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Jim Ausfahl

November 20th 2297

Nyota Penda Uhura stretched indulgently, enjoying the soft, form-fitting support of the sand and the warmth of the sun. She looked to the left. "You know, the idea of coming here for shore-leave, then the four of us enjoying a little bit of a delayed honeymoon was one of your truly brilliant ideas, T’Soral, and that’s saying a lot."

The Vulcan woman nodded. "Thank you Captain. Starfleet Command agreed that it would make a good cover for our presence here. Although under the circumstances, the Romulans’ behavior is most likely a show of strength without any intent to assault, having a little additional firepower in place is quite reasonable. Using shore-leave and our honeymooning as a cover for being here is as good an excuse as any. I am, however, just a little surprised that we have not been offered any mead."

"Mead? Why should we be offered mead?" The Bantu rolled on her side, staring her friend in the face. "This is a honeymoon, not a beer bash."

"Precisely, Captain." T’Soral opened her eyes, returning Uhura’s gaze. "In ancient Babylon, it was customary for the bride and groom to be supplied with all the mead they wished for the first month after marrying. Since the Babylonians used a strictly lunar calendar, and since mead is a beer made from honey, it was called the honey moon, which became honeymoon."

"If you weren’t Vulcan, I’d say you were kidding. Where did you pick up that tidbit from?" Confusion had been replaced with amusement.

"From my husband, Captain. Giac assures me that it is true; so do the ship’s computers."

From across T’Soral came Doctor Eletto’s voice. "You don’t blame her for not believing me, do you? I mean, that is a remarkably weird background for a word." He sat up as he spoke. "When I first heard that, I checked it through several resources before I believed it, too. Language can be thoroughly fun, if you look at it the right way."

"You’re not looking at language, Husband." The Vulcan turned to look at her still-new husband. "Do not forget that we are in permanent meld."

"I hadn’t. And you’re beautiful. And the last one in the water has to make dinner!" Eletto took off running toward the nearby ocean. Caught totally unprepared, T’Soral scrambled to race her Human spouse to the water. Despite her greater speed, it was clear that the surprise factor had given the Human a decisive advantage. Just before he leapt into the water, Eletto stopped, holding his hand out to his new, Vulcan wife. "Of course, if we jump in together, we can cook together. Either way, you can see if you can learn how to swim by tapping my memory. It’ll be an interesting experiment."

T’Soral took Giac’s hand, the two of them getting into the water at once. She turned to Uhura. "He’s learning, Captain; a male that is catching on is possibly too dangerous to tolerate. What is your thought on the matter?"

M’Benga sat up. "Think well, sweet bride, and remember that your own husband is close enough to deal with an unfortunate answer."

"Not for long!" Uhura leapt up, as Eletto had done, running for the water. "You have to catch me, first! T’Soral! Set up interference for me!"

Within moments, the four were waist deep in water, immersed in a free-for-all water fight, T’Soral surprising no one by turning out to be a remarkably efficient combatant and the only one of the four that wasn’t squealing with laughter and gasping for air by the time the game was over. Happily exhausted, the Humans dropped back on their beach towels, the nearly inexhaustible Vulcan joining them.

"That is a most unusual custom, Husband. We have nothing similar on Vulcan."

"Now, why doesn’t that surprise me? Vulcan’s a comparatively dry planet, and Vulcans are a very logical people, and they lack a totally illogical custom based on playing in large bodies of water." He got up and threw his towel over his shoulder. "C’mon, gang. Let’s get to where we can clean up and eat. My stomach just announced that it thinks I slit my throat and sewed the ends together wrong." Without waiting for further conversation, he began making his way to the entry to the condominium they had rented for the week. "I need to get the salt washed off my tender hide."


Just over an hour later, T’Soral came out of the bedroom she and her new husband were sharing to find Uhura by the BellComm. The captain’s body was wrapped in a bright red terrycloth bathrobe, and a white towel was wrapped around her hair. She banged the top of the communications unit, clearly expressing frustration with the device.

"I find it illogical to believe that as seasoned and brilliant a communications officer as you were before becoming captain of the Hyperion is experiencing difficulty with a simple communications device," observed the Vulcan.

