976: The Most Dangerous Man on the Ship

by Vol Tryst and Rada Dengar
After …And Your Little Dog Too

-=Counselor’s Office; USS Serendipity=-

"Confound it!" The Counselor cursed, as he finally resigned his feeble attempts.

Vol was feeling the effects of tea-withdrawal since, once again and all too soon, the replicator in his office decided to have a day off and replicate him melted cheese fondue instead of his usual cup of fruit-tea. Having put a request for someone from engineering to aid him, he had spent the last ten minutes trying to fix it himself to no avail. In all honesty, he was probably making it worse.

He notified Main Engineering that he was heading outside the office to fetch his beverage, and that any Ensign they might send should meet Vol at the Afterthought Cafe before coming to his office. Being that this was low priority, Vol made it clear that there was no rush.

Exiting his office and making his way to his fix of sugar and tea, Vol wrung his hands tightly. Upon entering the turbolift, he found he needed to clear his throat before finally being able to give the lift a command.

"Deck eleven." Vol sighed, as the lift began to move and the man inside reached behind his head to squeeze the back of his neck. Another one of the Betazoid's nervous twitches that made him ask himself what was it that was bothering him?

The truth was, asking for an officer from Engineering to pay a visit did hold a large concern for him. One officer in particular from Engineering specifically concerned him. The one officer that had always been a difficult patient and with whom Vol had always shared an uncomfortable and strained relationship with.

Ever since Vol and Rada's first meeting, where they were trapped in a malfunctioning turbolift, Vol had resented Rada for being the sort to hold people at arms-length. Psychologically, it made sense, but it made it very difficult to connect with Rada. Vol had since kept the Angosian man at a distance as well.

Upon reflection however, this seemed quite childish. What was Vol accomplishing in holding this man at a distance? Self-righteousness was Vol's answer to himself, which was, again, quite foolish.

Finally Vol stepped off the lift, and wasted no time before entering the Café. He immediately looked for Wren, who was not just the manager but who like Vol shared Betazoid blood so aside from everything else that entailed and which he appreciated, she should have some sense of just how much he'd need his tea.

It was a simple thing to want but as he scanned the room for her he was reminded of how life was rarely ever simple by the conflicting emotions he now felt. He would finally get his morning tea, but seeing Wren also reminded Vol of his newly developed fears in regards to Rada. Vol desperately wanted to help the man, but doing so would run the risk of Vol being completely honest with Rada, an act that would surely have many dire consequences for both doctor and patient.

Vol sat down at the bar and waited for Wren to notice him, all in due time.

He had already noticed her by this time, off by a distant table out of earshot but clearly speaking about things that were very far from her mind. He could tell by the smile, one of those plastered on smiles that would rarely fool anyone but that was to an empath like a leaf drifting along the ocean; utterly incapable of hiding what it covered and ready to be swept away in an instant should everything cease to be perfectly still.

It was the type of smile that Wren would never even be trying to hold if she were talking about those things truly in her thoughts.

Finally, she collected their cups and said her goodbyes; all pleasantries being finished for now. The table’s occupants could now dedicate their time to discussing their hopelessly baseless opinion about how she was holding up. Vol only realised that he’d been staring when Wren began to move slowly towards his direction with the recognition on her face enough to snap Vol back to the reality that he wasn’t just an observer here.

With the cups discarded Wren was now moving directly towards him and Vol looked into the Betazoid woman's eyes and felt all the more strongly the turmoil she was enduring. Though he knew he did not feel it in the same way that she did, he understood it far more than most. Vol slid his open hand on the counter towards her, for her to take. It was a sort of reassurance that he was around if she ever needed.

Wren reluctantly grasped it and nodded in thanks. There was little reason to pretend to be feeling stronger than she was when Vol could read her as well as she could him.

"Tea, I imagine?"

Vol smiled, "Of course."

The slightest charge of relief Vol sensed in her with his answer spoke volumes to how she was feeling. When your whole life seemed to have lifted from the ground and flown away then sometimes the smallest consistency of something as it should be could feel like it was a peg holding part of that life still here so the rest may still be in arm’s reach.

