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Annabelle O'Halloran

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About Annabelle O'Halloran

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    USS Reaent
  1. For the first time since the academy, 1st Lieutenant William Tomlinson was nervous. None of the missions he’d flown nor any problems he’d had with the Captain or the XO made him into as much of a bundle of nerves as he was right now. He tried taking deep breaths but they were shaky at best. The stage was set, the time was drawing close and he was as nervous; almost as scared as a first orbit cadet. Anna would find the note on the bed they shared as soon as she came off duty and she would come to him, probably wondering what kind of screwball thrill-seeking situation he wanted to put her into this time. Will couldn’t help but smile at that thought. Whatever happened, he knew he loved her with all his heart and now all he could do was wait. * * * * * His note had said to meet him in Holodeck 2 at 1800 hours for a special occasion and Anna was still wondering what that meant because coming from Will -- that might mean anything. He loved surprising her with one hair-raising adventure after another and could be surprisingly creative. The big challenge had been on deciding what to wear -- he usually at least gave her a hint. But not this time, and so she’d decided that a special occasion called for a special dress and had opted for a black silk in a halter style that he hadn’t seen before. It had a black lace overlay and was deceptively elegant and...would be completely inappropriate if it turned out that he’d programmed an adventure in honor of some esoteric anniversary which involved running with bulls (she still didn’t understand why that was an event) or navigating a storm in a hot air balloon (a favorite to date). Feeling a little thrill of anticipation, she tapped the control panel and stepped across the threshold as the doors slid back. Anna found herself in what appeared to be an elegant foyer, dimly lit by a small chandelier centered over a small pedestal table. There was a piece of parchment lying on the table which simply read: “follow the ribbon”. Looking down, starting just beyond the table, there was a white ribbon on the floor which led into a corridor off the little entryway. She followed it and found herself going up a flight of stairs and down another corridor until reaching a set of french doors which upon opening, revealed a patio illuminated only by candlelight and a star filled sky. A table with a service for two had been set up for an elegantly romantic dinner. Turning slowly, she absorbed the beautiful setting, enjoying the warm, balmy breeze that smelled of heliotrope and primroses. She wondered what the occasion was, knowing it didn’t really matter. Will was very good at coming up with creative scenarios, the only real purpose of which was for them to enjoy spending some time together away from their work environment. He was such a romantic, she mused, thinking as always of how lucky she was while wishing he would hurry up and make an appearance. It had been a longish day and she missed him. As if on cue, Will silently walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He gently pulled his Anna to him and hugged her warmly, “Good evening, my love. I do hope you like what you see here.” He kissed the back of her neck before turning her around to face him. No matter how many times he saw her like this, his breath was always taken away by the beauty he held in his arms. “You look beautiful, my dear. Are you hungry right now?” “Good evening, to you too,” Anna replied with a delighted smile, thinking Will sounded oddly formal. She looped her arms around his neck and stretched up to kiss him lingeringly before leaning back to meet his gaze. “I love what I’ve found here; it’s a beautiful setting, Will,” she assured him. “I am hungry -- and have been wondering what’s under the covered dishes.” He was even dressed more formally than usual she noticed. Very handsome as always, but his easy smile was missing and she wondered at it; it wasn’t like him to be so serious when they were alone together like this. “So, what’s the occasion, flyboy?” she asked lightly. Will smiled but didn’t immediately respond as he led her to the table and helped push her chair in as she sat down. He then acted as their waiter, taking a moment to pop open a bottle of very fine, non-replicated wine. He let the wine breathe a bit as he spoke softly, “A very special occasion, my love.” Will poured a glass of wine for her and then one for himself. Picking up his glass, he sat across from his love and held it up in a toast, “To life and love.” He smiled so warmly at her that you would think the room’s temperature went up a few degrees. Rather dazzled by the warmth and intensity of Will’s smile, Anna automatically lifted her glass to touch it to the rim of his, echoing his words before taking a sip of the wine, which was delicious. “The wine is wonderful...just like everything else you’ve arranged here tonight.” Anna reached across the table and covered his hand with her own. She had a sudden thought that perhaps Will had arranged all this because he had something to tell her that he knew she wouldn’t like. Maybe a very dangerous mission was being planned. The words of his toast actually leant themselves to this theory, didn’t they? Anna took a deep breath, keeping her gaze fixed on his. “Will, sweetheart, what’s this all about?” Will saw worry play across her features as she spoke and he figured that her anxiety stemmed from his being a fighter pilot. He’d been going to wait until dessert but if keeping her in suspense like this was causing her distress he would fast forward to it. “Love, there is nothing bad to tell you,” Will stated with a smile. “In fact, I hear that this is an event that most women look forward to with baited breath.” He slipped his hand out of hers, got out of his seat and slid around the table. As he moved, he made sure that Anna could see the small black jewel box in his right hand. Will had planned this evening to surprise her with a proposal! Anna realized with stunned surprise as she caught sight of the small box in his hand. He often mentioned their future; usually in the context of saying something jokingly about when they had kids and she always teased him back but it had never occurred to her to think about when they might do anything official. She just thought of them as...together, knowing she could rely on him and his feelings for her as completely as he could rely on hers for him. But of course to Will, that would eventually mean a ring as well as the traditional wedding service his parents had gone through. It was the way of his family; the expectation he’d grown up with. She’d been raised differently but now that this moment had apparently arrived, she was filled with anticipation. “You always manage to surprise me, Will but this time you’ve really outdone yourself. It never occurred to me that this was on your mind,” Anna finally said softly, almost breathless with a growing feeling of overwhelming happiness. Will couldn’t help but smile at seeing her so overwhelmed as he got down on one knee and looked up into her eyes. “My father used to say that if something looks too good to be true, it usually is, but if it is true, then take it and run with it.” Will opened the box and revealed a gold ring, rubies and diamonds embedded along the band, with a 2 karat princess-cut diamond on top. He took the ring out of the box and held it up to her. “This ring has been in my family for six generations and now it will pass to you if you want it. You are too good to be true Anna, and yet, you are the real deal, so I plan on taking you and running if you agree.” Will took a deep breath, “Annabelle O’Halloran, I love you with all my heart and I want you to be my wife. Will you marry me?” Taking the box with shaking fingers, Anna didn’t even look at the ring; her eyes were locked on Will’s, knowing the love she saw there was reflected back to him from her own. “I love you so much,” she replied quietly as she took his hand and gave it a gentle tug to draw him up. “William Tomlinson, it would be my privilege and greatest joy to be your wife. Yes! Of course I’ll marry you,” she exclaimed with a brilliant smile, her eyes bright with unshed tears as she threw herself into his arms. Will laughed with pure unadulterated joy as he held his Anna closely. “Gods above, I love you Annabelle.” He pulled back slowly so that he could look at her beautiful face. He used his thumb to brush away a single tear that slid down her angelic face. He brought his face to hers and kissed her deeply for what seemed an eternity of bliss. When that kiss ended, Will took the ring out of the box and slid it ever so gently onto her finger as if her hand were made of delicate porcelain. He then kissed her hand before meeting her eyes and saying, “Anna, I can’t describe how happy you’ve made me.” Turning back to the table, “Now how about we eat a bit of dinner and then move on to dessert?” he asked with a sly smile. Still bemused from his kiss -- not an unusual occurrence -- food was the last thing on Anna’s mind. “I’m looking forward to a lifetime of dessert, Will,” she told him, her smile radiant. “A lifetime together.”
  2. Will Tomlinson packed his bag methodically but in a hurried manner. The thought of his Anna in any type of swimwear brought a smile to his face and a light to his eyes. He packed enough for a day or two off of the ship. Once the bag was packed, he tested the weight and nodded to himself before going into the living room and catching Anna's attention. "Well, Ms. O'Halloran. Are you ready for our shore leave?" Anna glanced up from the workscreen on the desk and flashed Will a grin. "I've been ready, Mr. Tomlinson." He'd been detained down on the flight deck for a bit and she'd managed to pack before he'd even gotten back to their quarters. She logged off the screen before standing and grabbing her own bag off the couch. "Twenty-four hours all to ourselves..." * * * * * Blinking sleepily, it took Anna a moment to realize that the sun had shifted and was no directly longer overhead as had been the case while they were eating lunch. And though it had started its long, slow descent over the ocean horizon, she didn't think too much time had passed; it was still high enough in the sky that the palm trees they were lying under were still offering some shade. The climate on this part of Tethys was tropical and even wearing only bathing suits, it was still uncomfortably hot and humid. Shifting lazily, she glanced over to where Will was lying next to her, expecting to see that he was still asleep. Instead, she found him staring at her with an intensity that gave her pause. He still had the ability to make her blush with just a look but this was different and she had no idea what he was thinking about. Turning over on her side so she was facing him, Anna reached to brush the hair back off his forehead, her fingers lingering with tender affection as she asked, "What's on your mind, flyboy?" Will smiled as she touched his hair. He always loved how delicate her touches could be but his smile soon faded and his gaze was caught by the gleam of metal against her skint. "That bracelet is what's on my mind, my love. A lot has gone on since you came into possession of it..." His voice trailed off before he looked at her directly, adding firmly, "I want it gone, Annabelle. I want it gone now." He knew that the bracelet would probably not react well to his words, but he felt that it was past time to end this. His statement causing her to falter, Anna drew back her hand from him, automatically using her other hand to cover the bracelet in an unconscious bid to protect it. "I know we talked about this, Will and I intend to get it removed. In fact, as soon as we get back to the ship, I'll do just that," she said stiffly, forcing back a sudden feeling of panic. Will shook his head. "No, you won't. I can see it in your eyes. You may want to remove it but it has a hold on you. I have an idea on how to remove it but it's risky." He reached over to gently caress her face. "You're so beautiful, my Anna. I want you with me forever." It did have a hold on her, she couldn't deny it. The feeling of panic intensified even as she thought about removing the damned thing. Meeting Will's gaze, Anna reached a decision -- she couldn't...wouldn't allow it to control her any longer. It had already come between them once or twice before and that made no sense since he was the most important thing in the world to her. "Risky?" she asked, unsure what he meant. Will was always so protective; it would be so out of character for him to ever do anything that might put her in harm's way. Will sat up and rummaged through his bag before pulling out a device that looked like a small bracelet with an attached cable. "I had a friend in engineering rig this up. The cable will interface with your bracelet so that I will be connected to it as well. I say it's risky because I don't know what will happen when I hook it up. What do you think?" Anna realized then that he’d meant it was risky to him. "I don't want you to chance getting hurt, Will," she responded immediately, barely glancing at the odd looking device. "I don't recall the couple of times it's happened but you witnessed for yourself that I'm not always in complete control." Will nodded. "Very well, then. If you don't want to try my idea then remove the bracelet or have it removed. Can you look me in the eye and promise you'll do it as soon as we get back to the ship?" He watched her intently trying to gauge her reaction to his words. He was watching very carefully because he knew that he could only push this so far. Anna stiffened, feeling immediately on the defensive at his attempt to wrest the promise from her. Hadn’t she just told him she would? Truthfully, she was more irritated and, she had to admit it -- frightened, by her own unwillingness to part with the dratted thing but having Will suddenly force the issue, while they were here, alone in this beautiful place, struck her as being supremely unfair of him. It wasn't as if there'd been any repeat of what had happened in the training room. It was possible the bracelet was now dormant, whatever energy that had been trapped within it, now spent and in fact, all that Will would accomplish today was to destroy something ancient and irreplaceable, she thought, with a sudden feeling of righteousness "You know I can't just remove it -- there's no obvious clasp. And yes...I'll get it taken care of as soon as I get a chance," she muttered with obvious reluctance, evading his eyes. Will sighed and shook his head, "No you won’t. The next chance you get will be when we get back to the ship, but then you'll be too busy or something else will come up. You'll have an excuse not to." He caught her gaze with his again and looked deeply into her eyes. "I wonder how many excuses are running through your mind right now. It's one of a kind and can't be replaced? Maybe it won't happen again? I'm overreacting despite all the evidence to the contrary?" He kept his gaze locked with hers for a moment longer before lying back down and looking up at the sky. "It is beautiful here. It's a shame that this one thing is coming between us and ruining our time together..." "I don’t think it’s the bracelet that’s ruining our time together," Anna retorted sharply, abruptly sitting up and turning to glare down at him, the sudden pain flaring behind her eyes signifying the onset of what would no doubt be a monster headache. “Are you just trying to pick a fight, Will?" Will shook his head and sighing, replied, "I already did that once and I ended up fighting Eydis and having a bat'leth at my throat." He didn't move but just stared calmly back at her. "I want you back, Anna. Just you. I don't want Anna and Eydis," he clarified, pointing to the bracelet as he spoke Eydis' name. "I just want you. Is that really so much to ask for?" Stricken, Anna’s eyes widened, her pupils dilating with remembered shock, experiencing again the moment of waking to find she was crouched over him, the sharp blade at his throat, and every muscle in her body taut as a bowstring, ready to deliver the death strike. Somehow she’d come back to herself in time to keep the unimaginable from happening. And then she’d promised to get the bracelet removed, so frightened at what had almost happened and so irrationally angry with him for pushing her...Eydis to that point. But she hadn't followed through... "I don’t want to talk about this anymore right now,” she finally said, raising shaking fingers to press against her forehead, hoping the pressure would relieve the throbbing in her skull. She was suddenly afraid that she might lose control and attack him again. He was right; this had to stop. “When we get back, I will get it cut off; I really mean it this—" Seeing her having problems, Will sat up suddenly and grabbing her arms to keep her steady, cut her off in mid-sentence. "Easy, Anna!" He watched as her eyes suddenly seemed to change and he realized what was happening. "Anna? ANNA?!" Taking a deep breath and praying for her forgiveness, he slapped the bracelet on to his wrist and attached the wire to