies. There were 20 of us. A crew of 140... 40 or so died in the crash... and around 80 were killed or carted off by the natives. We didn't know what to do, so the Lieutenant in charge decided to follow the natives, figure out if we could save anyone." She shakes her head, trembling just a bit.

"And were the Lieutenant's actions successful?" Solvek's face is hard and expressionless.

Fred shakes her head. "We'd crashed in the desert, it was a strange planet, and the natives had vehicles, so it was a long walk... there wasn't enough food, wasn't enough water. People started squabbling over the resources, and then... the natives raided the camp one night. Only four of us escaped... me, Jenny, Marcus, and... Selek." The way she says that last name holds a mixture of emotions that's hard to untangle... fear, pain, love, anger. "We started posting guards. We ran at the first sight of the natives. But we kept going, because we thought, they couldn't have killed all those people, they'd be captives, and if we could just help them escape..." Her voice cracks and she sobs.

Solvek slowly asks, "These natives had already killed your crew mates, had they not?"

Another shake of the head. "Not all of them. They... they kept some of them alive. To interrogate, or to sell, or to sacrifice." Fred swallows again. "Anyway, there was another attack. We were about two days out of the city. It was a city-state setup... the people were at war... so there were patrols looking for enemy spies. They thought we were spies, enemies. Jenny was dragged off... Marcus was killed and dragged off... I almost was captured, but Selek fought them off, and we ran and hid in a cave. And then Selek... he... he died. So it was just me."

Solvek sits quietly for a moment and lets the tale set in. "How long were you alone?" is his next question.

"Two days. I went to the city. I didn't know what else to do. They captured me. I... found out they were ritual cannibals. They ate their dead enemies, to gain their strength. They'd eaten the Captain." Fred swallows. "I was sold to one of the city officials. I escaped four months later, and hid in caves far from the city, until another Starfleet ship found me."

Solvek thinks for a moment and then stands. He walks to Fred's chair and asks, "Will you please stand?"

Fred opens her eyes and peers up at Solvek for a moment. Then she uncurls herself and stands.

Solvek takes a deep breath and lifts a hand toward Fred's face. "I assure you this will not cause you any harm, it is merely a way to assist in calming your mind and your fears." He then places his hand on her cheek, his index finger rests below her eye, his thumb against the side of her chin. His fourth finger rests next to her ear and his two remaining fingers rest on her temple.

Fred's eyes widen and she reaches up a hand, placing it on Solvek's arm. "Solvek... are you sure you want to do that? Just... just to help me?" She's afraid, obviously, yet despite her trembling and a strange desire to run away, she stands her ground.

Solvek only gives a nod as his affirmation. His next words are slow and deliberate, "My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts."

At first, it's feelings... fear and worry, but also compassion, affection. Fred is falling in love with Solvek, as much as she tries to fight it, stall it, make it stop--and she's desperately afraid he doesn't feel remotely the same way, and feels terribly naked, knowing he'll know this now. Terrified of his response, his rejection. Terrified he'll be hurt by the thought. But as the mind meld pushes deeper it moves past that. It's not that those feelings aren't deep, but that they aren't buried as much as others.

There's a barrage of images... of Fred's childhood, her parents, studying, partying, the Academy. The sense there is of someone much happier than the woman who stands here now--still a little odd, with a brain that moves faster than her mouth can deliver the words. Maybe a bit awkward, but with friends who teach her how to be more confident, have more fun. Over and over, a Vulcan male, a fellow science major, a slow development of smile and touch and glance. Excitement at cadet cruise... terror as the ship crashes.

Now more images, faster... the ship crashes, the crew camps outside of it, the first attacks... the trek across the desert... and then it all resolves into a single scene. Four cadets around a campfire, their uniforms dirty and torn. Fred and the Vulcan male seen before sit apart from the other two, staring out at the darkness of the desert, side by side on a log.

The Vulcan turns to the girl beside him. "Fred... I have to tell you something. I have tried before, but I admit that I am... afraid of your response."

Fred laughs. "Don't be afraid, silly. What is it, Selek?"