Wren moved quickly to make the tea, wasting no time as even if the Counselor’s desire for the drink felt so very insignificant compared to other concerns it was at the same time so very significant because it was a problem she knew for sure she could solve.

It wasn’t long before the cup was set in front of him and Vol didn’t even need to taste it to know that it contained all the many sugars he’d have asked her for. He smiled at her in thanks and made no attempt to move away in search of a table to be alone.. Wren didn’t move off either, just as when they’d first met she simply leaned across the counter and immediately turned the conversation to what she felt he was thinking.

“So, don’t you want to ask me something?”

“Do I?” Vol asked with curiosity at the question.

“Everyone does.” Wren replied, her eyes shifting slightly to the table in the corner where the people had been so afraid to ask what they'd hoped to find out. “Most of them want to know how I’m feeling. For you though I think it’s more a matter of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.”

“Oh?” Vol answered with a slight smile, clearly for all she’d lost recently Wren had kept something of herself. “And what would be my answer?”

Wren didn’t even attempt to pretend that she didn’t know exactly what it was that everyone who wanted to know what she was doing was really asking about.

“Our first officer made me an offer.” She explained. “He thought a Vulcan mind meld may be able to help.”

"An offer you apparently refused." Vol correctly observed.

Wren’s eyes became suddenly very far away as she questioned once again that refusal. It had not been an easy thing to turn down such an opportunity, personal desire to avoid a certain species notwithstanding, and no matter how certain she’d been at the time no one alive could stand looking up at the mountain of challenges towering over her and not question if there was truly no way around it. It was thoughts like these that could drive a woman mad and she knew the only way so soften even if not to silence them was for an outside voice to compete with them.

"Can you understand why?" She reluctantly asked the Counselor, genuinely fearing how he may answer.

"Do you ask me because you hope that my answer will help you understand your own refusal?" Vol knew he was being presumptuous, but experience had shown him that he wouldn't be far off target in this matter.

Wren inhaled and exhaled deeply, trying to stay her emotions from registering too clearly on her face, not so much for the Counselor who could so easily read her but for anyone else who may be watching.

“Is that so wrong?” She asked thoughtfully. “Today it feels like the right choice, but what if I wake up ten years down the track and realise that Tam’s grown up without a father because I kept thinking I could get Rada back alone? I need to understand how I can be so sure that it’s right when there are so many ways it could be wrong. I know Rada trusts Salvek and if there were a Vulcan in this galaxy he’d allow in to his mind then it’d be him. Maybe even if he resisted the damage wouldn’t be as bad as I think. Maybe Salvek could fix whatever damage occurred. Yet I know Rada and I just can’t get past just what could go wrong.”

She looked apologetically at Vol, realising she was now just thinking aloud and allowing him no chances to comment on it. "Sorry, I feel like I'm repeating my side of the conversation I had with Salvek."

In response, Vol thought he'd take a stab of summarizing exactly that.

"Logically, you know that your rejection is founded on very shaky ground. As iffy as it may be though, your gut and your heart feel very strongly against allowing the First Officer to... proceed."

Wren absentmindedly moved a strand of hair from her face, in spite of everything she was feeling a small smile finding a place on her lips as she considered how quickly Vol had summed up the argument that took so long in her own mind. It reminded her just how complicated the simplest things could sometimes seem and with the complications in her life at the moment that truly meant a lot. She could tell that Vol sensed this fact and she didn’t need to say anything more.

The pair of Betazoids were quiet for a little while now. Wren served other clients in the Cafe, as Vol almost finished his beverage. Then Wren returned to continue their conversation and she asked a question which had been playing on her mind. Vol might have expected it; he did not.

"What are your feelings? Towards Rada, I mean."

Vol sighed, looking down into the bottom of his empty cup.

"For one reason or another, we've never gotten along."

"Had nothing changed since . . . ?"