"Believe it. I got on the BellComm and logged in my personal code. The readout indicated I had a monstrous number of bulk communications, so I triggered their deletion. That was ten minutes ago. It’s still deleting. Look at that, will you, T’Soral?"

The Vulcan leaned over, staring at the readout. "Amazing. You had over two point six million bulk messages in your BellComm file. No wonder it’s taking such a long time to allow you further activity; you have erased only one point two three million of them. How long has it been since you have checked your BellComm?"

"I checked it just before changing into my swimsuit. It’d normally take ignoring it for, oh, about a thousand years to get that many bulk messages punched through my filter."

M’Benga stepped into the room, staring at the two ladies. "I’m getting this very strong feeling that the pair of you are still working on ordering supper. If so, I am deeply worried. I teeter on the brink of absolute, devastating malnutrition, while you two wrangle with the communications equipment." The half-Masai, half-Zulu physician hitched his recently-donned shorts up a little, adjusting their fit. "Would you ladies prefer it if I ordered our meal?"

"I do not think that you will find that possible, Doctor M’Benga." The Vulcan communications officer straightened, straightening her loosely fit blouse. "Due to unforeseeable circumstances, the communications module is going to be tied up for a considerable length of time." She tilted her head to one side. "Giac said he’d be happy to pick supper up, if that was fine with all of the rest of us."

"That’s fine by me; he probably needs the exercise. I’m happy with whatever he can find, at this point. How about you, Nyota, honey?"

"At this point, I’ll take whatever he brings, too. If you hang out here with us, T’Soral, he can connect to us if he has to. There are some real advantages to this meld thing you two are doing."

To Uhura’s surprise, a hint of green tinged T’Soral’s ears. "There certainly are. And there are some definite downsides. Certain husbands, whose names will remain confidential to protect Doctor Eletto’s identity, have a distinctly impish streak." As she spoke, Eletto joined the others. T’Soral turned to face him. "You are a very naughty adult, did you know that?"

He chuckled. "That’s not news, as you know perfectly well, dear heart. I take it we’re all agreed that I’ll go forage for food while you folks sort out the BellComm system." He looked at the display. "I think I’ve got the easier of the two tasks. Keme, how about coming along to help tote the goodies?"

"Don’t mind if I do. It’s not like I’m going to be any help in sorting out the communications crisis. We can let the two experts on the topic fight with it, and come back to find the problem resolved. I hope." M’Benga turned toward the door. "By the way, what is it with you and T’Soral?"

"It’s called being newlyweds. You might be familiar with the phenomenon." Eletto rolled his eyes.

"That’s not what I mean, and you know it. I’ve known loads of Vulcan married couples, and the two of you seem to be communicating better than even Sorel and T’Hira could, via the meld." M’Benga stopped, his hand on the doorknob. "I guess I’m slow, but it dawns on me that the two of you actually can read each other’s thoughts and share essentially all sensations, at least to a degree. That’s totally bizarre."

Uhura agreed. "Bizarre. Giac, that fits you perfectly. And since my esteemed relatively new hubby points it out, he’s right, despite being male." The captain looked up from her BellComm, which was reading one point seven two million of two point six something million deleted. "It is rather unique."

"We find it so, too, Captain." The voice was T’Soral’s. "In my experience, even working with my father, I have not seen a connection quite as close as Giac and I share. My father, Sorel, says that he knows of none similar, which says a great deal more."

"We suspect that it’s driven, at least in part, by T’Soral’s increased sensitivity to mental signatures, or more honestly the neurologic basis of that increased sensitivity." Eletto had picked up without missing a beat. "It’s not like we’ve fused into a single entity; each of us still retains our individual personality, but we share a great deal more than we would have expected to do, even if we had both been Vulcan."

"Some of it, I think, may have its roots in a step I took to protect Giac from being successfully mind-raped," Eletto’s ears reddened slightly as T’Soral spoke, "which necessitated my delving unusually deeply into his katra and setting up some major mental barriers."

"Barriers, I might add, that she can pass as easily as I do, which is, according to our mutual understanding of the procedure, theoretically impossible. It may also have to do with my Human, and thus somewhat emotional but also less psychologically rigid and resistant, personality and possibly with some unidentified result of spending two hundred thirty-five years in suspended animation. There’s a lot about the interaction between the physical body and the katra that we, and I include Vulcans here, simply do not understand. And anyway, I’m pretty laid back, even for a Human. T’Soral and I conjecture that may also reduce the potential barriers significantly. You might have noticed that she was doing a fairly creditable job swimming when we were having our little water fight."

