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Erich Jaenke

Tense Link (Keb and Erich)

Tense Link


Keb picked up a heavy sword, which glittered in the golden light that filtered through the leaves overhead, and gave it a test swing to get the weight and balance. Then she took a step toward the pell’s post, gave a scream of frustration, and began hacking at the wooden post so hard that chips flew around her. Robin Hood, standing against a tree nearby, applauded, but Keb ignored the hologram and kept swinging until her arms felt like they were going to fall off. She finally dropped the sword and leaned against the splintered post, panting. “I’m still too angry,” she confessed to Robin as he approached.


“We still need to work on your form, milady, but your enthusiasm is admirable,” the thief said, clapping his hand upon her shoulder. It hurt her burning biceps, and she pulled away from him. Erich, deep in the bowels of the ship, winced as he felt the pain, too.




"What is she doing?" Erich asked himself as he lay on the floor with an exposed panel centimeters above. When he was given the Chief position his worry was he'd only man the boards, sending others to repair. This mission travel time gave him the opportunity to get back to his roots and keep him busy. Often repairs took him to isolated sections, but as a special Betazoid never far from her..


No matter where he hid on the Manticore she was always there. Not merely a mental whisper, but spikes of raw emotions shaping his own. Their bond had formed such that he'd not be able to easily sever it. Now, unable to concentrate, he needed a break from the tedium. An infusion of Keb's emotional energy. He felt vaguely vampiric.




Erich exited the lift and walked down to the holodeck door. He tapped the keys to gain entry.


In the clearing just beyond the open door, he saw Keb whacking away at the post again with her sword, every swing making her sore muscles burn more. She was attempting to kill her frustrations. The blue-green velvet of her gown swirled with every blow in an interesting dance around her body. She’d been keeping her distance from him all week; it was like seeing a vision of her in a dream.


The door chimed as it closed. Surely she knew he was there, but, if so, there were no signs of her stopping her butchering of an innocent post.


"Keb?" He said softly at first. Nothing. "Keb??" he said with a bit more force.


Keb heard him the second time, inside her head as well as over the sword blows. She dropped the sword and turned, panting, to see Erich. The usual glow she had when she met his eyes wasn’t there this time. “Something wrong?” she asked, waving Robin Hood away and stepping closer to Erich.


"Uh, well no. I could feel your...emotion across the ship and needed to take a break anyhow. Hmm, how have you been?" He had never been this unsure of himself around her; perhaps the doctor had prescribed some mental blocker he did not know about.


She shrugged. “You know exactly how I’ve been. You know why I’ve been avoiding you--I’m overwhelming you and I can’t keep doing that. And you know I don’t like that we left the admirals behind or that we’re on this stupid mission a million light years away or Captain Pickett one bit. You know I’m angry about all of it. You know everything the moment I do. What more is there to say?”


"Keb, I can’t feel quite everything, but I've felt enough to be concerned beyond your affect on me." He had to choose his words carefully. He sat with his knees to his chest just like that time when they shared the rainy dream. No tears this time, no river between them, at least not like before. "For years I took a gray market drug that cut off my ability so I could be like the majority of humanoids across the galaxy. It was so simple to do: take, don't feel. Cut yourself off from other's concerns. I was complacent; however, all good things must come to an end, as did my supply. Than I had to face the reality that I could not hide any longer. I was different, not just to others but to other Betazoids. Before medication they were afraid too, their mental blocks ineffective." He sighed.


"But now I can't imagine turning myself off to the emotions of others. Heck, even being on his holodeck is unnerving, like a grayscale painting in a universe of color. Unless I turn myself into a emotionless blob, this ability is something I will have to manage over time. More importantly, you need to be able to block me and live within your own thoughts. I've really missed you, but I understand."


Keb sighed and sat beside him, taking his hand. She felt guilty about the pleasure and peace his touch gave her. “I’ve missed you, too, but I can’t help feeling like I’m hurting you. I know I don’t have a lot of control over my emotions--not when someone is feeling everything inside of me. And you shouldn’t have to deal with that when you’re still trying to get your own abilities under control. It...it has to be overwhelming.”


Erich rocked back and forth. "Losing you would be traumatic. But if you still want distance for your own sake and not mine, I fully understand that." He squeezed her hand, not quite willing to let go.


“I just need to figure out how to control my emotions, so you don’t wind up being a lightning rod for every surge,” Keb said, leaning her head against his shoulder. You aren’t going to lose me, she thought to him, closing her eyes. But the edge of fear, that she might lose him because of her own flaws, was hovering like a cloud in her mind, all of it palpable to him.


Erich changed the subject to distract her. "So you don't like our new captain?"


“Understatement of the millennium,” Keb muttered, kicking her skirts out away from the log they were seated on. “He’s horrible and doesn’t care about any of us.”


"Oh, he cares, and my read of him indicates this is not his choice either." Erich rubbed the top of her embraced hand with his thumb. "We may not want him over Sovak or A9, but we've got each other for the duration. Perhaps a nicely prepared meal would help?”


“You willing to risk that I might get angrier?” Keb asked, though there was a lighter, teasing tone to her question this time. Just being close to Erich had made the world brighter, easier to deal with.


He looked at her. "I'd be disappointed if you did not. Keb, you wear your emotions closer to the vest, and by extension will speak up when you feel wronged. That includes anger. Love, joy sadness, loneliness, pride...rage. It's all there, in everyone of us. I just hope you don't try to hide it like I did with drugs, cutting yourself off from the world." He smiled, casting his gaze to something in the distance. "After all, it was your emotions that drew me to you in the first place, in fact, drew me here now."


She pulled her hand free of his, withdrawing into herself as she made her confession. “I...I did ask Tess if she would...give me something to stop my emotions. She wouldn’t.”


"Keb, it's me specifically that's the issue. I think she made the right call." Erich felt the texture of the replicated grass between his emptied hands. "Would you be open to, well, counseling, for us? I know I may be putting the shuttle before the starship, but I think we could both use some form of assistance. Perhaps," he put up his hands, "some kind of Tess and T'Prise collaboration." He got up on his feet, brushing the dirt from his uniform.


Keb rose too, her appearance still as though she’d walked out of a storybook. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be with you, Erich. I just don’t want to hurt you.”


"You can't here: the safeties are on...right?"

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