hers. As Eydis became aware of her surroundings, it took her only a moment to realize she was wearing almost as little clothing as the stranger with the tightening grip on her arms. Reacting violently to finding herself restrained by a barely clothed male, she hissed her fury while trying to twist free of his grasp, looking wildly around in an attempt to find her sword. She must have dropped it during whatever had led to this confrontation but was confused upon realizing that there were no weapons...there wasn't anything. They were on a small island surrounded in all directions by nothing but water and she could see no ship in the distance. Thinking it would be best to save her energy until she understood what was going on, she stopped struggling, eying him warily, thinking he looked oddly familiar but there were so many confusing images in her mind these days that she couldn’t trust her memory. “Why have you brought me here? Where are my people? And why are we bound together this way?" she demanded, again having little success as she tried to tug her arm free of the hold he had on her. Will stayed relaxed, not wanting to provoke the volatile woman warrior. "Eydis, my name is William Tomlinson." He could see the confusion in her eyes and quickly tried to explain. "You and I fought as adversaries once before. Please believe me when I say that I come to you as an ally now." Will knew that Eydis had no reason to believe him, but he had to try. "I know you're confused and afraid right now. Attack me if you wish, I will not resist you. I can answer your questions but only if you trust me. I need you to trust me because the life of a woman I love with all my heart is entwined with yours." He hoped that while looking into his eyes, she would see his sincerity and a bit of the desperation he was feeling about this whole situation. "I'm not afraid," Eydis replied, almost disdainfully, barely hearing his words so little sense did they make. She would die before admitting fear. Unfortunately, she was confused; he was right about that. Once again, she found herself unaware of how she'd come to be here...wherever here was. Perhaps she'd gone insane and none of this was even real, she thought with sudden despair. With Tjarn's death, she'd lost half of her soul and all of her heart; perhaps it had also shattered her mind. The bond between them had been unusually strong. Examining his features, she frowned and then gasped, realizing what was happening. "I do recognize you," she whispered in horror. "I killed you. We battled and I raised your own blade to strike...I could not have missed. You are haunting me." She looked past him with empty eyes, knowing now she would never see Tjarn again. All that had been left for her was the hope that they would be reunited once her own death released her from the loneliness of a mortal existence without him. But somehow this spirit with the strange name was now linked to her...tethered in fact by the cuff that she'd worn since taking her warrior's oath. "Am I dead, too?" she asked tonelessly. "Is this my punishment for taking your life?" Will sighed, trying to think of the best way to explain the situation to her. The empty despair in her eyes tugged at his heart. "Eydis, your body...died, a long time ago, but your essence, your warrior spirit, has been interred in this bracelet. The woman I love found your bracelet in a shop and bought it." He hoped to keep things as simple as possible so that Eydis could grasp the situation. "When she put it on, your spirit awoke from its rest." Will lifted his wrist slowly and as non-threateningly as possible. "This was crafted to connect to your bracelet so that I could speak to you and try to explain everything to you." He lowered his wrist, adding, "And as for killing me, you were poised to do so but Anna, the woman who wears your bracelet now, awoke from her sleep and then you slept once more. She managed to keep from killing me." Will paused and waited for all of this to sink into Eydis' mind. Eydis eyed him suspiciously, although his words were an explanation of the strange face she'd seen when catching sight of her reflection. Not a logical explanation by any means -- none of it made any real sense. She frowned, not understanding how this could have come about. "It's taboo to wear another's cuff. The stone is set and forged at the same time as the sword. Only one may wear a particular stone or wield a particular sword. When we die, they are burned on our pyre with us, the heat returning what's left of the elements to the natural world from which they came. Your woman is a fool to think she could use what isn't hers, what wasn't made for her." Will sighed. He was trying to explain the situation but it appeared that he was doing a poor job of it. "Eydis, she didn't steal it from your body or anything like that. She found the bracelet in a shop, thought it was beautiful and bought it. Please believe me that if she knew what it truly was, she would not have bought it...or at the very least, she would've disposed of it in accordance with your beliefs after finding out how to honor fallen warriors such as yourself." Will got an idea. "Please explain how we might remove and dispose of it so that you may rest in peace and my Anna will be whole once more." His eyes pleaded with her to tell him what he wanted so that he could help both of them. "I don't remember what happened," Eydis replied dully, finally understanding how dishonored she'd been in death. "I must have died alone, away from my people," she continued sorrowfully. "This is why I have not been reunited with Tjarn. My cuff was removed and not destroyed with my mortal shell. My soul has been trapped and now, instead of being set free by this body, I am forced to share it with a stranger." Pressing the heel of her hand against her forehead in an effort to release the terrible pressure building inside her skull, she staggered forward. "I’m sure death is the only release for both of us. If you care for her, you'll put an end to this," she managed before collapsing, the fall dislodging the cable that tethered her wrist cuff to the stranger. Frowning with the determination that there was no way in hell he would lose his Anna, Will caught her body and lowered her down, going to his knees beside her. He then proceeded to hook his bracelet back up to hers. Feeling both Eydis and Anna beginning to fade, he worked quickly, pulling a cutting tool he’d brought along with the linking device out of his bag. He immediately put it to work. "C'mon Anna, you're not dead and you're not dying. Please stay with me,” he begged her, almost frantic as the tool was seeming to take forever to get through the steel; he could no longer feel Eydis and Anna was still fading from him. "ANNA! STAY WITH ME!" He yelled, feeling near panic because he was sure she was slipping away. He dropped the cutting tool and began pulling at the mostly cut bracelet. A few hard pulls and then one final yank with all of his strength and the metal finally separated enough so that he could pull it from her wrist and fling it away. Looking back to her, he grabbed her shoulders and shook her almost violently, "Anna? Anna?! Wake up! Please, wake up!" Will? He sounded so far away, Anna thought, wondering where he’d gone and why he sounded so frightened; Will was scared of nothing. I’m here, she tried to say, but couldn’t seem to get the words out. She was so still, Will was afraid that she was already gone but then his field medic training kicked in and he checked her vitals. Her breathing was rapid, as was her pulse but not dangerously so. In the back of his mind, Will promised to give Deb the best bag of chocolate he could find for the training that he he’d been able to fall back on rather than panic at the possibility of his Anna dying on him. Anna didn’t know where she was or why it was so dark and feeling increasingly panicked, tried to move, twisting wildly, not even sure if she was actually moving as she tried to figure out what was happening to her. There had been no sound except for Will’s voice and her last memory was of them lying on the beach and arguing about the damn bracelet. What had happened? Where was Will? Why was she blind? Will sighed with relief but was taken by surprise as Anna began to flail around in a panicked manner. At first he was worried that she was in convulsions but then he realized that it was more like thrashing while in a nightmare. "Anna! Anna, calm down! Open your eyes," he begged her in a more soothing tone while trying to restrain her arms to keep her from hurting either herself or him. He sounded closer, Anna realized. His voice didn’t have that far off quality and she struggled against whatever was holding her, trying to break free so she could find him. "I’m here", she tried to call, and though she felt like she was yelling, all she managed was the barest whisper. Will watched as her eyes fluttered open and he heard her whispered words. “Come on, Anna. Come on back to me now.” He watched until her eyes opened fully and then he held her to him gently, saying, “Welcome back, Anna.” He kissed her forehead, mentally thanking all the Powers That Be that he had his Anna back. “Will?” Bewildered, Anna lay back in his arms, unsure of what was going on. Raising her hand, she gently cupped her fingers against his jaw, thinking he didn’t look like himself. “What happened? What’s wrong?” Will smiled and shook his head, “Nothing, my love. Everything is right with the world now.” He bent his head down and covered her mouth with his in a passionate kiss that conveyed his happiness, relief and love for her. Caught up in his kiss, Anna didn’t disagree or question his change in mood; the last thing she clearly remembered was arguing about the bracelet -- and it was too nice just to lie in his arms and kiss him back. No need to bring up that old argument right now she thought, mind not really on anything but being in the here and now with Will. She would deal with it once and for all when they got back up to the ship. Probably. Lifting her arms to slide them around his neck, she realized that she wasn’t even wearing it. “Where is it?” she blurted out, vaguely surprised to find that she felt nothing in particular at its absence except a sort of sadness...was there a sense of being less? Odd...she’d experienced such feelings of panic at even the idea of removing it before. Will reluctantly backed off a little and motioned to the remains of the bracelet a few meters away. “What’s left of it is over there,” he stated with a trace of regret in his voice. It saddened him to know Eydis’ fate but it didn’t matter; he hoped that Eydis had finally found a measure of peace but he had his Anna back and that was all that mattered to him. Leaning away from Will, Anna reached for the bracelet, noticing with dismay that it had been all but destroyed; the metal was twisted and almost unrecognizable as the beautiful thing it had been before. The strange blue gem also looked dull and lifeless compared with how it had sparkled before. “It’s ruined,” she said softly, leaning back against Will. Rubbing her thumb gently over the jagged edges, she glanced up, finding Will’s eyes on her. “Looks like it didn’t come off easily...” Will sighed, looking back at Anna. “It sure didn’t, but I think it really came off when Eydis accepted her death. She wanted to be let go. Unfortunately, as she was dying, so were you so I had to cut through the bracelet as fast as possible.” Will looked genuinely regretful. “Sorry I ruined the bracelet but I was only thinking of your life first.” “Oh, Will,” Anna managed a smile even as a few tears welled up while setting the bracelet aside in favor of hugging him close. “I felt like I was slipping away; it was so dark and I couldn’t feel anything. I could only hear your voice, calling me. You sounded so worried and I wanted to get to you to tell you it was ok. I’m so sorry I put you through that,” she apologized fervently, her face pressed to his shoulder, too embarrassed to look him in the eyes. Will didn’t respond to her apology but merely hugged her close to him. Perfect moments like this he lived for. He rocked back and forth slightly as they merely held each other, expressing nothing but their mutual love in one of the many non-verbal ways available. Content to hold him and be held in return, Anna wondered if she would still dream of the woman named Eyedis who had lived and died so long ago, only to die a second time, today, if Will was correct. It touched her that he felt so much compassion for a woman who had tried to kill him. “I only knew her through her dreams...nightmares really... But Will, I do know that she really died the day Tjarn did. They were joined in some way; they shared a bond of unusual closeness uncommon even among their own people. She never felt whole after he was gone.” What would it be like to feel another’s emotions that way? Anna wondered, shifting uneasily against Will. She knew that Betazeds, used to experiencing the feelings of those around them felt a deeper physical and spiritual attachment to those they loved. It had always made her uncomfortable to be around species with abilities like that; it felt like an invasion of privacy and it was a prejudice she’d wrestled with after joining the Academy. One she still wrestled with. But now if wasn’t just the old prejudice that made her grateful she didn’t have any such ability; she loved Will so deeply that even without some sort of psychic connection, she was sure that if something happened to him she would not survive emotionally intact. She wasn’t sure she would want to survive at all. Every time he went out on a mission, she said a prayer that he would return safely. His job was so much a part of who he was that she was careful not to voice her fears to him, but of course he knew. He was oddly empathic for a human, something he’d told her soon after they’d started getting to know each other and because of how uncomfortable the idea had made her, she hadn’t asked him too much about it. Cowardly of her. “You felt her leaving?” Anna asked curiously, really asking, You felt me? Will nodded, and picked up the remains of the connection cable that he’d had the engineers make and which he’d showed her earlier. “I managed to connect to the bracelet with this, albeit in a more limited way than you were. I felt Eydis just letting go but I also felt you being dragged away from me by her own failing life force. That’s why I had to cut the bracelet off so quickly and so sloppily.” He looked at her sheepishly. “Sorry again about that. I know how much you wanted to preserve it and perhaps copy the workmanship. Are you feeling better now, Anna?” “That doesn’t matter, Will,” she assured him, astonished that he was even apologizing for his quick action. He’d saved her life! “There’s enough of it left if I want to try and duplicate the technique,” she added absently, her mind no longer on the bracelet at all. He’d only been able to ‘feel’ her because of the device and Anna realized that in spite of how she normally felt about those who could sense the thoughts and emotions of others, she felt no relief that Will had only been able to do it because of the cable. Instead she felt a little...wistful. Tjarn and Eyedis would never have had to ask how the other felt. They would have just known and never needed any verbal reassurance. He was asking her if she felt better and Anna supposed he was asking a few other things too... “I feel fine,” she finally said, her smile and the warmth in her eyes saying a whole lot more. “I feel lucky too, did you know that, Will?” she asked, her tone serious, as she leaned back, looking him straight in the eyes. “It’s because I have you. Do I tell you often enough how much I love you? I probably don’t and lately, I suppose you’ve had reason to doubt it but you shouldn’t. Not ever.” Will’s eyes softened and he smiled, replying, “Oh my sweet, Anna. I never doubt that you do.” He kissed her hand and looked at her again. Will ran his fingers through her hair and just locked her gaze with his. This is my woman, Will thought to himself as the intensity in his gaze increased. She was his and no one else’s. He thought of a few formalities that would need to be observed to make it official but right now, in this moment, there was no doubt whom she belonged to in his mind. She belonged to him because his heart and soul belonged to her. No one and nothing would break them apart. It seemed that Will had just reached a decision and now he had to act upon it. With a final hug, he got up and offered his hand to Anna. “We need to get back to the ship, my love. There’s a few things that need to be done.” Anna took his hand and as he helped her to her feet, the broken bracelet caught her eye. For a moment she hesitated, thinking to pick it up and bring it back with them but then decided against it. It had caused her nothing but trouble and had almost cost Will his life. The crystal on it was dark, dead...and she hoped that whatever had been trapped in it, be it Eyedis’ soul or just some residual vestige of her memories was now free and had found some sort of peace. It had no place in their lives. “Don’t worry, Will. We’ve got all the time in the world,” she assured him, tightening her fingers around his as he commed the ship for transport home.