Vol shook his head, as he became ready to admit a secret he had been holding on to for quite some time. Ironic, seeing as the woman he was about to divulge to loved the man in question.

"At present, Mr. Dengar may be most dangerous person to me on this ship."

A voice suddenly came from behind Vol, interrupting them before he could say anymore.

"Excuse me, Counselor?"

Vol recognised the voice but it was his Betazoid senses which told him so much more.

*It can’t be.* Vol thought to himself as he slowly turned around to confirm his fears.

It was indeed Rada Dengar.

“I was told there is something wrong with the replicator in your office.” The Angosian informed him, his eyes seeming to be on the Counselor but secretly watching with concern as Wren hurried from the room, not quite prepared to talk to him again yet.

“No.” Vol answered immediately, but knowing he’d not be able to explain the call he quickly corrected himself. “I mean yes. Yes there is, but it’s certainly not the type of job I’d have expected them to send the Chief Engineer for.”

“There have been a couple of other replicator failures on your floor recently. Statistically it’s most likely a coincidence but I have to have a look to ensure it’s not a symptom of a larger problem.” Rada explained, confused as to why the Counselor seemed so much less comfortable around him than usual.

“Okay.” Vol answered slightly nervously as he ran over in his mind a list of things he should and should not say.. “Well there’s not much I can tell you. I ordered fruit tea and got warm cheese instead.” He then asked, hoping it’d but him some more time to think. “Has that happened to anyone else?”

“No, it hasn’t.” Rada answered, cautious about the fact that Vol was being so cautions. “One replicator had shut down completely and the other produced some type of liquefied meat in a coffee cup. That lends weight to the theory that they’re unrelated.” Rada cleared his throat, hoping to get this over with as quickly as possible. “So if you’ll just accompany me to your office then hopefully it won’t take too long to fix.”

“Is that really necessary?” Vol asked quietly, looking into his cup as a way to avoid looking directly at Rada. “There’s nothing much that I can tell you and I feel like I’d just be in the way.”

Rada greatly wished he could agree to just letting Vol stay here, but reluctantly he admitted he couldn't. “I’m afraid that I’ll likely need your authorisation at one point or another.”

“I see.” Vol answered as his mind flooded with dangerous words that for the sake of both of them should not be spoken and he realized just how many opportunities he’d be giving himself to blurt them out. “In that case we’d better get going.”

Vol jumped up from the chair and just started walking in steps as quick as he could take without drawing too much attention. Soon he’d stepped into the turbolift and then he turned around to see Rada a few steps behind him, asking with his eyes what hurry Vol was in as he entered the lift himself.

“Deck Five.” Vol announced and they were on their way.

Neither of them attempted conversation, they just both repeated the same thoughts without realizing it.

*Please don’t get stuck. Please don’t get stuck.*

Thankfully the turbolift had the decency to honour their request and they'd soon arrived at the Counselor’s office.

Upon their entrance, both men when to opposite ends of the room. Rada to the replicator and Vol to the sofa which sat at the far end of his office. Vol sat quietly, silently looking at Rada as he tinkered away and down at some PADDs he'd picked up to feign being busy.

Despite his somewhat calm demeanor, Vol was having a hell of a time keeping control of his thoughts. He wanted desperately to do so many things that he was under strict adherence not to even attempt. Vol wanted to admit everything to Rada, everything he'd done and everything that had come of it. Vol wanted to start the recovery process right here, right now, without the use of psyche-destroying machinery that was arcane in the strongest sense.

Vol pondered trying to read Rada's thoughts despite past efforts, in order to take the man's temperature so to speak as to whether he knew something was wrong or if he remained oblivious to any sort of happenstance.

As it was, Vol said and did nothing. He just committed to his regular nervous twitch by holding his neck with his hand and hoped this visit would end soon. Before he did something he was sure he wouldn't regret, but would likely have consequences Vol couldn't even consider right now.

“Hmm.” Rada murmured to himself, not bringing his head out from inside of the replicator. “I’m not sure this unit has failed.”

