896: Of Course You Realize, This Means War

by -=/\=- Zanh Liis and Vol Tryst
Following Hook, Line, and...

-=Captain's Ready Room, USS Serendipity=

"Do you think he's all right? Really?" Liis twisted the chain of her earring and she slowly spun her chair side to side as she sat at her desk. She had nervous energy to spare, and for the moment, little to do with it.

[Aye, I think he is.] Keiran replied from the Zenith's ready room. Though he was certain to keep his hands out of her view so she wouldn't see his anxiousness, he was mirroring her jittery mannerisms in his fashion, still rotating the signet ring on the third finger of his left hand as he'd been doing for hours now. [He did a hell of a job, Liis. You'd've been proud.]

"I am proud." Liis replied softly. "When I'm able, I intend to tell him so. But I know right now he needs to stay focused."

[Are ya alright?] Keiran asked. He knew her well enough to know the answer, but still, he wanted her to know of his concern.

"I'm fine." She knew him well enough to know he saw through the answer, but that hearing her say it would still reassure him in the moment.

[There's somethin' more than this upcoming chat that's botherin' you. Can ya tell me what it is?] His eyes questioned her gently, knowing that she may not want, or be able to say.

"Rada Dengar, he's..." Liis shook her head. "He's working on something, but I'm not sure what's going to happen if he finishes it."

[He's a good man, and a good engineer. I'm sure that the only thing that could come of it would be help for us all.]

"I hope so." Liis inhaled and exhaled sharply, and for a moment, dropped her eyes down to the rings on her hand. She stared at them intently, watching the dim light of the room bounce off of the gemstones and project colors onto the far wall. Lost in her own thoughts, seconds passed without her saying anything more.

[Liis O'Sullivan.] Keiran rumbled, his voice low and his heart wishing that he could reach through the screen and put his arm around her to offer any comfort he could. Just as the last time he'd spoken to her over subspace, she seemed so much farther away than she was. [Please, talk to me. If you can't tell me what's goin' on in that head'a yours, who can'ya tell?]

Liis' hand elevated to her forehead. Her head dropped forward against her palm as she tried to support the weight of thoughts that now seemed too heavy to carry. She suddenly felt as if he were so much farther away from her than he actually was.

"It's Salvek, and Reece, Keiran. They've been studying this portal." She whispered. "I don't know if they'll find a way to collapse it. But if they did, and if you were standing where I'm standing right now,"

[Liis,] Keiran urged softly, [look at me.]

She raised her eyes and he saw the dark despair of her troubled conscience stirring in them; a deep, angry sea of sorrow and regret, threatening to drag her down.

The thing that struck him as the most wrong about this was the fact that she'd not even made any decisions she could or should regret yet. [If I were standin' where you are...] he prompted.

She inhaled again, wincing this time as if the action was physically painful.

"If you were standing where I am, and they gave you a shot at collapsing that portal before getting the Zenith crew back," she hesitated, then finally finished her thought. "Could you take it?"

Now Keiran was the one who sighed, so deeply and sadly that Liis' chest ached at the sound of it.

[They could already be gone, Liis. It could already be too late for them. We know from what Vol's told us that they've already killed the telepaths. Why do we have any reason to believe that they didn't kill the others just for associating with them?]

"We don't." She admitted reluctantly.

[No. We don't. So if you're askin' me my opinion.] He stopped, and waited.

"I am." She nodded swiftly, until the chain of her earring jingled.

At the sound of it, Keiran's chest ached.

He wished that he could be there for her now, instead of stuck here on an empty ship which he believed would never again be populated by the people who had previously crewed it.

[Then, i's my opinion that you should wait and see what happens when you talk to these aliens. Don' pressure yerself to make any kind'a decisions now. See what Reece and Salvek say. See what Dengar comes up with. See if there can' be some sorta peace worked out before it comes to ev'ra'one shootin' at each other.]

She had to love him for his show of optimism, but she knew him well enough to know that was indeed what it was. A show, for her sake.

"Keiran, we both know that these people have already decided that they are fit to be judge, jury an executioner of any being they meet who happens to be a telepath. Do you really think they're going to listen to reason?"

Keiran's eyes never left hers as he admitted defeat. [No. Don't.]