  3. Lt. Will Tomlinson sat at the table in their quarters; he'd turned his back on the glowing computer screen still open on the desk behind him. Looking out into the vastness of space, Will Tomlinson was brooding. The overall mission was a success, though the squadron had lost a good pilot. He just sat back and let the stars go by as he contemplated the infinite. Anna stepped off the turbolift and immediately turned left, her step quickening as she approached their quarters. Reaent's simple mission to deliver supplies to Corianis had been anything but. It had been successful, in so far as the supplies were no longer on board, but the sad fact of the matter was that all of the prison staff had been dead before Reaent had even gotten within hailing distance. The past few hours had been spent securing the prisoners and restoring the systems damaged when a meteor had struck the facility, putting in motion the entire tragic chain of events. The cost of retaking the prison hadn't been light, Anna was thinking as she reached their quarters, automatically pausing for a moment as the sensor read her biopattern before activating the door mechanism. One of Reaent’s pilots had been killed by the prison's automatic weapons systems. The comm traffic had been a little confusing to listen to and for a brief moment she'd thought it might have been-- "Will." She said softly, coming to a sudden stop next to their dining table, realizing she'd almost walked past him. The only light on in their quarters was spilling out from the bedroom and he was sitting so still... She was bending down, reaching to wrap her arms around him, intending to pull him back against her but she hesitated, something about his utter lack of movement causing her to pull back so that she settled instead for just resting her hands on his shoulders and giving them a gentle squeeze. "I'm so glad you're back," she said quietly, knowing the words couldn't begin to convey how it felt to know he was safe. Turning, Will smiled slightly and squeezed one of her hands with his. "Yeah I'm back. I was just..." His smile faded a bit as looking past her, he realized that the computer was still on. "...finishing up some paperwork.” His tone sounding mildly depressed as he added, "Everything go alright on your end with the SNAFU of a supply run?" Anna managed a half-smile, automatically tightening her fingers around his while replying, "We've determined it was a meteor hitting and disabling the prison shields that was probably responsible for..." Her voice trailed off as following his gaze, she finally noticed what was up on the workscreen. It was a letter -- clearly only half-finished -- to the parents of Lt. James Avery. Jim Avery had been the pilot killed in the raid. "Will, I am so sorry," she said gently, sinking down into the seat next to him while still keeping hold of his hand. Will shrugged slightly. "The life of a fighter pilot." He looked into Anna's eyes and smiled a little before pulling her hand up to his lips and kissing it gently. "You know, sometimes when Dad came home from his missions, I could hear him and Mom talk about people he'd lost. It always seemed to hurt when he came home like that. I guess I can understand why now." He looked at the screen, quiet for a moment before saying, "He loved playing tridimensional chess. I don't think anyone in the squadron could beat him at it." Will frowned again, his sadness apparent as he continued, "Did you know he invented a series of moves we all called the Avery Gambit? Completely brilliant." He rubbed his forehead, looking from Anna back to the computer. "I've been staring at this screen for over two hours and I can't find the words to write to his parents. They just won't come..." Still chilled from the casual offhandedness of his 'just the life of a fighter pilot' remark, Anna bit back the angry words born of worry that wanted to come pouring out, knowing full well how selfish and completely inappropriate they were to the situation Will was facing. He needed her comfort and understanding right now; he was already too well acquainted with her worries for his safety. "They shouldn't come easily, hon," she began softly, her gaze on his profile as he stared at the screen. "Jim Avery will be missed terribly by you and everyone else he worked with. You..." Anna paused, swallowing thickly before continuing, "...routinely risk your lives together but his death was anything but routine. He died doing what he loved." What you all love so much, she thought. "And maybe that's something his family should know." Will thought about what she’d just said. "You're right. And he did die for a reason. His death did have meaning." He looked down and sighed, "I hope knowing that will bring some small comfort to his family." He looked back to Anna again. "Why don't you fix dinner while I finish this, ok?" Anna couldn't remember when she'd felt less like eating dinner and knew nothing would bring her any comfort if Will was killed but pulling dinner together for him would give her something to do. "Ok," she agreed, giving his fingers a final squeeze before reluctantly standing and moving away from him. All Will could do each mission was trust that his skill and instincts would see him through and get him back to his beautiful Anna. Though neither one of them was really in the mood for a meal, he knew it would distract her long enough for him to get this letter finished. Once that was done, all he wanted to do was hold Anna close and revel in the fact that he was still alive. He knew of the phenomena called survivor's guilt but he refused to feel guilty about the fact that he had survived today and that he was right where he wanted to be...close to the woman he loved.
  4. As soon as they were dismissed by the McQueen and Ridire to prepare for the mission to retake the prison on Corianis, Anna hurried to follow Will off the bridge and made it into the turbolift just as he was ordering it to take him to the flight deck. "I want to talk to you for a moment," she began abruptly as soon as the doors closed behind her. Will was a bit surprised but knew from her tone that it was probably not going to be a pleasant conversation. "OK my love. What's on your mind?" She hadn't actually heard the details of what the fighters were going to do until Will had smoothly detailed it to Command. And that's when she'd realized that the danger to the pilots involved was greater than she'd first assumed. Will's obvious (at least to her) excitement had also alerted her to something else and she wanted him to confirm it. "This wicked weasel plan you presented -- it has three pieces, correct? A, B, C and you are A, right?" Will smiled slightly, "It's called Wild Weasel and yes, I'm leading the main attack element, Alpha Group. We're the ones who are going to destroy the weapon emplacements, main shield generator and then the main power generator." Will tilted his head curiously. "Why do you ask?" She knew she shouldn't be asking him this but his demeanor when relating the details to McQueen and Ridire hadn't consisted only of the usual intense focus he brought to every mission; there'd also been a measure of suppressed excitement she'd noticed before when an upcoming job had the potential to be very challenging and extremely dangerous. He'd assigned himself to the A portion of the plan and she wanted to know if what she suspected was correct. "Alpha group is taking most of the risk, aren't they?" Will nodded in understanding. She was worried about how dangerous this mission was. He sighed, knowing that Anna would not like the answer but he wouldn't lie to her, "Yes, being the first ones in and going up against the full, functional AAA defenses, Alpha is taking the greatest initial risk." Before she could reply, he held up a hand. "That's why we are going to take precautions when we approach the prison to ensure they don't detect us until we are already on top of them. If things work out the way I plan, by the time they figure out that we are there, we will have already taken out their AAA defenses. If not, well, then we'll just have to trust that I'm as good as I think I am." Will waited for Anna's reaction, hoping that he'd soothed her fears at least a little bit. Anna felt a sudden flash of irritation at what she saw as his casual acceptance of the possibility that it would all blow up in Alpha unit's face."I don't doubt your level of skill--" The turbolift doors slid open, interrupting her, and she slapped the wall panel so that they would close again. They were now on the flight deck and no one needed to witness their conversation. A conversation she should never have started in the first place. "I don't doubt your skill level, Will," she repeated, making every attempt to keep her tone reasonable although listening to Wim and Jon blithely talk about going into the prison with no clear idea of what waited for them had chafed -- and then to hear Will so nonchalantly mention the danger facing his group -- him -- well, it had once again brought the point home how dangerous his job was, and the irritation she was feeling was a result of her being made at herself for worrying so. She'd known what he did before getting involved with him and had promised herself many times that she wouldn't make an issue of it. Except...here she was, doing just that. Unable to help herself, damn it. She knew why too; it was Kat Swan. Kat had lost Angel and Anna was sure that was a big part of why their former security chief had never managed to find her way back to...herself. To who she'd been before the Reaent crew had 'died'. Losing Angel right after such a traumatic experience had probably been a last straw. Seeing Kat's struggle on the last mission had starkly reminded her of what she already knew -- if something happened to Will she'd have no idea how to cope, had no idea how she could continue on. She wouldn't want to go on. "I know how good you are," she said quietly, her eyes intent on him. "You wouldn't be CAG otherwise but sometimes, Will...it's frightening how you thrive on the danger. I worry that you'll take an unnecessary risk because of how confident you are. And that drives me crazy." Will sighed. He knew that he was a bit pressed for time to get everything done for the upcoming mission, but he also knew that he had to finish this first; otherwise it would be on his mind and that kind of distraction could be fatal. He turned to the control panel. "Computer, take this lift out of service." The computer beeped and the turbolift went into a maintenance niche until cleared for service again. He then looked back to Anna. "You're right about how I thrive on danger. You're also right that the rush of flying and fighting is quite the addictive high, but..." Will closed the distance between them and put his hands on her shoulders. "Please believe me when I tell you that I know my own limits and the reason I have to come home safe and sound is far more important than any rush I get when I'm out there. I promise to be careful, ok?" Meeting his eyes, all Anna could do was nod acquiescence if not acceptance. It had been a waste of both of their time to even bring this up and to ask him to verbalize what she'd already known was a disservice to Will and his need to prepare for the mission and a form of masochism to herself. She managed a half-smile before raising her hand to press her palm to to her forehead to try and push back the headache that was blossoming behind her eyes. Seeing her rubbing her forehead, Will frowned. "Headache again?" He looked at the bracelet on her wrist, "Something is going to have to be about that bracelet soon, my love. I think we both know that it is responsible for your headaches." Probably," Anna replied a little shortly, still angry at herself for having started this conversation. His obvious concern for her well-being was making her feel even more selfish for wasting his time. "I've been meaning to get it removed and just haven't gotten around to it. Will's frown grew. "Why not Anna? Why haven't you had that thing taken off? Just haven't had time or just not willing to part with it? I'm not the only one who is placing themselves in highly dangerous situations, making the one that loves them worry. I hope you realize that." Will tone was still soft but it had a sharper edge to it. Stricken, Anna dropped her hand knowing he meant she was putting herself in danger by still wearing the bracelet but realizing that she was, had been, putting him at risk as well. The spar that he'd insisted on two nights ago had almost ended in his death -- at her hand. Eyedis, the former owner of the bracelet had managed to gain control, and not for the first time probably. "I've been meaning to get to Engineering; the clasp won't come undone but then this situation with Corianis came up," she replied quietly. She'd been careful to take a heavy dose of the medicine Deb had given her before going to bed since the spar to ensure that nothing like what had occurred between her and Will in the training room could occur again. Unfortunately, the end result was that she was left feeling dragged out and short tempered during the day. Will touched his forehead to hers ever so gently, "My dearest love, even though we don't have bat'leth or sword to each other's throat, you still suffer. I see it day by day. I know that pushing you to remove it doesn't work, but please Anna, it has to come off before something horrible happens to you." Will's arms went around her shoulders and he hugged her gently but tightly to him. "Gods above, if something were to happen to you..." He left the rest unsaid as he held her close to him. She'd known he worried about the bracelet's effect on her but until now hadn't realized how deep that worry went. She'd been selfish to ignore his concern and since that wasn't like her, wondered if that wasn't also the influence of the bracelet. Slipping her arms around his waist, Anna pressed against him, laying her head against his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Will. As soon as this current mission is over, I'll see to getting it removed. You don't have to think about it; nothing's going to happen." His fears for her safety would disappear with the removal of the bracelet but her fear for him and his propensity to take risks would remain, but she vowed to herself that in the future they would go unspoken. Will held her for a moment more before finally, and with great reluctance, letting her go. "Computer, resume service. Flight Deck." The computer beeped its reply and continued on. Will took her non-braceleted hand and kissed it gently. "I love you, Annabelle O'Halloran." Gently squeezing his fingers, her heart turning over in her chest, Anna replied. "And I love you, William Tomlinson."