Selek sighs, looks back to the desert. "I have been lying to you, to everyone, for years. I am not a Vulcan. I am... Romulan." He doesn't let Fred respond, pushes on. "My father is an Admiral. He wanted me to join the military, but I did not want that life. I wished to study science, and logic. I admired the teachings of our Vulcan cousins, of Surak... I snuck materials in about his teachings where I could. My father became insistent I join the military, so I... fled. I forged an identity, charmed my sponsor into believing I was a true Vulcan. I had taught myself logic, discipline. I was accepted to the Academy, and I have passed thus far, being close enough to Vulcan anatomy that none knew the difference."

The look on Fred's face is one of horror. "Selek... you're lying. It can't be true. It makes... no sense."

Selek hangs his head. "My name is not Selek. It is Havraha Khellian. My father is Maec Khellian."

Fred puts her hands to her mouth. "The... the commander of... oh, Selek!"

The Vulcan... the Romulan... looks to her with a frown. "Did you not hear me? My name is not Selek!"

Fred shakes her head, reaches out, and takes the man's hand. "But it is. Not the name given... but the name you chose. You are Vulcan... you might be Romulan by culture, but your biology is Vulcan. Why can't you change cultures?"

Selek blinks at Fred. "You... are not angry?"

Fred smiles. "No... I've known you for years... I've trusted you. You lied, but I understand why. Am I upset? Yes. But we have more important things to worry about... we have to get off this planet. We can worry about the rest later." She leans over, places her head on Selek's shoulder. "And I'll always be there, alright?"

The scene shifts, abruptly. Fred and Selek are fleeing the scene of a battle. Selek is obviously in a state of upset, and as they reach a cave, panting, he turns to Fred. "I saved you," he says.

Fred nods, and smiles to him. "You did. Thank you. We need... we need to find water..."

Selek moves forward, takes Fred's arm. "I saved you. I... want you. Now. You owe it to me. I saved you."

Fred frowns at Selek. "What are you talking about? Are you alright?"

Selek shakes his head, clearly agitated. "I... I want you, Fred. Now!" He pushes forward, kisses her.

Fred does not resist, and the pair practically tear each other's clothes off. Everything goes fine through the encounter, until the moment actual intercourse is to begin... Fred is a virgin, and there's pain, and she tells Selek to stop... but he does not. If only he had stopped, slowed down, then maybe she wouldn't have panicked...

There's an impression of struggling, of pain, of being hit across the face. Desperation sets in, fingers grasp, find something hard, a rock... she brings it down hard upon something, and suddenly Selek has gone limp, and Fred is reeling back, grasping for a pulse she does not find. She has killed him. She pulls her clothing together and flees, weeping.

The rest is jumbled. When she returns, he is gone. She makes her way to the city, uncaring of what happens, only trying to complete the mission. She is captured, made a slave for a man who does terrible things to her. She kills that man, too, and escapes, fleeing across the desert for a month until, tired and nearly out of water, she stumbles across a cave with a natural pool. Here she is safe, and it's there that she still lives, in her mind, to this day.

...And in the physical realm, tears run down Fred's cheeks, her throat raw from sobbing, nearly screaming as the memories resurfaced.

Solvek's surface mind is organized and sorted. A hallway filled with knowledge and information. Entire science manuals in single orbs float about dreamily. More esoteric information is held toward the end of the hall, leaving the more commonly used information towards the front. At the end of the hall is an image. A man with rather scraggly hair and stubble is encased in a wall of ice. Moving closer to the wall shows that the man is Solvek--or rather Solvek as a human. The ice shimmers and fades as the Meld pushes deeper.

The entire scene is black as one passes through the ice wall. Then here and there visions of memories surface from multiple directions. Solvek as a child being taunted by other Vulcan children. Anger. Solvek running to his mother with tears in his eyes. Fear. His father scowling down at him, the words "...never truly a son of Vulcan" escaping his lips. Shame. Solvek looking over a pyre as his mother is cremated; his face solemn and cold. Remorse. His father's second marriage. Hatred. The birth of his sister. Happiness. The images flash and meld with one another in rapid succession turning into a roar of memories and words. Then all is black again.

Further in is a landing. On it is a younger Solvek. He is at the Vulcan Science Academy. The sky above the scene is vibrant with colors. Instinctively the colors represent emotions. At he moment the sky is a mixture of blues and greens. Calm and relaxed. The young Solvek is taking a test. He has already gone through the trainings of Surak and succeeded. He finishes the test and the scene flashes forward. The sky turns a vivid purple. Worry. The tests are returned. Solvek's grade is quite low. Almost failing. The sky flashes red and orange as flares or lightning burst across the expanse. Rage and anger. The scene fades.