"I’d noticed that, Giac, but I figured that she’d learned to swim at the Academy." Uhura turned to her female friend. "I take it that I’m wrong in that assumption?"

"It was not my first attempt at the discipline, however Vulcans are generally prone to respiratory infections when exposed to excessive humidity for prolonged periods of time. Therefore we are not required to take swimming at the Academy other than the basic emergency preparedness training and basic swim strokes. However, I tapped into Giac’s brain for the motor skills, an experiment that he suggested—as you might recall." M’Benga and Uhura both nodded. "It was, I think, most successful. I am clearly a far more capable swimmer as a result. Our thought on the matter is that it is something that might be very useful in the future, and that we might be prudent to keep between the four of us." T’Soral turned to her husband. "In my opinion, Husband, you are ravenous. Go find food for us all before you keel over from hypoglycemia."

M’Benga opened the door. "Giac, you’re one brave man. Come on, let’s see what we can find."

"Brave, schmave, Keme." Eletto followed his superior officer out of the door. "I’m just one step ahead of you, buddy; I already know that she can read my mind. You’re going to have to make a fool out of yourself a few times before you catch on to the fact that your wife can read yours. Let me tell you a couple of stories about myself, from when Louise was still alive…" Mercifully, for the two women, the door shut behind them.

"That’s one batch of stories we’re spared, anyway, T’Soral."

"You are spared, Nyota. I know the story he’s telling—and the others he plans to tell while they look for a good takeout restaurant. He is clearly biasing them, by the way, to make himself appear more a fool than he remembers being."

"Then it’s probably closer to the truth than he remembers. Look at this BellComm display, will you? I still can’t believe it."

"One point nine million of two point seven four million deleted; your number to delete is growing rapidly. At this rate, unless our men dawdle, we will be eating before they are all gone." The Vulcan stared at the BellComm. "As ravenous as the men are, they may even be done."


With a good supper stowed in their bellies, and the remnants of the meal appropriately disposed of, the foursome sat in the condominium’s living room, beverages of choice in hand, comfortably seated in soft couches, next to their respective spouses. "So tell me, Captain, how long did it take to clear your account of trash messages?" Eletto took a sip from his cup of coffee. "I noticed you two seemed to have finished it off before Keme and I got back."

The Bantu shook her head in disgust. "It peaked at getting rid of about two hundred fifty thousand of them a minute, but getting about seventy-five to a hundred thousand in the same length of time. It was unbelievable. We barely cleared it before you two got here. Right, T’Soral?"

"Exactly. One point four seven minutes before the door opened, to be precise. I suppose we should all check our BellComm addresses before too long, just to see what is happening with them." T’Soral’s impassive features failed to communicate her total lack of enthusiasm for the suggestion.

"What seems more significant to me is figuring out what triggered all this." The Hyperion’s chief medical officer turned to Eletto. "Or, perhaps, who."

"As to whom, that’s a no-brainer. This smells of Hardav’s handiwork. The question is, of course, why." Eletto donned a half grin. "Anyone with any bright ideas?"

"Sheer devilment, I’d say." The communications officer turned captain shrugged her shoulders. "He has a proclivity along those lines."

"Lieutenant Commander Davids’ pranks usually have a point, Captain." T’Soral’s brow furrowed a little, as if she were squinting. "I suspect that there may more than the joy of pulling a prank on you, especially considering the dire consequences of the prank he pulled with the mediscanner."

"Point made. That prank also forced us to look at the security of the scanners—both their function and the information they’d gathered." It was M’Benga’s voice. "Although I have to admit it didn’t do you justice, sweetheart."

Uhura pretended to punch her husband. "Didn’t do you justice, either, now that you bring it up, you big lummox." She turned to Eletto and T’Soral. "Maybe we should just check with Hardav, think?"

"And make his day?" M’Benga shook his head. "I vote we try to do this without his knowing we’re on top of it, just to freak the sneak out." There was a chorus of agreement. "T’Soral, can you sneak into the ship’s databanks and see what Hardav’s recent communications history looks like?"