  5. Sitting in her office, Anna scrolled through the report she’d compiled per McQueen’s orders detailing the two locations the Reaent had been assigned to carry cargo to. Corianis was a dilithium mine that was also part of the Federation's penal system. It had been in continuous operation for the past sixty-eight years except for a seven-month period almost fourteen years ago when it shut down for retooling before reopening as a prison facility under contract to the Federation. The standard sentence was twelve years. Crystal output and processing had apparently increased tremendously since the change. It sounded like a fairly depressing place to her, albeit efficient. Tethys sounded a lot more interesting; an undersea Federation colony, the planet was mostly water with very limited land mass above the surface. The colony’s main focus was geothermal research, and it had a plethora of underwater volcanoes and an amazingly diverse ecosystem. The colony had been established forty-three years ago and was home to researchers, support staff and the families of both. Normally, she would have been over the moon with anticipation at the chance to visit such a place but her head hurt and all she wanted to do was file the report and get today’s shift over with. * * * * * It was official. Will Tomlinson hated paperwork. No wonder his wingmate and best friend Tabor Nansk didn’t want the job of CAG. Getting buried alive in PADDs positively sucked. The good news was that he was nearly done for the day. He rubbed the back of his neck and then grabbed another PADD to see what was on it. * * * * * Entering their quarters, Anna called Will’s name as she headed for their bedroom, but the answering silence and the empty room just confirmed what she’d half-expected -- he was working late again. It had become the norm since he’d been officially named CAG but tonight it was more disappointing than usual -- she’d been feeling the need to talk to him about her conversation of the previous day with Debbie and Caroline and then the later dinner with Caroline that had become a confrontation. She supposed it would keep. She stripped off her uniform and threw it into the recycler before changing into workout clothes. She didn’t want to eat alone and wasn’t really hungry anyway. She would head down to the gym and work off some of this frustration and maybe it would help chase away the headache which had faded once again to a dull throb. Turning to leave the bedroom, her eye was caught by Jon's sword sitting propped in the corner of the room. She’d practiced with it a few times since that first time she’d discovered her newly acquired ability. It had started to be a little frightening though and so she’d decided against working with it again and had planned to return it to Jon as soon as she had a chance. “One last time...” Picking it up, she was surprised as always by its heft and unconsciously smiled with anticipation as she walked across the living area to the door. The sword was uncomplicated and when she wielded it, her coordination, newfound prowess and an instinct that she knew wasn’t her own combined in a feeling that was so exhilarating it became a type of freedom and that was what was so frightening about it. She didn’t have to think...she could just be. She truly felt one with the weapon in a way that she knew the bracelet’s owner had felt when she had fought with the sword called Hani. It wasn’t normal. * * * * * Will took a deep breath as he put down the last PADD. He rubbed his neck and then smiled when he thought of his Anna. “Computer, locate Lt. Anna O’Halloran.” “Lt. O’Halloran is in a training room in workout gym one.” The computer replied. Will quirked an eyebrow at that and his smile grew a bit wider when images of her in her workout gear came to his mind. Shutting down his computer, Will quickly left the Flight Office and nearly ran to their quarters. He changed out of his uniform and into his own workout clothes and made it to the gym in nearly record time. He carefully checked the training rooms, not wanting to tip his presence off to Anna just yet. He finally found her and quietly watched as she worked with the sword that Shamor had lent her. He found himself fascinated at her apparent skill with the blade and his gaze fixed on to the bracelet she was wearing. He had made a point not to talk about it over the past few weeks, but he’d watched closely and noted the changes in her behavior and habits. Watching her swinging the sword around gave Will an idea. He slipped out of the room and went to the nearest replicator and requested a bat’leth. He swung it around a little and nodded at the balance. His father and and an uncle of his had taught him a lot about the Klingon culture when he was growing up and Will ended up learning quite a bit about Klingon melee weapons and tactics. These skills would help him here. He came back into the room and this time made no attempt to hide his presence. He watched Anna, content to wait until she noticed his presence in the room. As she turned, sword raised high, preparing to bring it down and through the offending limb of a phantom enemy, Anna cried out, Will’s sudden appearance startling her as she was bringing the sword down right where he was standing. She managed to stumble back far enough that the blade hit the decking in front of him instead of through him, the ringing sound seeming to echo in her ears as she stared at him in disbelief for several seconds, the reverberation of the blow causing the grip to vibrate in her hand. “Will, what the hell are you doing?” she finally burst out, terror at how close she’d come to hurting him transforming almost immediately into anger. Will merely smirked at her though he had to admit the blade had come rather close. He figured correctly that she wouldn’t hurt him intentionally so he shrugged and replied casually, “Watching a beautiful woman working well with a sword. And since you seem to have some skill with it, I thought that I’d get in a little sparring session with you, if you think you can handle it.” He stepped closer and brought his bat’leth to the ready position. “Want to play?” he asked with an element of challenge in his tone of voice. Some skill? She gave him a disbelieving look. It was damn preternatural. “It’s not a game,” Anna snapped back, irritated at the challenge in his tone, her brows drawing down into a deep frown as she finally noticed that he was holding a bat’leth in a way that indicated he knew what he was doing with it. “I could have seriously wounded or killed you just now just by accident.” Will merely smiled and stepped into his ready position. “Perhaps, but I don’t think that would have happened. Now lets see who is better skilled with the blade, shall we? En Garde!” Going to the balls of his feet, Will swung the bat’leth around a bit before bringing it up high and then down hard and fast in a lightning strike toward her head to gauge her response. Reacting instinctively, Anna raised her sword to block his attack and automatically braced for the impact of the bat’leth’s rounded blade against the edge of her broadsword. Shocked at how forceful it was, she glared at him -- he’d meant business! Gritting her teeth, she tightened her hands around the grip and brought it down, forcing his weapon with it before flinging the bat’leth away, attempting to dislodge it from his hands. “Will, I haven’t had any training,” she all but spat at him, all of the agitation and frustration she’d managed to work off coming back with a vengeance. Will went with the momentum that Anna had built up and as she stepped back, so did he, twirling the bat’leth to bleed off the momentum so that he didn’t lose complete control of his weapon. He came back to ready position and nodded, “And yet you wield a blade like someone who has had years of experience.” He slowly approached her. “No more talk or worry Anna. I won’t hurt you and I don’t believe you’ll hurt me,” he said soothingly, trying to relax her. “Just let your worries go and follow your instincts.” He approached her and began to twirl the bat’leth once more before taking a swing at her midsection. “I can’t make you the same promise,” Anna retorted, nimbly hopping back to avoid his strike and countering without thinking by bringing the sword up to catch the bat’leth at one end and twisting her arms to bring the sword and it down so that they stood, their weapons entangled. “Why are you doing this?” she asked, genuinely bewildered. Will smiled at her. “Because I want to see how good you are with that sword.” He twisted his grip so that their weapons came apart. He briefly came back to ready position before engaging her once more. He came on with a moderate attack not wanting to push her yet but still wanting her to get into this sparring session. Come on. I can see you love using the sword; let yourself go and enjoy the fight, Will thought to himself as he continued his flurry of attacks on her. Infuriated by his casual attitude in the face of the inexplicable and still unwilling to go on the offensive, Anna allowed him to back her halfway across the room, easily parrying his strikes before she’d finally had enough -- he wasn’t going to quit. She knew Will and how stubborn he could be -- and she also knew she didn’t always understand his motivation but she trusted him. Trusted him enough to take him at his word. “You want to know how good I am?” She grinned suddenly, and just like that was done being on the defensive. “Let’s find out.” Without thinking about it, she changed her stance and her grip before lunging at him, easily catching him off balance as she came at him from the opposite side, her blade easily sliding past his defense before slapping him with the flat side across his hip, hard enough to leave a mark no doubt but nowhere near the right angle to break his skin. Not entirely prepared for the sudden change, Will found himself on his heels desperately fighting off a flurry of strikes. The speed and precision was incredible. Suddenly a sharp pin hit his hip and he became aware that a swing got past his defense. Hopping back, he swung his bat’leth in a figure eight in front of him to break contact with her. He brought it back to ready position and gave Anna an almost feral smile. “Good. Now let’s see what you can really do.” As he came at her again, it was an all out assault. This time he wanted to push her defense to the limit and see if he could score a hit or two. If he could, he knew that he would tilt the blade enough for a glancing hit or a flat blade hit but nothing that would cause serious injury. “Don’t push me, Will!” she retorted as she swung high and so fast it dislodged the air with a hiss before clanging against his blade, the leather grip feeling like an extension of her hands as she brought the weapon down and sideways, turning and sidestepping him before swinging again and landing another flat bladed blow against his ribs. “I don’t know what I can really do,” she warned him, before leaping back, easily avoiding his own blade. “You’re good with that thing, hon but you’ve never actually fought in battle with it.” Will nodded, thinking her choice of words was very telling -- Anna had never fought in a battle before, either. “You’re correct but I need to see your skills for myself.” He came at her hard and fast again trying to provoke a full response from her. He was betting everything on the fact that Anna loved him so much and the one in the bracelet had known that same kind of love -- Anna’s dream in which a man named Tjarn died was proof of that. He hoped that would be enough to keep her from killing him as he came in for a final attack that he was sure he was going to lose. “You’re testing me? I don’t understand,” Anna said, bewildered until it hit her and then all she felt was a sudden flare of rage, realizing he’d come here just to provoke her, to spy on her...probably so he could then go and report back to Debbie and Caroline. “I trusted you!” she snarled and then gripped the hilt of the sword as the headache that had been building all day and escalating throughout this horrible spar finally reached its zenith just as she lifted the sword to fend him off, having decided that this was the final strike -- she would take that bat’leth from him and throw it across the room and then tell him he could go straight to hell. Her eyes rolled back as she brought it down. She was fighting! It took her only seconds to realize what was happening and in a moment she had him pinned beneath her, the odd weapon with the intriguingly curved blade at his throat. An enemy’s humiliation was complete if they were dispatched with their own weapon. “Prepare yourself,” she told him, feeling puzzlement while trying to recall why they had fought. What had he done to provoke her? Perhaps he was just an enemy of the Clan. He must have followed her and hoped to take her unaware. It would be his last mistake. Will looked at her calmly. He’d seen the change in her demeanor before he heard the strange speech and known that Anna was no longer in control. This was the moment he’d been waiting for. There was no fear in his eyes whatsoever as he spoke. “Before you do, tell me your name warrior woman. Please tell me the name of my conqueror,” he whispered to her in a tone that held only awe and respect for her. “I am Eydis,” she told him, wondering if he’d somehow managed to get a blow past her defenses so much did her skull ache. “I will make it quick and leave your head--you will go to the underworld intact.” She pulled back the blade, ready to get this over with. She had no memory of their battle or of this place. He must have damaged her head. She would find their healer Bryndja when this was finished. Will’s jaw tensing was the only outward display of fear he showed as she raised the bat’leth for her kill shot. He’d never heard the unknown language before and was forever thankful that the universal translator managed to pick it up and translate it quickly to him. If they hadn’t been able to communicate, he’d probably be dead right now. Will spoke to her again, keeping his tone even. “I believe Lady Eydis that you will find it most difficult to kill me. Is there something inside you right now? A feeling that is screaming for you to spare me? A desperate feeling of want and need at this very moment?” Will sure hoped so, otherwise he was done. She hesitated, fingers clenching around the unfamiliar weapon, the waves of pain beating against the inside of her head making it difficult to even think let alone understand what he was saying. He was doing this! He must have some sort of power -- perhaps he was a demon! Exclaiming in anger tinged with fear, she drew back, eyes on the vein beating strongly at the side of his neck. Confused to find she was holding the bat’leth over Will while pinning him to the decking with her knees on his arms, Anna looked at it in disbelief before keeping her promise to herself and throwing it across the room, before turning to glare down at him. “That’s what I think of your ‘test’,” she bit out, struggling to maintain her anger so she didn’t dissolve into tears in front of him for how deeply hurt she felt by his betrayal. Feeling defeated, she didn’t look at him as she tried to recall exactly how she’d ended up straddling him. “Doesn’t matter,” she muttered and started to get to her feet. “You’re lucky I didn’t kill you.” She couldn’t bear to think about it. It broke Will’s heart to see her this way. He was sorry that he’d done what he had but he’d felt he had to do it and he had come away with what he wanted. As soon as his arms were freed, he quickly hugged her to him. He felt her struggle a little, but he held her firm. “I’m so sorry Anna, but please understand that I had to do what I did. I did it because...” He took her arm so that the bracelet was between them. “...I wanted to know who this is.” “Who who is?” Anna asked impatiently, pulling her arm back. “What are you talking about?” With her slightly confused look, he explained, “You don’t remember the last moments of our sparring, do you? One second I was coming at you, the next you had me pinned, with the bat’leth at my throat. That’s because she...” He pointed to the bracelet, “...took over. Her name is Eydis and this is her bracelet.” She didn’t remember the last moments of the spar but was that so surprising with how her head had been hurting? And he’d been goading her... Anna looked at him for a moment before quietly asking, “Did Debbie put you up to this?” What he was describing was a lot like what Debbie claimed had happened down on the planet. Will shook his head, “No! I swear to you that I have not spoken to either the Doctor or the Counselor for several weeks now. I’ve been waiting and watching you, Anna. I’ve seen that you’ve changed and was sure that the bracelet was the reason. This was the only way I could think to find out more about the bracelet and its previous owner. In the end, emotional damage notwithstanding, it is what you wanted isn’t it? To find out more about the bracelet and its previous owner? Well, now you have a name and a sample of her spoken language. The universal translator had to translate for me when she spoke it and it should be flagged in the UT now.” Will eyes softened, “I am so sorry that you feel I betrayed you and I desperately hope that you’ll forgive me ” His eyes went down from hers in shame as he finally let go of her so that she could get up and leave if she so desired. She recognized the truth when she heard it and gently laid her fingers against his jaw, waiting until his eyes met hers before saying, this time with no anger, only a thin thread of anguish,”I could have killed you!” Will brought his hand up to her cheek and rubbed it affectionately, “You would not have; you love me with all your heart and I think that Eydis knew that same love with Tjarn. I believe that love stopped her from killing me and allowed you to regain control. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have told me her name and would’ve killed me without hesitation.” Leaning into his hand, Anna closed her eyes, not wanting to contradict him -- he’d met this Eydis in a way that she hadn’t after all, but her blood ran cold at the terrible risk he’d taken -- for her. “I do love you and I don’t know how I could have survived if I’d hurt you or worse.” She felt the hot sting of tears, both of fright and relief, and whispered, “You can’t ever scare me like that again, Will. I know what your job entails and I live with that but you have to promise me that no matter what happens, you’ll talk to me in the future instead of deciding how to deal with it on your own.” Will wiped away her tears as he spoke soothingly. “You have my word on it, Anna.” He brought her head down and kissed her deeply for the longest moment. When they came back up for air, he whispered to her, “From this moment on, never again without talking to you about it first.” Anna leaned her head back and searched his expression, before nodding slowly, a smile of wry acceptance crossing her lips. Will’s promise was sincere but she knew him and had a feeling that his experience with behavior modification was limited. He was always going to react protectively and do things his way. They would no doubt have this conversation again. She stretched against him, managing a teasing grin in spite of a persistent feeling of dread, no doubt the result of the very narrow escape he’d had --at her hands and kept her voice light, not yet able to process everything that had just happened. “Even though it turned out to be a tag team event on my side -- I still beat you. Did we ever decide what the winner got?” Will pretended to think about for a moment before answering, “No, but in some ancient cultures, since you won and spared my life, my life would be yours to do with as you please. Which means that any desire you had for me, I would be obligated to fulfill to the utmost of my abilities.” Anna smiled, the odd stones of the bracelet catching the light as she moved to frame his face between her hands. “I like a man that takes his obligations seriously,” she murmured before bending her head to kiss him. She would have to talk with Debbie and Caroline -- she owed them both a huge apology -- and the bracelet would have to come off -- but it could all wait till tomorrow.