The sensation is similar to falling off a cliff. Another scene emerges. He is in a Sickbay. A woman is on the operating bench before him. She has a severe burn on the side of her face. Solvek and his crew are rushing to help her. ("I was concerned for her safety") The words 'First Time We Met' are shown in various corners where other words should be. Solvek places a hypospray to the woman's neck. She comes to and the woman on the bench is recognizable. It is Gwen Hawkins, however a bit younger version of her with Commander's pips on her collar. ("I needed to let her know.")

"Commander Hawkins, I must inform you that in order to repair the damage from the burns I am going to have to cut your hair as the damage has seared part of your scalp." Solvek states, 'matter-of-factly.'

The woman's eyes narrow. "Who the hell are you?" ("I was amused, but understanding.")

"I am Lieutenant Commander Solvek, the new Chief Medical Officer." Solvek replies while reaching for a medical instrument that resembles a pair of scissors. ("She was under the effects of the pain and the drugs we had given. I was going to proceed.")

Gwen holds up a hand, balled into a fist. "If you come near me with that thing I will kick your scrawny ass all the way back to Vulcan, petaQ. You are not cutting my hair." ("For a Commander her etiquette under severe situations was appalling.")

Solvek looks to his assistant, "Please ready the sedation serum." He leans in closer, "I am sorry Commander, but it is necessary to fully repair the damage." ("I did not expect her retaliation.")

Gwen's curse in response is... unpronounceable. And accompanied by a surprisingly strong left hook, right across the jaw. ("I was surprised and my pride was shaken. It was the first time a human had physically struck me. Surprisingly, it hurt quite a bit.")

The scene fades again and the falling resumes. The next scene is Commander Hawkins apologizing profusely. Solvek's face still shows the tell-tale green bruise from where he was hit. A faint image of the current Solvek appears near the scene, "I was unaware that after this apology Gwen and I would become best friends. She has since become a confidant and a comrade that I would not be whole without. She is closer to being my sister than is T'Lyt."

The scene fades, the next transition is an open hall. In the middle of the hall is a statue of a Vulcan woman. She is tall and has long wavy black hair. Her facial features are sharp and chiseled. At the base of the statue is a plaque with the name 'T'Mar' etched into it. The walls become transparent as images of Solvek and T'Mar pass by. The image Solvek (who is a tad bit more substantial here) walks out from behind the statue. "T'Mar was a strong and kind woman, our bonding was not a burden in any way. We cared for one another as humans who are in love care for one another. I loved my wife with all that I was and her memory is a curse that I will never be free of." The last image on the malls is of Solvek holding T'Mar in his arms, his face is contorted in a mixture of rage and complete and utter sadness. He look up and utters an ear piercing scream of anguish. As the scream continues the hall shatters.

The next corridors are scattered with memories of the events after T'Mar's death. His posting on th Starbase. And finally a door. The door swings open to a room full of light. And a single image is there Solvek is sen standing beside a woman with long curly brown hair. She is slightly thin but still healthy. They are both smiling and holding each other's hands, looking eye to eye.

The scene is cut short as the doors slam shut and the view shifts to a single room. Solvek stands under a beam of light. However, at times his image flickers and shifts to the human Solvek. The surrounding area swirls with the same colors that were prevalent in the sky previously. The area is bathed in light red and green hues. Surprise and interest. Various orbs of light float about with images of Solvek's face in them in various expressions. One is crying, one is concerned, one seems curious, one is visibly angry. They all disappear and reappear at various intervals. The sky above can be equated to the inside of the Antares Maelstrom. Green gases swirl at dangerous speeds and green and blue flashes of light erupt in various areas. This is the heart of Solvek's psyche. The seat of his mind.

The entire process takes but minutes in reality, though it seems much longer internally. For a moment, there are two--Solvek in his place of swirling colors and floating orbs, Fred in her cave. Then the two minds merge and become one, and they hang in darkness. Yet there is light--they can see each other, and all the pieces of their minds. One consciousness, yet two people.