"Can a dog bark?" It was Eletto, answering for his wife. "Believe me, you’re not talking a challenge there." Even as the Human spoke, the Vulcan was working with the fat communicator that seemed never far from her reach. "Finding anything, honey?"

"Plenty. Hardav has signed all of us up for a number of BellComm sites that are notorious for producing large volumes of bulk messages." T’Soral looked up. "It is just as well that you did not look at the messages, Captain."

"Oh, lose the ‘Captain’ until we’re back on the ship, T’Soral. For now, we’re friends on a shared honeymoon, even if we don’t have any mead."

"As you wish, Nyota. Some of the sites—and I suspect this is something Harrison Davids did not realize—exchange BellComm addresses they have collected with sites that feature pictures of the Human body, scantily clad, if at all; it would seem that other sentient species are represented on them, in what I presume is equally provocative attire, or lack thereof." The Vulcan looked over at her Human spouse. "With your permission, I will see to your bulk file for you."

"Thanks, honey." Eletto sipped his beverage. "I probably will need the time for sleeping. Look, this is all very interesting, but there is a reason why Hardav did this, and we need to figure it out, as far as I can see. T’Soral, darling, if you’ll see to my bulk BellComm, we can talk as it clears."

"I am already working on it."

"My theory is that he’s doing it because he’s jealous that he’s not down here with Patty Denala." M’Benga hugged Uhura closer as he spoke. "Not, of course, that he couldn’t have managed that if he’d just popped the question. The gossip I hear is that Patty would snap him up in a splintered picosecond."

"I hear the same rumor, but I can’t feature his doing this out of jealousy. Now, itching powder in our luggage, I can feature him doing. This, no; it’s too tame for vengeance."

"Granted, Nyota." T’Soral looked down at her communicator. "Giac, you had three point nine five million bulk messages. They’re gone, now."

"Your toy’s a lot faster than this BellComm here, Vulcan woman!" Uhura’s jealousy was clear. "Maybe you ought to clear my man’s for him."

"With his permission and entry code, I shall be pleased to." The two communicated the essentials, and the Vulcan began the deletion process. "And I shall clear my own, when we are done."

"Which leaves the issue of Hardav’s reasoning in doing this. I don’t believe he’s doing it just for the sheer wickedness of it." M’Benga looked at Uhura. "What do you think, sweetheart?"

Within moments, a rapid fire discussion of possible reasons for the prank was rolling; theories advanced ranged from simple silliness to serious suggestions. None of them seemed to make sufficient sense to grab the imagination of any of the discussants. Suddenly, Uhura looked at Eletto. "Giac, you haven’t said a thing in nearly an hour. That’s totally unlike you. What’re you thinking?"

"Oh, I’m mostly wondering how long it will take you folks to see what has, to me, become obvious. As trained, experienced communications professionals, I’m shocked that you and my sweet bride haven’t seen it."

T’Soral turned, facing her man. "Whatever you are thinking is concealed, my husband. You have clearly learned quickly on that score."

"One word, beloved: bandwidth." Eletto tilted his head to one side. "Do you see what I’m thinking?"

Slowly, T’Soral began to nod. "Of course; it is so simple, so elementary that I failed to see the obvious." She turned to face the captain. "Immediate action is necessary."

"Now hold on just a minute, girlfriend. You need to make some sense here. You may be able to read Giac’s mind, but Keme and I can’t read it—or yours, either."

"It’s simple enough, Nyota," Eletto responded. "Think it through. In any combat situation, the critical elements are sustainable firepower, coordinated strategy, and tactical position. If you can develop a decided advantage in any one of those three, all others being roughly equal, your ability to achieve your military objective is dramatically enhanced."

"Furthermore, in coordinating strategy, the main components are battlefield observations, communications and central command." T’Soral picked up for Eletto, almost as if she was continuing her own thought. "Significantly cripple communications, and you cripple coordination of strategy. Cripple coordination of your opponent’s strategy and you give yourself a decisive edge, even with equivalent or inferior fire power."

"I fail to see what that has to do with Hardav assaulting my BellComm with trash messages." Uhura leaned forward. "Make me understand."