  6. Caroline gave Deb a quiet nod as she followed Anna out of the CMO’s office. The ultimate decision they’d come to -- to allow Anna to continue her research on her bracelet’s qualities, with increased regular observation in light of her behavior planetside -- had definitely satisfied neither of the two medical officers. But though Caroline felt increasingly concerned by the reports of others that Anna was exhibiting odd behavior, the CSCI’s insistence that nothing was wrong remained strident, and with her work still as solid as ever, observation was the most they could do for the moment, watching and waiting until they were sure what was going on. “Shift is almost over. Do you want to get something to eat?” she asked Anna noncommittally, taking a few quick steps to catch up with her friend, hoping to use the opportunity to do a little more feeling out of the situation in a less potentially “threatening” context than sickbay. Her immediate impulse was to say no; Debbie’s conviction that there was something terribly wrong with the bracelet and her dogged insistence that she’d witnessed some sort of radical personality change while they were down on the planet still rankled, and maybe it was unfair but she’d started to feel as if Caroline had taken Debbie’s side automatically during the meeting in Debbie’s office. Anna bit back the refusal, giving Caroline a speculative glance as they both came to a stop in front of the turbolift up the corridor from Sickbay. The last thing she wanted to do was revisit the subject of the bracelet--she’d felt like she was escaping as they’d left the medical department but maybe it would be a good idea to talk with Caroline outside of the CMO’s influence. Debbie’s opinion always carried tremendous weight and rightly so but this time there had definitely been extenuating circumstances that could cast doubt on her usually keen abilities. “Sure, that sounds like a great idea,” Anna replied, stepping into the lift as the doors slid back. “Wonder what the special in the mess is,” she added as she turned to face Caroline. “It’s some Bolian dish I’ve never heard of. We can just swing by my quarters and replicate something, maybe,” Caroline said, grinning casually, but she hadn’t missed the glance directed her way as she had broached the subject. A doubtful glance, almost as if Anna mistrusted the counselor’s motives. “Bit quieter there too.” “That sounds nice,” Anna agreed, her expression softening as she started to relax. Caroline was a friend after all, as was Debbie. They were good friends--the best. The meeting had been uncomfortable but she reminded herself that the two women only had her best interests and those of the ship in mind. They were just showing misguided concern is all. There was no need to get so defensive. Caroline was merely following Debbie’s lead--naturally the ship’s counselor would be inclined to listen to the chief medical officer. It was up to Anna to point out that there were reasons why Debbie hadn’t been herself. “It’s always nice to see Nelson. Has he managed to finish killing off your plants yet?” Caro’s cat had established his preference for chewing all things chlorophyll-based early on in his kittenhood. Caroline chuckled, agreeable to keeping the conversation light, giving Anna the chance to calm down from a meeting that had obviously caused her some tension. “More or less. I’m having a go with a little fern-type thing that either tastes bad or he’s decided to give it a more lingering fate; everything else so far has succumbed.” Moving down the corridor from sickbay, she stepped into the lift as it slid open for them. “Deck seven.” Caroline’s description of the fern’s plight compelled a smile and it was with a lighter step that Anna exited the lift. “Hard to judge his motives,” she said, managing to keep a straight face. “I guess time will tell and maybe an intercession with some cat nip.” “We’ll see. For now I’m considering it a study in feline determination and letting events play out as they will,” Caroline said dryly, following her friend back out of the lift. “I’m busy enough as it is and I guess it makes him happy.” Approaching her quarters, she stepped inside as the door slid open and moved towards the replicator. “What would you like?” Trailing behind, Anna paused just over the threshold of Caroline’s quarters and glanced around, saying, “I’ll have steak preparation #8 and an ale, please.” Spotting Nelson on the couch, she walked over and squatted down in front of where he was lying. “Hello, Nelson..are you the Destroyer of Foliage?” She scratched him behind the ears and under the chin. “He’s such a handsome cat, Caro.” “Mmm...and he knows it too,” Caroline said with a laugh, watching the orange tabby cat roll over with a blissful expression, batting at Anna’s hand with his paws. The replicator pinged its readiness with Anna’s meal and Caroline looked over at it, bemused by the nearly blood-red rareness of the steak sitting in sharp contrast too its white plate. Between that and the ale, Caroline couldn’t help a raised eyebrow. This wasn’t the first time she’d noticed Anna in somewhat medieval mood with her food choices recently, she reflected thoughtfully. “A plate of hasperat and a glass of water,” she said to the replicator, grabbing Anna’s plate and moving it out of the way to the table. Glancing up, Anna saw Caroline putting the plates on the table and reluctantly gave Nelson a final belly rub before standing up and crossing the room to the table. “Did I tell you that I had to give Chauncey to Agatha Wentworth?” “Really? Why?” Caroline asked curiously. “He not getting along with Will?” “He’s never warmed up to Will and to his credit, Will has always just taken it in stride.” Anna took her seat and watched as Caroline finished getting their meal together. “It’s me that Chaunce doesn’t seem to get along with anymore, actually,” she continued, still bewildered by the change in the cockatoo. “I don’t know why but a few weeks ago he started behaving very agitatedly when I’d approach his area and seemed to be losing his appetite. I tried to give it some time, changed up a few things but when he began plucking his feathers out--they do that when under stress--I realized he needed a different environment for his own good. Agatha very graciously agreed to take him.” “That was nice of her,” Caroline agreed, sitting down at the table with her plate, watching absently as Nelson proceeded to follow Anna to her chair, rubbing against her legs with a low, vibrating purr. She had never personally owned a bird, and as such she didn’t really know what to think regarding this tidbit of gossip regarding Anna’s; in light of previous recent conversations, however, it was hard not to attribute meaning to other things as well. There was a short pause and then she commented neutrally, “So between what you and Deb have told me, it sounds like you had a pretty chaotic time planetside.” “We did,” Anna agreed fervently, cutting into her steak with alacrity. She’d missed lunch today and the steak would just hit the spot. “It was storming fiercely the entire time and when we weren’t being attacked by some prehistoric throwback, we were chasing after Kat. Will and Debbie were severely injured in the shuttle crash and then Jon nearly had his leg bitten off.” Pausing to take a bite of the meat, she washed it down with some of the ale before looking earnestly to Caroline. “That’s why I am having a hard time understanding how Debbie can be so sure I wasn’t myself for two seconds or whatever it was. She said herself that it was very brief and this was right after she’d been injured--she could barely walk and had lost a lot of blood and Kat was acting deranged! I was outside of the shuttle going after Kat and that storm was going full boat--we were in the pouring rain with lightning flashing all around. Will had a terrible head injury and I was worried sick about him as well as everyone else. I ask you, Caro, why would I have been myself?” “I have no idea. I wasn’t there, Anna,” Caroline said soothingly, hearing the sudden uptick of defensive energy in the other woman’s voice. “But I’m sure Deb only suggested it because she was concerned for you; you seem to be taking it as an attack.” “Well, maybe because that’s how it feels,” Anna replied sharply, unconsciously twisting the bracelet on her wrist before taking a deep breath, the headache she’d been having on and off for the past month suddenly coming back with a vengeance. “Anna...” Caroline leaned forward slightly, catching Anna’s eyes. “I assure you you are not under attack. We have been asking after you because we are concerned.” “Yes...I know that,” Anna answered, more to herself than Caroline. “I do know that,” she repeated, managing a half-smile as she met Caroline’s gaze. “I appreciate the concern but I am also becoming irritated with it. This bracelet has unusual properties and though I have had some discomfiting moments while experiencing another woman’s memories, I am also intrigued and think that a little discomfort is not a lot to put up with in the face of scientific inquiry. This is why I am loathe to have it removed by dint of cutting it off. I am sure it would destroy it’s unique properties and my questions would never be answered.” “I understand that,” Caroline answered calmly, “which is why I haven’t brought it to a sticking point before now.” She leaned back in her seat, watching Anna’s expression carefully. “Anna, it’s my job to look out for people dealing with strange mental phenomena; I inquire because it’s my job, and because I am concerned for your well-being, not because I am looking for opportunities to rain on your parade.” She paused, then asked slowly, “Have you talked to Will about the bracelet at all?” Frowning, she didn’t like the expression ‘strange mental phenomena’, Anna leaned back in her seat, her appetite gone, though that was mostly the fault of the headache. Mostly. “I have mentioned it to him several times as a matter of fact, Caro, and I admit that he was startled when it locked and wanted me to have it removed immediately but I told him that though the dreams and odd moments of recollection while waking were a little disturbing, I wanted to continue to study it. He hasn’t said a word to me about it in weeks.” Which in and of itself was odd, Anna thought, suddenly very distracted. “Hmm,” Caroline said, her expression deliberately neutral. Will Tomlinson had, in fact, been the first person to bring Caroline’s attention to Anna’s new piece of jewelry, along with his concerns about it. She would have bet quite a bit that he wasn’t as sanguine about it now as Anna was making him out to be. “Well, I’m making no recommendations for the time being, but I won’t deny I’d like to keep a closer eye on your...research. If it comes to any further point that it’s causing overt effects on your mental chemistry during waking hours, I think I will have to recommend we cut it off.” “What?” Anna jerked her head up, eyes narrowing in a glare that left Caro in no doubt as to her displeasure with this announcement. “I have been very forthcoming and have spoken candidly about how this extraordinary experience has affected me--yes it’s caused some discomfort and yes it has been unnerving at times!” She pushed her chair back so forcefully it almost toppled over as she surged to her feet. “But no one, not even Debbie, has been able to say that I haven’t done my job. Some sort of ancient technology is at work here and it’s my intention to figure it out which I would like to point out is my job. I like to think I have been very patient because I’m aware that Debbie and now you believe you are acting out of genuine concern for my welfare, Caro. But I am the chief science officer and this falls under my jurisdiction and no one, not you or the CMO can order it removed without my say so--unless you are both prepared to declare me unfit for duty!” Caroline stared at Anna, whose sudden burst of adrenaline, seemingly out of nowhere, had left her standing, staring at Caroline with shoulders heaving and a furious gleam in her eye. “Anna, calm down. No one is questioning your ability, I’m merely--” “They aren’t? Really, Caro? I’m running a simple experiment but have been questioned at every turn as if I were losing my mind. Our CMO, a woman I happen to respect enormously and care for deeply as a friend, as much as told me that I was possessed--by...wait for it--a bracelet. And now the ship’s counselor--also a friend, feels perfectly comfortable in suggesting said bracelet be cut off--as if I have no say in it whatsoever. How is that not questioning my ability?” “Not your ability, Anna -- we’re merely questioning what effect that bracelet might be having on you,” Caroline said, becoming far more concerned by Anna’s uncharacteristic defensiveness than by anything she had yet said regarding the jewelry’s properties. “You’ve said yourself that it is affecting you mentally--” “I said there have been some uncomfortable moments while awake and some extremely vivid dreams,” Anna snapped back, not caring that she’d interrupted Caroline. She’d heard enough and held her hand up to forestall anything else her friend had to say. “My head is splitting and I’m leaving before I say something I’ll regret. It’s been a long day.” She turned and headed determinedly for the door, the pounding in her skull now acute. Caroline watched her stalk out, her eyebrows climbing towards her hairline in surprise at the unwarranted anger from the other woman. “Yes, it has,” she said aloud, though Anna was already out of the room, the door hissing shut behind her. Well, if I didn’t feel I had grounds for concern before, I do now, Caroline thought tiredly, and, frowning, she looked away from the door and back towards Anna’s half-eaten meal, the blood-rare steak seeping red onto its plate. Suddenly not hungry herself either, she pushed her own plate aside and stood up quickly, almost tripping over Nelson as she did so. With Anna’s exit, the cat had pressed himself against Caroline’s chair; the hair was standing up all along his back, and his mouth was wide in a frightened, defensive hiss.