She loved him for having tried, just the same. "So if you were me." She repeated, "and you knew that it meant going back and telling the families of those eight hundred and seventy two people that they were never coming home. That we closed the door on them before we we knew for certain that they were lost," her voice wavered slightly, so slightly that no one but Keiran could even have detected it. "Could you do it?"

[My honest answer?]

"I always only want your honest answer, Keiran."

[My honest answer is, I don' know, Liis.] His expression told her how sorry he was that he couldn't offer her more. [I just don't know.]

"Thank you." She was grateful that he had told her the truth. "I'll wait for Vol's signal that they're ready to talk."

[Liis, wait.] Keiran raised his hand. [Before you go, there's one other thing I have'ta tell ya.]


[When the time comes,] he touched the screen, reaching out to her tenderly. [If the decision has to be made, I know that you'll make the right one, takin' ev'ra'thin' into account.]

The lump in her throat that she'd fought off earlier in the day returned, harder and harder to choke back every time it made a reappearance. "Thank you." Then before closing the channel, she chose to sign off in a way that would be more significant to him than anything else she could say now; by using the surname that she rightly claimed as his wife. "O'Sullivan out."

She shuddered with a sudden chill, her shoulders slumping as her head fell back down into her hands.

Once again, she waited.

-=Forty minutes later=-

The screen winked to life.

Over her shoulder and out of view of the screen stood Salvek, Blane, and Reece.

Liis closed her eyes, intent on listening to Vol's voice as he spoke directly for the Domox; knowing if she looked at him that she'd be distracted by the vacancy of his stare as he repeated, word for word everything that the aliens were telling him.

He would not change a word or try to interpret intent or emotion with his empathic powers now, he would simply parrot them so that he could focus on maintaining control of his mind, lest they gain too much of a foothold, and injure him.

He'd given so much of himself for his crew, for this crisis, the last thing Liis wanted now was for him to be hurt in any way.

It never occurred to Zanh, that Vol was in fact more comfortable than he'd been during his first contact with these beings.

This time, it was his new acquaintances who had made the long journey to enter his mind; Vol was firmly placed while they were under immense strain. Still, this was an experience that Vol would not wish on any other person.

She concentrated intensely and hung on his every breath as he began to speak.

[We are the Domox.] Vol interpreted. [You will surrender your telepaths to us immediately.]

"I am the captain of this vessel, which is part of the fleet of the United Federation of Planets." Zanh replied, not bothering to try to exchange any small talk. "I refuse to surrender my telepaths to you and what is more, I am required to inform you that your attack upon a member of my crew, which is ongoing, must stop or it will be considered an act of war."

[Telepaths must die.] The Domox replied, as if that should be obvious to her.

"We are allies with many of the telepathic species in this quadrant." Zanh answered, just as simply. "And I know you're new around here, so I expect that you didn't realize that when you kidnapped the crew of the first ship you encountered. But they are granted the same rights under Federation law as non-telepathic species and, while I don't know what damage has been done to your people at the hands of other species, I can assure you that the telepaths you've encountered on Starfleet vessels mean no harm. We are explorers, we are peacemakers. We do not wish to hurt or conquer you."

[Telepaths must die.] The Domox repeated.

"This is getting us nowhere," TC whispered anxiously to Salvek, who showed no reaction at all.

"You have no right to come into our territory and attack our people." Zanh replied.

[History gives us the right.] The Domox answered indignantly. [Telepaths have taken what is ours. They have killed our people. We only seek justice.]

"Nothing gives you the right to exterminate an entire category of lifeform just because it satisfies your personal definition of justice." Zanh countered pointedly. "If you do not return the remaining members of the Zenith crew in your custody immediately and leave our space, we will be forced to consider it declaration of war."

[You will surrender your telepaths,] The Domox warned, [Or you will suffer the fate of the others who came before you.]

Zanh sat up straighter in her chair and now stared directly at Vol, hoping that the look in her eyes and the vehemence of her refusal would somehow be passed on to those for whom he was speaking. "Over my dead body."

Zanh would not have believed the Betazoid capable of such an expression but as he glared back at her, his jaw clenched in a display of pure defiance and hatred. His face contorted into a resolute snarl, his eyes becoming mere slits as he repeated the three stinging words the Domox offered her in reply.

[So be it.]


-=/\=- Zanh Liis O'Sullivan
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


LT. Vol Tryst
Ship's Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012