"I guess my frozen old memory must be slipping, good Captain. How long did it take you to clear your bulk messages, and how well were you able to communicate while doing so?" Eletto took a swallow of his coffee to let the thought digest. "Now, multiply that by several millions of individuals, and jack the number of bulk messages up tenfold or more. Have the messages contain absurdly large, attached graphic files and audio files. How well is communication going to work? Even subspace communication, immense though the bandwidth of any given subspace channel may be, has finite capacity. What a coincidence that the Romulans are massing forces near a few strategic locations, just as your junk message file expands to insane proportions!"

"Now just a minute, Giac." M’Benga was clearly nettled. "If you’re accusing Davids of being a Romulan mole, I’m going to be forced to give you your teeth for a necklace."

"I share your sentiment, Keme; I’d suspect myself before I’d suspect the King of Crazy; we both know better than that. But think about it: we got multiple millions of bulk messages. Honey, how many sites did Hardav sign each of us up for?"

"About five or six sites for each of us. It is quite surprising that we got over a hundred such messages, since you think of it." T’Soral turned to Uhura. "The response is not only overwhelmingly large, Nyota, it is inappropriately so. Giac has an important point."

"He’s also yawning." The voice was M’Benga’s. "Which I will be doing pretty quickly, too. But this just doesn’t cut it, to me. I mean, if subspace gets jammed, it gets jammed for us as well as for the Romulans, doesn’t it?"

"Not necessarily, Doctor Husband." Uhura leaned a little forward to look him in the eye. "Subspace waves can carry information in two major ways—either by flipping sides on polarization, or by shifting phase to and fro on paired subspace waveforms. In the Federation, we use phase shifts between two, otherwise identical waveforms to encode the digital information, the same as the Klingons do. The Romulans have taken using the polarization trick. The net result is that their modulation will still be working, but ours and the Klingons’ modulation would be jammed. That we’ve learned to listen in to Romulan transmissions doesn’t mean we can join them using their modulation."

Uhura turned to T’Soral. "You’re probably the only one of the four of us that isn’t sleepy. It’s two hours past local midnight. I’m going to get some sleep; at least three of us will be better able to solve this after a good night’s sleep. For my part, I figure the Romulan activity and Hardav’s prank happening at the same time is just a coincidence, driven by our using shore-leave as a mask for hanging out around the Romulan border."

"It is my understanding, based on my husband’s remarks, that Humans often solve problems in their sleep; sleeping may be the best approach after all. It may well all be a coincidence, Nyota, but dealing with the bulk messaging system is still a worthy effort." The Vulcan stood, beckoning to her man. "Come, Husband. It is past your bed-time."

Meekly, Eletto allowed himself to be shooed off to bed, M’Benga submitting to the same treatment.


Uhura awakened before her husband, carefully slipping out of bed. After a few moments to put herself together, she slipped out into the common area, to be greeted by an atmosphere rich with savory aromas. T’Soral was visible, hunched over her communicator; Eletto was only intermittantly visible, puttering in the kitchen. "Hey, Giac! What on Earth are you cooking?"

"Flapjacks, Eletto style—and tofu pseudo-sausages, spiced to my specifications. Don’t knock it until you try it, now." He flipped another pancake. "And you’re probably not going to knock it when you do. Even T’Soral might like ‘em."

The Vulcan looked up from the communicator. "As long as it’s meatless, I’m fine, beloved Husband. Absolutely everything tastes better when it’s home cooked and I do not have to cook it." She returned to the business before her.

"Mmm... Giac, my boy, you never told Hardav and I that you could cook like this!" M’Benga appeared, ready for the new day. "How could you keep such secrets from us?"

"Hardav knew; fried him up a mess of tilapia and spuds on the Jovian Platform, years ago." He shoveled what looked like link sausage onto a plate, and stacked a platter high with flapjacks. "Table’s set. Captain Uhura, would you grab that pot of coffee and the butter and syrup? Breakfast is served!"

Even T’Soral set aside her labors to join the others at the table. There was considerable serious eating before anyone ventured to talk. "Giac, these pancakes are delicious. What’s the secret ingredient?"

"Whole grain flour and pecan bits, Nyota." He stuffed another mouthful of pancake into his mouth, mumbling around it. "I sprinkle the pecan bits in while the first side is cooking. And that’s real maple syrup, I’ll have you know."