  7. (This log takes place *before* last week's sim) Anna moved away from Will's side, following Debbie to an area in the ruined shuttle that permitted the CMO enough room to change the bandage on her leg. She felt a little bewildered, still confused as to why she'd blacked out when she'd followed Kat to help her get a sample from the goat. She was banged up and a little bruised--but she'd gotten off lightly compared to others in the shuttle and aside from the headache that refused to go away completely, she felt fine--not lightheaded or shaky. "How can I help you, Debbie?" she asked, wincing as Deb removed the bandage to reveal the wound caused by the metal piece that had become lodged in her leg during the crash. The adrenaline rush she'd experienced immediately following the crash had begun to wear off. That, and the fact Deb had taken as little pain medication as possible, explained why her leg was starting to ache miserably. It didn't help that she hadn't had time to properly close the wound. That wouldn't happen until they were back on the ship. For now, her quick fix would have to do. There were far too many other issues to worry her. She eased down into one of the seats that had managed to survive their sudden impact with the ground. At the moment, her primary concern was the science chief hovering by her side. Anna's sudden blackout was troubling. Even worse was her behavior during the few moments she regained consciousness after Kat brought her back inside the shuttle. Then there was another blackout after which Anna awakened and remembered nothing at all. Deb smiled wearily at her friend and colleague. "I just need to sit down for a minute," she replied to Anna's question. "And I need to talk to you about what just happened. You passed out while you were with Kat. You regained consciousness for a minute or two after Kat brought you back inside." Deb paused and looked into Anna's eyes. "You were extremely aggressive....punched Kat in the face. And you were speaking in a totally foreign language....one the translators couldn't understand." The CMO shifted her weight in the wobbly seat and tried to extend her leg a bit more. "Anna, has anything like this happened before.....and I mean anything even remotely like this." She nodded toward the other woman's wrist. "You must tell me because I fear something is terribly wrong and I'm afraid it's connected to that bracelet." Deb was in obvious pain, and Anna's concern for her was such that for a moment she didn't realize that Debbie had asked her to follow her not because she needed assistance but because she...well, actually, Anna wasn't exactly sure what Debbie was telling her and her confusion was obvious as she replied, "I struck Kat in the face?" Appalled, she sank down on the broken seat across from Debbie and shook her head. "I don't remember doing that...or saying anything. I did black out for a moment there...and it's happened once before...yesterday, actually," she added slowly, not sure what to say. "And it was just for a moment...in my office. My headache had gotten so bad by then...and I went to sit down but the next thing I remember is standing in front of the closed door and a paperweight from my desk was on the floor..." Unconsciously wrapping her hand over the bracelet, as if to protect it, Anna met Deb's stare, her expression stark. "I can't believe I hit Kat. Whatever is causing my headache must be causing me to behave erratically but as for another language, well, it's possible I just garbled my words. The dreams haven't come for several nights now, Debbie so I don't know that the bracelet has anything to do with me blacking out. There must be something physically wrong with me," she said with real bewilderment. Deb cautiously leaned back in the chair concerned it might topple over if she moved too quickly. Anna could be right....the bracelet might not have had anything to do with what just happened. But Debbie's gut was telling her otherwise. "You sucker punched Kat," she said softly. "And as for garbling your words, I don't think so." She lowered her voice even further. "You transformed into another person. Your facial expression....the look in your eyes....it wasn't you, Anna." The CMO glanced around to insure she hadn't been overheard. "Has this happened before? "No, it hasn't," Anna answered, unconsciously lowering her voice to match Debbie's tone. "If it had, someone would have noticed...the people in my department...Will. As for striking Kat...I don't know why I did that. I don't remember doing it but I feel terrible about it, of course." She glanced over to where Will was sleeping, her expression softening, then turning even bleaker as she looked back to Debbie. "I could hurt someone else...do even more damage. When we get back I'm coming to Sickbay for a full evaluation. It's connected to these awful headaches, Debbie, it must be." "But when did the headaches begin?" Deb knew her friend might not want to admit it, but the odd bracelet was playing a role in Anna's bizarre behavior. "We both know they started shortly after you put that thing on and realized you couldn't get it off." Debbie rubbed her face with her hands and took a deep breath. She didn't want to put Anna on the defensive but that bracelet had been nothing but trouble since it first arrived on the scene. "You mentioned dreams.....what kind of dreams?" "I haven't had them for a few days," Anna replied. "But the first couple of nights after I first started wearing the bracelet, I had some vivid dreams that I am sure were actually memories of events experienced by the previous owner. It was frightening at first..." Her voice trailed off and she swallowed dryly remembering the terrible anguish of seeing the man she loved struck down in battle and then awakening with the certainty that something had happened to Will. "However," she continued after a moment's hesitation, her tone firm again, "I got used to the oddness of it and even when I experienced some similar occurrences while awake, I found them intriguing rather than frightening. Jon Shamor has seen stones with similar properties used for memory storage. I am sure that's what the dreams and strange flashes of deja vu regarding taste or sound have been about. I'm still studying the effects of the bracelet and though I'm sure it would be easy enough to remove, I am loathe to do so until I feel my research is complete." Deb listened attentively growing more and more alarmed as Anna explained the effects the bracelet appeared to have had on her. Jon Shamor had been around for a long time. She was willing to put stock into his opinion that the odd stones were probably used for memory storage. It seemed the memories accumulated in those stones had been working their way into Anna's subconscious for quite awhile. Could it be they were now manifesting themselves on a more conscious level? Was that maniacal stranger who attacked Kat Schawnsee the bracelet's previous owner? Now Deb had a royal headache to go along with her throbbing leg. How could Anna have allowed this to happen? And why didn't she speak up when she started having those strange dreams? She already knew the answers so there was no point wasting her breath asking them. Anna was a scientist and a good one at that. The best scientists were more often than not possessed by insatiable curiosity. A mystery such as this alien artifact would be irresistible. An inquiring mind were their greatest asset. But it could also be a huge liability. Especially if the scientist in question held a command position on a ship of the line. This wasn't the time or the place for a lecture so the CMO bit her tongue. Besides, Will was starting to stir and Anna was far more focused on his well being than on her own. At the moment, she seemed befuddled by her mysterious attack on Schawnsee rather than worried she was becoming possessed by the bracelet's former owner. And, under the circumstances, Deb didn't entirely trust her judgement to diagnose the problem. "We'll talk when we get back to the ship," she said quietly, maneuvering out of the rickety chair. "In the meantime, if you feel peculiar in any way, shape or form, come see me immediately." "Of course, I will," Anna assured her, having no intention of adding to Debbie's burden while they were trapped down here. She rose to her feet as Debbie did, worried that her friend's injured leg might not hold her. Hopefully, Jon and Wade's efforts to direct the Reaent to the shuttle's position would pan out and Debbie and Will could both get the treatment they needed as soon as possible. Her behavior towards Kat was worrying of course, but she was convinced that whatever was causing the headaches was behind it. She was just grateful that Kat didn't seem to be holding it against her--she'd been too eager to get back to sample collecting with Wim to pay it much attention.
  8. (The following log takes place before last week's sim) After leaving the bridge, Anna had come to the lab, ostensibly to continue analyzing the most recent data downloaded from the sensors on the fighters, but in reality, mostly just to try and outrun her headache. It was almost as bad as the one she'd experienced just before Caroline had come to her office yesterday morning. The silent lab and the lowered lighting helped and it wasn't too long before she closed her eyes and started to drift...the metal of the bracelet growing increasingly warmer as she started to lose consciousness. The turbolift door opened and Lt. Will Tomlinson walked out. He knew exactly where the love of his life was. Entering Sci Lab 1, Will saw that the lights were dimmed. Squinting his eyes, Will walked carefully through the lab and saw his lovely Anna O'Halloran sitting at a workstation with her head resting on the console. He figured that with all the work that had been going on she was probably exhausted. He thought about letting her sleep but right now, as drained as he was emotionally, the bottom line was, he needed her and he needed her now. He gently squeezed her shoulder, "Hey, beautiful. Please wake up..." Coming back to herself slowly, Anna blinked, momentarily confused as to what exactly was happening as she lifted her head in response to Will's voice and touch. She recognized the darkened lab and remembered almost immediately why she was there. "Hey, you," she smiled, her voice warm with affection as she tilted her head to meet Will's eyes. She wondered how much time had passed. Will noticed that she seemed as tired as he was at the moment. "Just had it out with the XO." He smiled slightly, "He finally decided to formally make me the Commander of the Air Group," he said simply. "Congratulations, Will!" she exclaimed, jumping up from her seat to throw her arms around his neck and hug him close. "I know how much this means to you," she said with a smile, leaning her head back to look up at him, glad that it had finally been resolved, though the smile faded a bit as she pondered what exactly he meant by 'had it out with'. "Is everything ok between you and Commander Ridire?" Will sighed, "Not really." He sat back and rubbed his head. Going back over everything that had been exchanged, Will felt drained more than anything. He knew he was so far out of line that he wouldn't have been able to find the line with a starship's sensor array but it had finally come to a head and something had to give. He looked at Anna, "If it had gone any other way, I'd probably either be in Sickbay, the brig, or no longer a Starfleet officer. Let me break down what happened..." Will took a few minutes to relate everything that had been said and wasn't surprised at her shocked reaction. "Sad part is, I was not really angry at the XO. Partly the XO, but mostly the Captain for letting things get to this point." He sat down and leaned back, "It's going to take a very long time for things to get better between myself and Commander Ridire, but now not only do I have to build this squadron back up, now I need to mend a very broken fence between me and him." Even though he had what he wanted, he knew that he didn't want it to happen this way and was very depressed about it. Anna was silent for a moment. She already knew Will's side of it--she'd been hearing about the situation for months now. It was Ridire's perspective that had her thrown as well as the fact that the confrontation had taken the ugly turn it had. "He's given you a lot to think about," she finally ventured, aware that she was walking on eggshells. "The fact, that at the end of it, he did put you in charge means a great deal. If he'd really felt you weren't up to the job, he wouldn't have given it to you, Will," she added quietly. Will chuckled slightly, "He gave me the job because Tabor didn't want it." He grew serious again, "You're right of course and now I've got a lot to do to get this squadron back to where it needs to be." He stood, looked at her and frowned, "Hey you don't look so good. Are you alright, Anna?" Worry crept into his voice as he spoke. "I just have a headache," Anna answered with a faint smile. "In fact, I think I'll stop off in Sickbay on my way back to the bridge and get something for it." Will smiled as he looked at her. Tilting his head slightly, he realized that he could get lost forever in those beautiful eyes of hers. As she got up, he gathered her in his arms and hugged her warmly. He held her for what seemed to be forever. Finally, as they broke away, Will brushed his lips to along her cheek. "I have to go. I love you." He smiled that warm gentle smile that he only had for her. While he was holding her, Anna felt the best she had in days and it was with great reluctance that she stepped free of his embrace. "I love you, too," she replied. "I'll see you after shift...and Will? I know they have the right man for CAG. Everything is going to work out for the best." Will looked at Anna and couldn't help but smile. He loved how much confidence she had in him, "Thanks Anna. And yes I'll see you after shift." He gave her a quick wink before heading out. Will had to have the replicator make something very special for the upcoming meeting with his pilots.