“What do you mean?” Vol asked cautiously, overhearing and knowing that while conversation could allow a thousand inadvertent slips that keeping silent could tip Rada off that something was wrong and that that would be a huge slip in itself.

“Well, from the looks of it I’d say it was sabotaged.” Rada replied, shaking his head at why anyone would want to do this. “Someone’s completely misaligned the biofilter.”

“I see…” Vol replied, a little embarrassed remembering his earlier attempts at a repair. “I’m afraid I might have had something to do with that. I thought it might have been out of alignment and…Sorry.”

“There’s nothing to apologise for.” Rada answered immediately, worrying he may have offended the Counselor by bringing it up. Quickly he tried to justify his belief. “I once got called in to fix a screen which was getting poor picture quality. It turned out it was dirty. So, it’s quite nice to know there are still some people on board who’ll try to fix a problem on their own.”

Vol smiled politely even though Rada couldn’t see him do it and exhaled in something not quite a laugh but in a way which conveyed his approval.

Neither man said anything more, but the gates of conversation had been opened leaving the silence quickly becoming even more awkward for both of them. Rada was fiercely concentrating as he felt like the Betazoid was trying to get into his mind and he could never allow that to happen but with how he’d been feeling recently he was afraid he’d not be able to stop him.

He desperately wanted Vol to just say anything to show that at least some of his attention was on something other than his empathic abilities. Vol on the other hand wanted to say so very much as countless many different thoughts needed to be forced to stay in his mind and as far away from his mouth as possible.

Vol blurted out the only one thought which he believed wouldn’t lead Rada very quickly down a path he had no place taking him.

“I hope I haven’t damaged it.”

“No, there’s no damage.” Rada replied, his head still inside the replicator as he tinkered around with the settings. “It’ll just take a little longer to repair.”

Vol cursed himself beneath his breath at hearing that, apparently just too loudly though as Rada’s head was soon pulled very much out of the replicator and his eyes turned to the Betazoid.

“Is there something wrong, Counselor?”

“No,” Vol replied quickly, doing his best to seem a hell of a lot less anxious than he was for this all to be over. “I just regret that I didn’t leave the work to the professionals. It’s not something I’d normally do.”

Rada seemed at least satisfied with Vol’s performance enough that he felt able to turn back to the replicator.

“Well, you’re not the only one not feeling like themselves.” Rada casually commented.

Vol’s heart seemed to skip at least three beats too many.

“I’m not?” Vol asked, keeping his voice as calm as he possibly could so as not to give away that he had very clear expectation about the answer to this question.

“No.” Rada answered as he thought about recent events, though he tried to keep his tone light as to hide how concerned he really was. “I guess it must be the stress of the recent mission I slept through. A lot of people on this ship seem to have been left feeling different by it. You get halfway through a conversation and they suddenly feel they have to change the subject. It’s like they feel strange to even think about it.”

“You said they. So then, you’re unaffected?” Vol asked, immediately regretting it when he had as he quickly saw the conversation running a very dangerous course.

It was made even worse when Rada paused for a second to think about his answer and Vol’s breathing seemed to pause with it.

“It seems I am.”

The sigh of relief Vol felt like giving at that moment could have been enough to damage his lungs, yet still a large part of him wished Rada had admitted there was something wrong and so Vol could have started his work. Vol was lingering on that thought and he knew he had to get out of there now.

“Look, I’ve got a lot of things to do today.” Vol lied or at the very least exaggerated. “Are you sure you’ll need my authorisation?”

“Actually, no.” Rada answered as he considered the problem anew. “Now that I’ve had a look I think I can work around it.”

Relief washed over Vol at hearing that and he didn’t wait around a second longer than he had to. He just nodded his head in thanks and walked as fast as he could out of the door, leaving Rada wondering what his hurry had been.

Lieutenant Vol Tryst
Ship’s Counselor
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


NRPG: Bravo, gentlemen. That was simply brilliant. Thank you for all your hard work on this it's a true gem and was a joy to read.~ ZL