"Okay, you two, enough with the recipes already." The Hyperion’s chief medical officer poured himself another cup of coffee and pushed away from the table. "I’ll clean up, and let you ladies get to last night’s project."

"I have already been deeply immersed in it, Doctor M’Benga." T’Soral lifted the fat communicator that she always carried. "I have taken the liberty of using your BellComm identity for collecting reports, Nyota."

"I’m comfortable with that, short of you signing me up for any more foolish sites. What have you done?" The communications officer turned and the captain moved around to where she could look over her friend’s shoulder.

"I have created and disseminated a tracking knowbot; it forms a collaborative network with other copies of itself to track the source of any mass BellComm message sent to any of the four of us; you can see the definitions I’m using, I believe."

Uhura nodded, only half hearing the two men clear the table of all but the coffee and cups. "Okay, anything that any of us gets that is matched by over twenty identical messages with different addresses. That works. And it sends a tracker to the source, trying to find the next layer down, using the same algorithm at that node. The results of the analysis get sent to my BellComm every two hours, in text mode. Excellent work. We’ll teach ‘em to trash a pair of Communications Specialists’ BellComms!" She looked over to the kitchen; M’Benga and Eletto had just finished cleaning up. "Looks to me like our men folk are done in the kitchen. I’d say that things are moving along well on the BellComm front, and it’s time for the four of us to do some serious vacationing. It is definitely time to drag the men along while we go shopping."

"I heard that!" It was M’Benga’s baritone coming from the kitchen, the man following it. "As long as Giac and I can amuse ourselves as we go, we’re with you."

"Good. Then it’s settled. We shop until we drop!"


Divesting himself of a large load of packages, Eletto flopped on a couch, turning on the holovid to the evening news. "I’m astounded at how much the four of us found to buy. Do you know, I do believe that Indri will have to use the cargo transporter to bring all this stuff up? I don’t see how we’ll get it all into our luggage."

"Don’t worry—T’Soral and I will find a way." Uhura looked over Eletto’s shoulder. "Sounds like the Romulans are playing wargames with the Klingons, too, or at least trying to make the Klingons wonder which of us they’re going to attack. Maybe we ought to get some more accurate readouts from the Hyperion on what’s happening out there."

T’Soral emerged from a bedroom, her communicator in hand. "No need, Captain." The use of rank caught everyone’s attention. "I have already done so. The findings match with my suspicions. I would suggest that we do whatever it takes to get back to the Hyperion swiftly."

"What’s up, T’Soral? You’re not the panicky type." Uhura was clearly concerned.

"Unfortunately, tracing can work two ways. It appears that there are, indeed, a large number of Romulan sites that are generating an incredible amount of bulk BellComm messages; the rate of generation is starting to increase, almost exponentially. The problem is that the Romulan sites have traced things back to your BellComm address in three hours, and traced us here. It is to be expected that they would have operatives even here, and have prepared to take measures to reduce or eliminate the threat that you appear to cause. My recommendation is that we leave as swiftly as we can."

Suddenly all business, M’Benga nodded. "Under the circumstances, I think we need to pack up and leave now. It’s been several days of fun and frolic here, but if there are any Romulan agents close by, you could suddenly turn into a target, Nyota. I don’t want to lose you now, honey; I’m more willing to lose a day of shore-leave. Let’s start packing."

"Oh, don’t get in a panic, Husband. This resort doesn’t allow any weapon more dangerous than fishing equipment. I still say this is all coincidence. We can pack, but how about a quick, last meal before we check out?"

It was clear that T’Soral was uncomfortable with it all, as were M’Benga and Eletto, but Uhura’s optimism prevailed. As the other three packed, Giac began putting together a quick meal. Only moments passed before M’Benga joined him. "Keme, I didn’t think you were the kitchen type."

"I’m not. This just makes an excuse to talk to you. Nyota is doing most of the work, anyway. Look, do me a favor; when we check out, keep a close eye on her, will you? Nothing obvious, so she doesn’t catch on, okay? I mean, I know she’s convinced this is all coincidence with the Romulans and some of the bulk stuff being traceable to Romulan sites and all, but I just don’t want to take any chances."

"I’m already there, Keme; so’s T’Soral, by the way. I know that she’s probably right, but neither of us want to take chances, either. You settle the tab and I’ll settle my share with you on the Hyperion when we’re all safe and sound. We’ll cover your honey, okay?" He handed M’Benga a platter. "I’ll bring the rest; it’s disposable stuff for supper and then out of here."