  9. Ordering the lights down to just 10%, Anna closed her eyes and leaned back in her office chair, willing the tablets she'd swallowed to begin easing the throbbing in her skull. The sudden, agonizing pain had struck without warning and it had been all she could do to escape the shuttle bay before it had brought her to her knees. It wasn't the first headache she'd had in the past few days but it was by far the worst. She was sure it was connected to the bracelet; the 'memories' that she occasionally experienced also seemed to be growing in strength--they were becoming increasingly more vivid. The one she'd had while at lunch with Will today had been so strong it had briefly replaced the reality of the mess and for a moment she'd been crouching over a dead animal with her knife in her hand feeling satisfied that her arrow had been true and they would eat well that night. It wouldn't have been so bad except for the fact that she'd then gutted the poor creature and eaten some part of it while it was still warm to 'honor' the kill. Maybe that was part of the reason for the headache--she hadn't eaten since breakfast. Knowing that couldn't really be the explanation for the headache--and neither could the poor quality of sleep, she'd been getting, Anna thought about going to Sickbay. Even though the bracelet and the experiences associated with it were fascinating, it was becoming obvious that it was affecting how she performed her job. She wasn't able to concentrate and it seemed to be becoming less important to her that she do so. And now, it appeared that it was starting to take a physical toll on her as well. She'd managed to cover it today -- Jon and Kat had been busy talking and she'd been able to make an exit that couldn't be considered more than merely abrupt. If they'd noticed anything at all, no doubt it would be assumed she was just that eager to get going on the detailed examination of the probe. Which she was, actually...it was strange that the probe's data files were completely empty, she thought before another sharp stab of pain seemed to explode from the center of her brain and she passed out. * * * * * Jumping abruptly to her feet, she stood--completely disorientated as to where she was. Forcing her heartbeat to slow down, she realized she was alone and could hear--nothing. No obvious exit, this place was dimly lit--and the source of what light there was appeared strange, glowing weakly--the fire within gave out no warmth and was above her head. A table of some kind was in front of her and she climbed on it easily; it appeared sturdy and bore her weight while she reached above to investigate the curious fire, extending her fingers cautiously, to brush them against the glowing disk. Finding it cool to the touch, she exclaimed softly, surprised and puzzled. This made no sense. Where was she? Why was she here and...what was she wearing? The cloth was strange though not uncomfortable, but the boots felt rather unyielding and were raised in the back under her heel in a way that made her feel a little off balance. They also were too low to protect her completely if a foe were to slash her behind the knee. She found she was able to move freely, however, and the garb would not impair her sword arm, but that begged another question... Where was her sword? For Hani to not be at her side should have meant that she had died--never would she allow herself to be taken. Unless...had they been betrayed? Where were the others she'd been with? Intent on investigating her prison, she jumped down to the ground which was also strange. Not soft exactly, but it felt not like planking or stone and the covering on top of it was not an animal skin or like any woven material she was familiar with. She must have been captured, she thought, frowning as she tried to recall the last thing she remembered but nothing came to mind. They'd struck camp and moved out, planning to reach the nearest settlement by dark fall. But the details escaped her. Touching her forehead, she realized it was starting to ache badly and wondered if she'd been drugged. That would explain why she remembered nothing. What she needed to do was find a way out and barring that, be ready to attack her jailers when they returned. They'd made an enormous mistake in not chaining her, she thought. They wouldn't live long enough to regret it, she vowed, not caring much about what happened to her but determined to escape and help her clan. Since she'd lost her beloved Tjarn, she cared little about the life she had left and looked forward to the day that she would join him, knowing he would be waiting at the great gates of Ungandaril for her. * * * * * Caroline leaned through the door of the science offices and glanced around. The area was quiet and a quick glance at Anna's office door showed that it was shut -- uncharacteristic for the science chief, who never -- to Caroline's knowledge -- kept it closed. Caroline made a puzzled noise and withdrew her head into the corridor. "Computer, confirm location of Lieutenant O'Halloran." BEEP. "Lieutenant O'Halloran is in the Science departmental offices." "Huh." Caroline cocked her head and stepped fully in from the hall. As there seemed no particular signs of major activity anywhere else either, she proceeded to the door of her friend's office and tapped her fingers to the chime. "Anna?" she called. * * * * * She tensed at the soft ringing sound and then felt surprise that her captor would announce her arrival in such a way. 'Anna' meant nothing to her--perhaps the guard was conversing with someone else. That would be good, they would be distracted -- perhaps it was not realized that she was already awake. Maybe their drug was weak, she thought edging closer to the end of the room, anticipating how the guard would reveal herself. She hefted the only object she'd found that had any weight to it, and even though the glass globe was a feeble weapon at best, it might shatter and cause a deeper injury and after all, she would have surprise on her side. It was a confusing object; when she'd picked it up, colors had exploded inside of it and almost surprised her into dropping it. Reaching the end of the room, she struggled to remain upright, hoping the guard would come in soon; her head felt like it was being cleaved in half. The drug must still be within her, she thought and pitched forward, the ball of glass slipping from her fingers and triggering the door as it rolled forward. * * * * * Anna caught herself as she stumbled, wondering distractedly what she'd tripped over as the door slid open and the light from the corridor spilled into her office, illuminating the holographic paperweight lying on the floor in the doorway. "Oh no," she cried, immediately bending to reach for it, so worried that it might be damaged that she didn't think to wonder why it was there. Caroline blinked as Anna almost stumbled forward into her, but caught herself and bent to something on the floor with a cry of dismay. The counselor raised her eyebrows in slight concern. "Everything alright?" Finally registering the pair of legs standing in front of her just as Caroline spoke, Anna jerked her head up and for a moment had no idea what to say. The last thing she remembered was sitting down at her desk; how Nova Starburst had ended up on the floor way over by the door was a total mystery. The important thing, however, was that the headache was gone and the smile she managed was one of relief. "Yes, it is, Caro." She stood up abruptly. "I...I bumped this off my desk and am just so relieved it's not broken," she explained, cradling the globe protectively and starting to feel confident that maybe that was exactly what had happened. "It was a gift from Will." "Oh, of course," Caroline answered agreeably, stepping through the doorway and letting the door shut behind her, realizing as it did so that the room was nearly completely dark. "I'm glad to hear it's alright, then." She moved to one of the chairs on the near side of the desk and leaned against it, watching her friend in the dimness curiously. "I was wondering how things were going with the probe, but...I take it you weren't working?" "Computer, raise lights to normal level," Anna instructed as she made her way back around her desk, the dim lighting no longer necessary since she didn't feel like her skull was on the verge of splitting open. "I had a headache and the light was making it worse," she explained offhandedly, setting the paperweight back on its stand before taking her seat. With the workscreen folded down, there was nothing but a couple of PADDs on the desk and for the life of her, Anna didn't see how it could have been knocked off its stand, let alone hit the floor without breaking, make it under the chairs in front of the desk and then all the way to the door. "I did the initial scans of the probe in the shuttle bay after Jon Shamor and I returned and I've since dispatched a forensic team to the lab for a thorough evaluation and possible file retrieval," Anna replied to Caroline, though her eyes remained on the paperweight as a deep frown creased her forehead. "Sounds like things are moving along nicely," Caroline said, the statement carrying just a hint of a question, since Anna's expression seemed to give the lie to the idea that everything was going entirely smoothly. She paused, then added, gently but pointedly, "But something's on your mind." "The immutable laws of physics," Anna said dryly and then finally turned and smiled at Caroline from across the desk. "The probe is a mystery. It's Federation and is probably the one sent out originally to investigate the possibility that this system was a destination for one of the hundred changelings -- but, there is a problem -- the data files on it have been wiped clean." "Meaning...someone accessed it before us?" Caroline asked, trying to follow the train of logic appropriate to the situation. "Or could that have happened without outside interference?" "It's really too soon to tell," Anna answered, making an effort to focus on the conversation, trying to martial her thoughts into something that made sense. She now realized she must have blacked out earlier. It was the only thing that explained how she'd gotten from the chair to the door without remembering how or why she'd done so. "The probe could have encountered some sort of space weather--been the victim of an ion storm or possibly a solar flare," she continued. "There are also two gas giants in this system and so we'll have the cosmologists on staff taking the data from the examination and running it through their scenarios. It's just...strange. The casing has what looks like impact damage from hitting the side of the mountain we found it on but I didn't see external evidence of any of the possibilities I just mentioned." "Odd," Caroline offered, cocking her head to the side as she absorbed all of this. "Well, I look forward to hearing what the true story was, when your team sorts it all out. It's too bad there's nothing immediately clear to latch onto, though; I know Commander Swan was brought out here for a very specific type of data that, from what you're saying, doesn't seem to be apparent?" She carefully skirted around a tone that might indicate any of the concerns she felt about Kat being there at all; that wasn't for this conversation. "Not so far," Anna answered and debated for a moment whether or not to tell Caroline about Kat's outburst in the shuttle bay and settled for saying, "She ended up being scrubbed from the mission to bring the probe up from the planet and she wasn't too happy about it." An understatement if ever there was one, she thought, recalling Kat's response to Ridire which sounded at the time as if it had crossed the border into insubordination. She hadn't overheard the XO's side of things but then Kat had joined Shamor and herself, and she'd been all apologies. Presumably she'd been the same with Ridire. Caroline raised an eyebrow slowly, hearing something in Anna's tone beyond the matter-of-fact which made her curious. "No, I can imagine she wouldn't be," she said non-committally, waiting to see if the other woman would elaborate. "It was out of proportion to what might be expected from being pulled from a mission that consisted only of ferrying an item from one location to another and I'll come right out and say it, though I wouldn't except for the fact that you are the ship's counselor, Caro. I've seen Kat Swan upset before but always with a good reason. The way she acted in the shuttle bay was irrational--maybe even paranoid." Caroline cocked her head backwards, considering this. "I don't disbelieve that," she said carefully, straddling the line between validating Anna's opinion of the situation and maintaining Kat's privacy. She herself had noted or been informed of several manifestations of the recently returned officer's direct, somewhat guarded, highly attenuated air as regarded much of her dealings with the Reaent crew -- her skeptical reaction to the Changeling-detector armbands, her fascination with, of all things, the goat which Anna had picked up on sensors during their initial sweeps of the planet they currently orbited. Given the rather secretive manner in which Kat had arrived to begin with, Caroline had to wonder just what she'd been told by Starfleet HQ. "I imagine her situation feels somewhat unstable to her -- she is now the returning outsider in a crew in which she used to hold a highly respected post." "That's true," Anna replied, nodding in agreement, "And even though I don't know all the details, I do know she's been through hell in the past few months and re-orientating to being back in the field might take some getting used to. It was just a very strange reaction to something that wasn't very important. Well, important seeming to me, at any rate," she amended, reminding herself that no doubt there were nuances to the situation that had escaped her. It also didn't help that she was distracted by her own perceptions feeling somewhat skewed lately. As if in answer to her thoughts, Anna felt the beginnings of another headache coming on and again thought maybe it would be a good idea to get to Sickbay, but then again, she had to get to the lab to oversee the probe examination. She'd make a point of going afterwards she told herself. "I'll keep it in mind when I next speak to her," Caroline said, nodding. "I'm sure she had no intention of offense, but it is a strange situation for everyone involved. Thank you for bringing it to my attention." She watched Anna's response, hoping that the response would give some measure of reassurance that her concerns were being listened to, but if anything, Anna looked more distracted than ever. "Are you OK?" Caroline asked after a moment's pause. "Yes, I'm all right," Anna managed a smile. "Just feel like that headache might be coming back. Not a big deal, but I also have to get down to SciLab 4. That's where the probe is now. Hopefully, a more detailed examination will reveal why its files have been erased." Caroline nodded, her expression growing somewhat concerned. "You should talk to Deb about that -- or take a break," she said, shaking her head slightly. "I'm sure no one would hold it against you if you delegated; a bad headache is no picnic." "I'll probably stop by Sickbay after I check in with the lab," Anna answered. "We can't really move forward until we find out everything we can from the probe. The forensic team is already assembling and getting ready to start preliminaries--they're going to work with Engineering." Satisfied with this, Caroline nodded again, straightening from her position leaning on the back of the chair. "Well, just as long as you look after yourself at some point. It's easy in our line of work to sacrifice personal comfort for the job -- even when we don't have to." Her lips quirked wryly, and she added, "Believe me, I know." She jerked her head towards the now-open door of the office to indicate her own departure. "I'll be out of your way so as not to delay you; perhaps I'll see you later." "You're never in the way, Caro," Anna smiled, even though she understood what Caroline meant. "And I appreciate the good advice." She stood up, thinking she really wanted nothing more than to get back to her quarters and sleep, but that could wait till tonight. She was certainly tired enough that she doubted she'd have any of the dreams. No doubt she would feel better tomorrow after a good night's sleep. There probably wasn't any reason to go and bother Debbie. "Maybe I'll run into you later--things get interesting in the lab, I may just break away long enough to grab something from the mess for dinner. If that happens, I'll give you a comm." "Sounds like a plan," Caroline said with a smile.
  10. (This log takes place before the last sim) Will Tomlinson entered the crew lounge and looked around. When he didn't see Anna, he found an empty table and waited for his love to arrive. He checked the chronometer and saw that he was a few minutes early. The thought of seeing her again and sharing a meal brought a smile to his face and helped wash away the stress of the current mission and the stresses that came with having been the XO's chew toy for about 10 minutes. Will ordered two waters before sitting back and relaxing for a few minutes, waiting for Anna to arrive. Today's shift had felt endless, and it was with some impatience that Anna stepped out of the turbolift, thinking that even the normally short ride between decks had felt interminable. She felt like she'd spent the entire day doing nothing but look at the same stream of data over and over. And in the final couple of hours, Kat Swan's apparent obsession with the movements of a six-legged mammal had had her gritting her teeth and biting her tongue. Which was odd, she thought, suddenly bewildered by her over reaction to what had actually been a fairly normal day. Kat was an acknowledged expert on changelings according to McQueen and her impatience with the former security chief's line of questioning wasn't appropriate. It couldn't be the sketchy sleep--a couple of nights of nightmares, no matter how vivid, couldn't be responsible for her feeling so restless. Or for her inability to concentrate on the job at hand. Constantly, she'd felt like she'd had to pull her thoughts back from wherever they'd scattered off to. Normally, she was capable of intense focus. This current challenge of trying to discover if a changeling was indeed down on the planet should have had her enthralled. But instead, she'd been hard pressed to remain at her station. It had chafed having to sit for hour after hour of forced inactivity. Ridire had mentioned something about working with Kat Swan and Jon Shamor to figure out a way to get the probe on board and she'd left the bridge planning to follow Kat on down to engineering but on the spur of the moment had decided to see what Will was up to. It didn't occur to Anna as she entered the lounge, that for the first time since being posted to the Reaent, she'd basically ignored a command. She brightened at seeing Will was already there and wasted no time in making her way to his table. Since he'd stopped nagging her about the bracelet, she'd felt in perfect charity with him, and had been dying to see him all day. "Hey there, handsome," she said quietly, her smile warm as she took the seat across from him, examining his expression to see what kind of mood his run in with the XO had left him in. The instant Anna entered his sight, Will's day brightened immediately. His expression was thoughtful and perhaps a bit curious at first but all that went away when he saw her. He glanced at the bracelet on her wrist but then locked his gaze on to hers. He was not going to press that issue right now. All he wanted was some time with the woman that had stolen his heart. As they sat, he took her hand and kissed it warmly, "Hey there. beautiful." His smile faltered slightly; she looked a bit stressed to