Fred, in this mental image of herself, is somehow... less than she really is. It's hard to put a finger on just why. Maybe she's an inch shorter, or maybe she's less curvy and more bony. Perhaps her hair is a slightly different shade. Whatever it is, she's less attractive, less confident... less, inside herself, than she is outside. Her outfit flickers between a dirty cadet uniform, civilian clothing, and her current Starfleet uniform--as if she cannot decide what she wants to be.

The flickering Solvek seems to merge together and standing in his place is a human draped in Vulcan robes and much older. His hair shows signs of graying in places and his face has lines of age gouged into it. He steps forward, "Welcome Fred. I'm sorry for all that has happened to you, and I wish I could make you forget its occurrence. But I'm afraid this would hurt you more than it would help."

Fred looks away, still embarrassed, still afraid. "It weren't your fault." The accent is thicker, if that's possible. The image finally settles on a girl in denim jeans and a sweatshirt bearing the Starfleet emblem--with a tricorder at her side. "You don't need to apologize, or worry 'bout it. You've had enough happen to you to be carrying on with."

Solvek smiles a bit. "I suppose you are correct. However, I'm a bit more trained in the ways to secure and contain these feelings than you are." His words seem to be a combination of Vulcan precision and human compulsion. "I can do one thing for you while we are here though, if you wish me to that is?"

Fred sticks her hands in her pockets, still looking down at the ground at first. She looks for all the world like a girl scuffing the ground while talking to her latest crush... except that said crush is the teacher, and she knows he just wants to help with her homework, silly schoolgirl fantasies aside. "If y'want. I mean, don't go to no trouble on my account." She looks up. "But I know y'have to help, and want to help, as First Officer. So, go ahead."

Solvek shakes his head. "Let's put my responsibilities as First Officer aside shall we? I am doing this as your friend. Even if my mannerisms and actions do not entirely convey that fact outside this place. You are a friend of mine and I hope that you feel the same about me. Actually, I know you feel more towards me and at this time I am sad to say I cannot return your feelings. But we will see what time will do for your hopes." He adds under his breath, even if it does no good through telepathic links "And my own hopes apparently." He stops for a moment, "What I propose to do.. as your *friend* is give you a gift, so to say. I am able to transfer knowledge and talents I possess to you through this link. Granted they will not be at the strength that they are evident in me but still they will be there. I am proposing that I give you a piece of my teachings as a Vulcan. This will help you control and suppress the fear and anger you have been experiencing. What do you say?"

"Will it let me suppress it all?" Fred looks away again. "I don't want to feel more for you. I don't want to get involved with Vulcans anymore... you're all volatile and dangerous, whether you call yourselves Vulcans or Romulans. You hide all these emotions under your logic, and hypocrisy, and you don't even know what you really feel until it comes bubbling out. I like you, I want to be your friend, but damn it, I don't want to love you. I don't want to love anyone. Can you make that go away? Can you make me stop remembering, associating?" She turns away, and unbidden a memory surfaces... Fred, T'Lyt, and Solvek sitting around a table, Solvek says something... Fred is terribly embarrassed... she thinks of herself in the valkyrie outfit, and Solvek smiling, and dancing with her... and then the image shifts and it isn't Solvek, but Selek, and he's holding her down again. She squeezes her eyes shut against the image and stands, leaving the table, running away. There are hints in the memory that this has happened before... that something about Solvek makes her flash back and try to run.

"I don't want to keep running away from you. Can you make it stop?"

Solvek has a very fatherly look in his eye. "I cannot make anything stop, Fred, I can only give you the ability to stop it yourself if you wish." He stops looking a bit hurt. "I am sorry that my actions and words wake you remember that man." There is a hint of acid with this comment. "What he did to you was... words cannot come close to the loathing I feel to him. Or rather his memory." He calms himself, "But that it neither here nor there. I can give you control, what you do with it is your choice. Do you want it?"

Fred still stands with her back to Solvek, arms crossed across her chest. Still, with a mind meld it's impossible to really hide, and he can still sense her face, the frown upon it. She shakes her head. "It's not you, or your words, or your actions. It's... what I want of you." Her skin could be on fire, it's so red, and she stomps her foot to stop any images from surfacing. "It hurts," she whispers. "It hurts. How can I want it so much when it hurts?" She shakes herself and turns around, the fire on her cheeks fading. "Please. I... I have to make this stop. I have to be able to do my job. I don't have anything else. I have to be able to work with you. So... whatever you can offer, I will take."