Moments later, T’Soral and Uhura had the luggage stacked on a small cart near the door to the lobby, and were joining the men at the table. Although they tried to pretend they were enjoying themselves, the meal was somber and hurriedly finished; the fact that they had donned regulation Starfleet uniforms seemed to reinforce the fact that they were ending their brief jaunt a day early.

The foursome made their way out the door, M’Benga settling up as the others stood by the luggage. Eletto tried to stay nonchalant as he watched the people milling in the lobby, making a point of staying near the captain as he did so; no one particularly caught his eye.

Through a door to the beach, three Humans clad in swimming gear and snorkels, carrying flippers and spear guns came through the door. Giac looked at them, and then away. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement and turned back; the three of them were leveling their spear guns, aimed at Uhura.

Without thought, Giac grabbed a suitcase and swung it up like a shield between them and Uhura, leaping in front of his captain, knocking her to the floor and yelling. There was the sound of a heavy rubber band being released, and three thuds: two of the spears had embedded themselves in the suitcase, the third impaling the physician through the chest. Things suddenly seemed to be in slow motion. As the three assailants tried to reload, T’Soral crossed the distance to them, dropping one with a Vulcan nerve pinch. M’Benga came up from behind, lifting another of them, bringing him down on the back of the third, leaving the two of them in a pile on the ground. One tried to rise, which was a mistake; he met T’Soral’s foot square in the chest, sending him sprawling, unconscious.

Uhura shook her head, clearing it from being thrown on the floor. Looking up, she saw Eletto, still standing, a surprised look on his face, an oval of blood growing around the spear sticking out of the back of his Sickbay whites. Knowing she couldn’t rise fast enough to do anything, she shrieked a single word, "Keme!"

The senior physician turned toward his wife’s voice, seeing Eletto drop the suitcase and begin to slowly collapse to the floor. Fluidly, he snatched his communicator out with one hand, flipping it open, moving toward his collapsing colleague at a run. Lifting Eletto, he turned to the communicator. "Hyperion: Emergency! Two to Sickbay, now. Emergency surgical preparation." He had hardly finished speaking when the two disappeared in the sparkle of the transporter.

T’Soral sat the three men up, more or less back to back, bending one of the long, soft steel harpoons into a collar around their collective necks, barely leaving it loose enough to let them breathe.

Uhura turned to the functionary at the desk. "I would suggest, sir, that you get your local police here quickly."

"The police have been summoned, Madame." The man looked at T’Soral, who was standing guard over the trio of assailants. "It does not appear that any of the three of them will be escaping."

Uhura looked over at her Vulcan companion, whose normally unemotional features were almost stony. "I’m not worried about one of them escaping, buster. I’m expressing concern that one of them might try; the attempt would likely prove fatal."

"Come, Madame, your Vulcan friend would only incapacitate them, I’m sure."

"Don’t bank on it; the Human who took that spear for me is her husband." The captain’s eyes narrowed. "And believe me, if she doesn’t kill ‘em, I can and just might."

Any response the desk manager might have considered died as he looked at the Bantu’s face. He began working with the BellComm furiously.


M’Benga, Webb and Davids were clustered around the biobed, watching as Running Bear cut off the business end of the harpoon, barbed blades and all, that protruded from Eletto’s back. Webb was already cutting the Sickbay whites away from the site of injury, and Davids was setting up vascular access as M’Benga rolled the surgical field toward the injured colleague. M’Benga looked up at the monitor. "Hardav, tell me this thing is malfunctioning. Those readings are totally screwball."

Hardav looked up briefly, returning to his effort. "Agreed, and they’re uglier than a Klingon having a bad hair day. All the more reason to get some access. This man is bleeding to death, Boss, and I’m worrying that that harpoon was poisoned."

Off to one side, the turbolift slid open, T’Soral walking out. Webb looked up. "T’Soral, I’m not sure you really want to be here."

"Oh, yes, she does." It was M’Benga, his face registering sudden comprehension. "They’re in a mindmeld, Marie, and her father is one of the Federation’s most brilliant physicians. She’s invaluable. What’s Giac’s status, T’Soral?"

"The abnormal readings are partly my doing, Doctor; the rest are due to volume depletion and the injury. His subclavian artery is damaged, and spilling blood into his thoracic cavity. I do not believe there were any toxins on the harpoon tip, but scanning it for such would be a most prudent course."

T’Soral looked over at Hardav, who had finished connecting up the vascular access. The physician’s assistant looked up. "I get the point. Crystalloid’s going as fast as the central line can handle. I don’t think we have time to type and screen him, Keme, so blood’s out of the question for now." He looked up at the biomonitor. "He’s holding his own. Time to get down to business getting things repaired. T’Soral, warn us of anything going sour." He turned the mediscanner on the harpoon tip Running Bear had cut off. "Don’t see any poisons; that’s one thing in our favor, anyway."

The Vulcan woman said nothing, sitting down nearby and closing her eyes as the three medical professionals focused on repairing the damage before them. Without warning, T’Soral stood. "He has turned the corner, as you Humans would say. Doctor Eletto will require considerable rest, but he will recover. If you will excuse me, I have business on the bridge."

Without waiting for any comment from the others, she disappeared into the corridor.


Uhura was sitting in the center seat, clearly uncomfortable when T’Soral stepped out onto the bridge.

The captain turned to face T’Soral. "How is he?"

"He will recover, Captain. I believe we have some business with the Romulans. If you would work with me at the communications console?"

Uhura’s face reshaped from worry to a predatory, thin-lipped smile. "Yes, I think you’re right. Ingram, take the conn." She stood, moving to the communications area. "Let’s see what we can do to even up the score."


Eletto found himself in an unfamiliar state, one that felt a little like being in twilight sleep, but that involved a remarkably thorough awareness of the blood flow to every limb, his heart beat and breathing, and of the function of every system and organ in his body. The world around him seemed wrapped in a fog, barely perceptible. A faint tendril of femininity, like the odor of a freshly opened rose or a delicate perfume, diffused into his awareness. T’Soral?

Yes, my beloved husband. It is I.

With his wife’s presence solidifying itself in his awareness, it seemed that the fog over the rest of the world lifted, and the clear awareness of his inner workings faded somewhat. What was that I felt?

As close to a Vulcan Healing Trance as you are able to go, at the moment, aduna. You were very brave, my love, and quick to act. I am truly proud of you.

All I did was what any of us would have done for any of the others. You know that!

But you did it; you saw the threat first and acted before any of us were aware of it. Uhura is grateful, and I believe she would very much like to thank you face to face, as would Doctor M’Benga. Do you feel ready to face the others?

I think so. I am willing to awaken, or whatever I should call it.

Eletto felt the awareness of the world around him returning. The first sensation he noticed was the gentle touch of a hand on his cheek; he knew it was T’Soral’s. Opening his eyes, he turned toward her, smiling. "Hello, dear. It’s good to see you again."

From the other side of the medbed, Uhura’s voice responded. "It’s good to see you back, Giac. I owe you one."

Eletto looked over; M’Benga and Uhura were standing at his side. "Doctor, is it permissible for the patient to sit up?"

"You’re back to as close to normal as you ever get, Giac. Go ahead." M’Benga offered Giac his hand as an assist in getting up. Eletto took it, carefully pulling himself to a sitting position, noticing that he was still in his Sickbay whites, or what was left of them; the left shoulder area had been cut away. T’Soral stepped in view, next to Uhura.

M’Benga kept a grip on Eletto’s hand a little longer than needed, his eyes locking with his fellow physician’s. "Thanks, Giac." The half-choked voice uttering the words said more than the words themselves.

"Just protecting a friend; you’d have done the same." To his surprise, Eletto realized he was blushing. "Any of us would have done it for the captain. What’s happening with the bulk messaging?"

"It’s more or less gone away, Giac. Oddly enough, shortly after T’Soral and I got back on the Hyperion and had the power of its computer systems available to us, the Romulan communications system suffered a disastrous overload." Uhura winked conspiratorially. "Can’t imagine how that happened. Either way, the sudden massing of Romulan ships near the Federation and Klingon borders has dissolved, so we’re off to routine patrol again."

Eletto nodded. "Really? Now, Captain, that’s an amazing coincidence."

All but the Vulcan broke into laughter.

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