Solvek lets a single tear drip down the side of his face. "Very well. Once again, I apologize for what your feelings for me cause you. I must be frank before we do this... I have never performed this before so I may have to result to drastic measures." Before giving her a chance to answer, he leans forward and kisses her. No force involved just the act. Within the kiss is his knowledge and training of mental composure as well as a wish, 'Please forgive me. There was no other way I could think of.'

Fred frowns at Solvek's first words. "Spare me your pi--" She's cut off by the kiss, and after a brief moment of panic (Run!! Hide!! Get away!!) she just... accepts. The kiss doesn't take long, and when Solvek moves back Fred sighs. "Thank you." She looks away again, to a point on the ground to Solvek's right. "Is that... all?"

"Yes. That's it. You may not feel it here but when you return you will know." Solvek sighs. "I'm sorry to say that it is time to go for both of us. Don't take me too seriously out there. I can be a bit of a hard ass. You know Vulcans with that whole stick joke." The slang comes as naturally here as if it was his own language. Ats a last gesture he walks up to her and places a hand on her shoulder, "Everything will be fine, trust me." The connection begins to break.

Fred smiles briefly. "I... thank you." She doesn't resist the connection breaking, just lets it happen, feeling... tired. Defeated, somehow.

Solvek removes his hand from Brooks' face and takes a step back. He stumbles over to a chair and sits down. His complexion is a bit paler than usual and his face looks tear stained. He puts his head back and breathes rather deeply.

Brooks does not sit. Instead, she moves to the replicator, silently punches something in, and brings it back to Solvek. It's a Vulcan tea known to help restore calm and focus. This done, she moves back to her seat. "You alright?" she asks softly.

Solvek takes the tea and sips from it. "I will be fine. The mental strain from the mind meld as well as the transfer is tiring. The tea shall help restore my focus, I thank you for providing it." He pause for a moment before asking, "Was the transfer successful?"

"You're welcome. I'm sorry you had to go through all that on my account." Brooks sighs, rolls her shoulders. She's still not looking at him, focusing instead on the plant again. "Yes, it was. Thank you. I'll have to take some time to... assimilate it all."

Solvek takes another long sip from his tea. "That is good. I hope that the information provided will be sufficient to suppress... the emotions and feelings you wish it to suppress"

Fred nods. "I'm sure it will." Pause. "I shouldn't really keep you any longer. You've helped, and... and you should get some rest." She's not curled up on herself anymore, but she's resolutely not looking at Solvek. "I'll tell you how it goes, alright?"

Solvek takes a final sip from from the tea and sets the mug down on the coffee table. "You are correct. I must rest if I am to fulfill my duties during the next shift." He stands. "I look forward to viewing your progress. I shall see you at the Ball."

"I... don't think I'll be going. It wouldn't be a good idea." Fred clears her throat, stands, moves to take the dishes and put them in the recycler. "I'm not really needed anyhow."

Solvek frowns. "I believe your attendance would be a positive addition to the event. Your theories on the Maelstrom would be highly appreciated by the science officers of Ambassador Katsulock's staff. However, if you do not wish to attend I will not implore you further."

Fred, still facing the replicator, laughs softly, almost ruefully. "If they want my theories I can send them the workups. A ball is a social event, and social I'm anything but." She seems... older, somehow, changed, as if the mind meld itself put something in her that had been left out before. She is, in essence, acting her age. She turns, finally looking Solvek directly in the eye. "I don't think I need to make any more of a fool of myself than I already have... and I certainly don't think I need to be doing it in public. I'll take some time to absorb this all, and then I can be... social." She pauses. "Tell the Captain I appreciate her thoughts on the costume matter, but I really don't appreciate matchmaking."

Solvek begins to protest but stops. He nods, "Very well. I shall relay the message to Captain Hawkins. On a personal matter, I would appreciate it if you attended. Thank you for placing your trust in me and allowing this event to take place." He turns to leave.

Through this last, Fred had turned away to begin picking up and organizing PADDs. As Solvek turns away she crumples, as if she can't hold herself up any longer, winding up in one of the chairs at the table near the replicator, arms on table and head on arms.

As Solvek reaches the door he says, without turning, "I must rephrase my last request. I... want you to attend the ball, Fred." He pauses and finishes with, "Thank you for the tea."

Fred just lets him go, with her head still on the table.

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