him. "Are you alright my love? You look a little frustrated." He sat down after she did and ordered a bowl of vegetable soup from the waiter while she replied. "I'll have steak--very rare," Anna told the waiter before turning back to Will, her expression warming again as she met his eyes; the intensity of that green gaze never failing to cause her to have to catch her breath. "No, I'm not frustrated," she answered slowly, tightening her fingers around his. "It's been a long day and I'm just feeling a little out of sorts, not my usual self, I guess. But, I'm fine," she assured him. "It sounds like you're the one that had the bad day. What'd you do that upset the Commander?" she asked, her smile turning a little teasing. Will's eyebrow quirked a bit when she ordered meat and his eyes flicked back to her bracelet for a moment and then returned to her eyes when she asked about his day. Will sighed, "Tabor and I were on patrol looking for that probe that everyone is interested in. When we got a good idea of where it was, we went down for a closer look. We had no intention of landing but the XO began ordering us off." His eyes became a bit mischievous. "Well we didn't quite get that order because of a communication problem so we went down for a look. We didn't land but we did do close up scans and got a good look at that crashed probe. You wouldn't have half the information you do without those scans." Will's smile faded, "But because of a little self initiative, the XO has Shamor escort us to the conference room where we get a 10 minute lecture on what might've gone wrong and how if we ever do it again, he'll probably strip us of our wings." Will eyes became thoughtful, "Honestly, I'm tired of the way us pilots are being treated on this ship. Months without a replacement CAG, not a peep out of the Captain or the XO on what they expect of us. Just leave us to our own devices and let us rot until they need fighter protection. This squadron is going to fall apart soon if those two don't at least make an effort to show that they give a damn about us and I don't know what to do about it." His voice was almost a whisper and his expression was very sad. She'd picked up on the nuances as Will mentioned the 'communication problem' he and Tabor had experienced that had caused them to not 'hear' Ridire's order. She knew William Tomlinson very, very well, and was aware of how stubborn he could be if someone put his back up. She was very sure they'd had no intention of taking foolish chances...well, she was pretty sure and Will had said they hadn't intended to but then Ridire had ordered them not to do what they already weren't going to do and so they'd gotten funny. Anna knew the issue of no CAG having been chosen was a very sore one and she saw their point of view. It had been months and though she had seen and was still seeing how frustrated Will was with the situation, she was also sure the squadron wasn't falling apart. Will and Tabor were both strong leaders and she didn't doubt for a second that the men under them were following their direction. "Will, I understand your issue with McQueen but I also know what kind of officer and leader you are--the squadron is in good hands," Anna said gently, adding, "Even if there's been nothing official." She hated seeing him so down. "I hope the situation doesn't stay unsettled for much longer but I know you've done your best since Angel left. The real morale I'm worried about is yours." Will smiled again. He could never stay down in the dumps for too long in her presence. He played with her hand and looked at her. "When I am in the same room with you Anna, there's nothing wrong with my morale, believe me." The food arrived and Will made a face at her rare meat as he began to eat his soup. "Branching out, Anna? Next thing I know you'll be trying Heart of Targ or, God forbid, gagh," he chuckled. Warmly flushed from his assurance that his morale didn't suffer when she was around, Anna picked up her knife and fork and was in the process of slicing free her first piece of steak, when his comment about her choice registered. A little blankly, she glanced down at the plate where a small pool of red liquid had already formed around the meat and felt instantly nauseated. "I remember thinking earlier that it had been a long time since I hunted," Anna murmured more to herself than Will. "But I've never hunted," she added slowly, setting the knife and fork carefully on her plate before reaching for her glass of water and taking a small sip, needing to wash the sudden, coppery taste from her mouth as memories, not her own, showed her quite vividly exactly how it felt to hunt and then share in the kill. Will frowned at what she said. He figured that she didn't mean for him to hear them but he did. Will sighed, "Anna, perhaps you should order something a little more palatable?" He knew, with quite a bit of certainty, that it was the bracelet doing this but he didn't want to ruin this time he had with her by bringing it up. "At the very least, maybe they should cook that a little longer?" He smiled hopefully at her. Anna smiled back, her stomach doing a lazy flop at the idea of eating the meat--even if it were well done. "I'm not really even that hungry, Will," she said, reaching for one of the packets of crackers that had come with his soup. Maybe it would settle her stomach. She pushed the plate and the offending steak to the side and rested her elbows on the table, her eyes on the crackers as she unwrapped them. "Kat Swan was on the bridge for most of the day," she said conversationally, her attention completely on the crackers, purposefully avoiding looking at Will. They'd all heard that Kat had suffered through a very difficult time of it after Angel disappeared and it had been quite a surprise to find she was back aboard the Reaent as a consultant. What Kat had gone through was Anna's absolute worst fear and it crossed her mind that maybe that was part of the reason she'd felt such impatience today with the former security chief. Kat was a reminder that terrible things happened to fighter pilots and that it was an uncertain universe at best. It wasn't something she'd needed to be reminded of. Will perked up instantly at the mention of the former security chief. "She's here?! When did she get here? How is she doing? Has there been any word on Angel?" And then another question popped into his mind, "Why is she here? With her breakdown, I figured it would be a good long time before we saw her again." His questions came at Anna in rapid fire mode, but the last thing he expected was the former security chief to suddenly reappear here. "She arrived within the last 24 hours, but I only heard about it this morning," Anna replied, absently breaking the crackers into even smaller pieces. "I didn't ask her how she was doing, just said hello... I know how I'd be doing if my husband was missing and I wouldn't want anyone to ask me that." Finally looking up, she met Will's gaze and managed a smile, shaking off a bewildering feeling of loss that felt all too real even though he was sitting right across the table from her. Possibly seepage from the former bracelet owner's residual memories. "Anyway," Anna continued, "She's here at the Captain's request and is consulting in the capacity of Changeling expert. I think it's her first foray back into the field. She and Jon Shamor are down in Engineering trying to decide how best to bring the probe aboard." She suddenly remembered that Ridire had ordered her to work with them. Why hadn't that seemed important until now? Will was a little crestfallen that there was no word of Angel but hearing Anna explain what she knew about Commander Swan's return bothered him. "She's an expert on Changelings? Interesting. I wonder why she was sent back out so fast. I hear it can take years to recover from breakdowns like hers from the Counselor classes I took." When he saw Anna's inquisitive look, Will smiled, "When I underwent the skill evaluations at the Academy, I showed high empathic aptitude. Almost on level with Betazoids though I don't have any real telepathic ability." Will's smile faded as he thought about Commander Swan and wondered just what kind of variable she was. "I don't know any details of just how bad her breakdown was or how well her treatment went but for her to be here, it must have gone pretty well...in spite of also having to deal with Angel's disappearance," Anna replied quietly, her mind already turning over what he'd just told her about himself. "You've never mentioned that before, Will...about your being very empathic. What exactly does that mean?" Will looked at Anna curiously for a moment and then his eyes flicked to the bracelet for a half second before looking at her again, "It means, my dear Anna, that I can read people's behavior and body language enough to tell their emotional state. Whether they are agitated or listless or if they are in pain and trying to cover it up. I guess I can do that better than the average human." Will deliberately looked away, adding thoughtfully, "It makes me wonder what is behind Ridire's chewing us out." Looking back at Anna, he explained, "Yes he was upset that we did what we did, but considering the situation, it was over the top as if his anger was covering up something else." He mulled that over in his mind. Anna wondered why she found this just revealed insight into Will somewhat disturbing, and shook off the uneasy feeling it engendered, saying lightly, "Well, I don't have any idea what it might be covering up, but I can tell you one thing--he ordered me to go to Engineering to work with Kat and Jon on finalizing a plan to bring the probe aboard and I'd better get going before he decides to express a little of that ire my way." She stood up and then leaned over to give him a quick kiss before saying, "I'll see you later, hon." Will stood up and met her mouth with his for a quick kiss. He smiled at her warmly, "Count on it, my love. I'll see you in our quarters after our shift is over." He gave her another quick kiss before sitting down and watching her go. His smile faded once she was gone as he considered that bracelet of hers. He was so glad to have Anna in his life and he would protect her with his life if needed. That's why he knew he couldn't afford to lose this challenging game of chess with who or whatever had a hold of his beloved that came from that bracelet. After a few minutes, Will got up and headed for the Flight Office. He had other matters to attend to if he intended to keep this squadron up and running.
  11. This log takes place the night before the morning staff meeting of last week's sim. Anna entered the quarters she shared with Will, Jon's sword still in hand, her mind preoccupied with the successful outcome of her 'experiment'. The bracelet had somehow endowed her with its previous owner's skill with a blade and only her own body's weakness had kept her from completing the training exercise. To the woman who'd once worn the bracelet, the movements had been routine, something she did regularly to keep her skills sharp...for fun, even. Up until tonight, Anna had considered herself to be very fit, but clearly, she had a ways to go. It would be interesting to see if she could train to the point of eventually being able to complete the exercise; see if she could meet the challenge she felt had now been posed. Will heard the front door open and came out to see Anna. He smiled at first but then his smile disappeared when he saw the sword in her hand. He was curious but he tried to keep his alarm in check. He'd never known Anna to show an interest in swords before. He watched her and smiled again. "Hey, beautiful. I got your message. How did dinner go?" He asked casually. Her initial wariness fading with the appearance of his smile, Anna relaxed, her own smile coming easily, as she walked across the room to lay the sword carefully on the counter that separated the small eating area from their living room. "We had a nice meal," she answered, pulling off her warm up jacket. "Caro is always good company." Leaving the jacket on one of the stools in front of the counter, she walked around it to request a glass of water from the replicator. "How'd your day go?" she asked him as she took the glass and turned around to face him, the counter now between them. He shrugged a bit, "Well you've been on my mind and that bracelet as well." When he saw her tense up a bit, he came up behind her and gently rubbed her shoulders. "Relax, I'm not going to harass you about it. I did however go see Caroline. And, for the record, I saw her BEFORE I got your message about dinner with her so don't worry about any thought that your meal together as something I set up please." "She didn't mention that," Anna replied slowly, mentally replaying the conversation she'd shared over dinner with the counselor. She turned abruptly to face him, tilting her head back to meet his gaze directly. "I'm the one who asked Caroline if she'd like to meet for dinner, Will. It wouldn't have occurred to me that you would do that although, I guess based on your enthusiasm for discussing things with Commander Ridire, maybe it should have." Regretting the words as soon as they were out of her mouth, she immediately held up her hand to forestall his reaction. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that," she apologized, clearly sorry. "It's been a long day, Will. I didn't mean that how it came out. I'm sorry to sound so defensive." Will eyes flashed with anger and hurt the instant she talked about Ridire but he let his gaze soften and he smiled again, "Forget about it right now." He kissed her forehead and moved away from her, heading for the sword that she set down. He picked it up and tested the weight and balance. "This is nice workmanship. Definitely not replicated. Where'd you get this?" "It's Jon Shamor's," Anna answered quietly. "He's letting me borrow it for a little while." She took a long swallow of the water and wondered what he was thinking. He set the sword back down and looked at her curiously, "I know you're skill with knives, my love, but I didn't know you had an interest in swords." "It's recent," she understated with a wry smile. "I wanted to run an experiment--to see if there's been any kind of transference between myself and the previous owner of the bracelet." She took another sip and then set the glass to the side before meeting his eyes. "Turns out there has been. When I pick up that sword, I feel like I've been training with it for years. Jon thinks the stones on the bracelet might be a device to hold stored memories." Will nodded. He turned away from her and closed his eyes trying to keep his instinctive alarm from overwhelming him. He took a deep breath and then looked at her again as he sat on the couch. He patted his lap, "Come here." As she sat, he gave her a warm hug. "Well, maybe we should spar sometime then." He smiled up at her. Automatically putting her arms around his neck, Anna looked back at him in horror, feeling once again the impact blow she'd dealt that has severed Edalt's arm from his shoulder. "No, that's a terrible idea," she whispered. "You don't understand, Will." He looked at her and caressed her cheek. "Tell me, Anna. Tell me." He sat back and listened as his love spoke. "I just don't want to do that; it's not a good idea," Anna insisted. "It's an experiment and it's not always possible to control the outcome of an experiment. Her skill level was...is that of a trained warrior. I don't yet have her upper body strength but even so, I don't want to even think about being in a position where I might harm you." Anna looked away, laying her head against his shoulder. "I can't even stand to think about it." He ran his fingers through her hair and just held her for a few minutes, "Fair enough, my love." He thought about it for a second, "Tell you what, next time we get some holodeck time, why don't we get a couple of training swords and see what kind of skill you, or this other woman has. Those swords won't cut or kill, just hurt a bit if hit." He turned his head to her, "And don't worry about hurting me, my love. I think I can handle myself." He smiled and winked at her. I know you think you can, Anna thought, managing a smile even though she still felt chilled. "Maybe," she grudgingly offered, her arms tightening unconsciously around him. "I did see Debbie, today," she said, thinking a change of subject was a good idea." He smiled relieved that he didn't have to ask. He kept a tight holdo fher, "And what did she say?" "That I am showing signs of not having gotten enough sleep for the past two nights." Stroking the back of his neck, Anna angled her head and kissed the corner of his mouth. "She thinks I should get some. Soon." He smiled at her choice of words. "I can agree with that. And, if it pleases you, I know of various ways to ensure that you sleep long and well." His grin was playful and teasing. "Oh, yeah, it pleases me," she murmured, alternating her words with kisses. "You please me," she whispered, the small part of her that was still thinking of anything beyond the immediacy of being this close to Will, relieved that he hadn't asked for any more details of the exam. She stood up from his lap and held out her hand to him. "I've got some ideas of my own," she promised. He eagerly took her hands and let her pull him to his feet. Even though he always looked forward to intimacy with her, a small part of his mind was still on alert. Now he would find out just how much of this other woman was ingrained into Anna's personality. Now he would find out a lot more about the potential enemy he was up against. As they entered the bedroom, Anna slipped her arms around his neck, pressing close, the warmth of the bracelet against her skin noticeable but not unpleasant. "I've missed you," she told him, feeling oddly like it had been forever since they'd been together like this. He nodded. "Indeed it has my love," he laughed teasingly at her. "Now, let's go and make up for lost time." "My thoughts exactly," Anna murmured. "I've been waiting." For a very long time.
  12. "This is a beautiful sword, Jon," Anna commented, hefting the blade that Jon had judged best out of his collection to match her height and weight. It didn't feel as natural as wielding Hani had felt in the dream, but this broadsword was still the product of an expert craftsman and felt light and balanced enough for her purpose. She looked up to find Jon's eyes on her and wondered how best to explain. "I'm guessing you're wondering why I asked you to let me borrow this?" They were meeting in one of Security's training rooms. "You could say that. For a moment there, I thought you were still mad at JJ for raiding your science lab. Since that's not the case, I supposed I could help you." Anna burst out laughing. "You know about JJ's secret weapon? I can assure you that my sudden interest in sword fighting is not inspired by vengeance. I leave it to Mr. Lexi to fight the duels." She set the sword to the side so she could take off the warm up jacket she was wearing over a tank top and a pair of workout pants. "I'd like to run a little experiment tonight because I've recently had some unusual experiences that might be tied to the bracelet I'm wearing. It's possible it has some unusual properties and I'd like to put a theory to the test." Jon chuckles, "I told him to let me handle his 'situation' but he had to do things his way. Poor guy; thought I was going to toss him in the brig for what he did. Had him enlist in a proper self-defense course, kind of like a probation of sorts. Rather not see him try that again." Looking at the sword carefully, he said, "Just remember you don't have a counter-balance since you're just using the sword." "JJ is very proud, Jon. He would want to fight his own battles," Anna commented, glad that Jon wasn't inclined to ask too many questions. And I think I'll need both hands just to handle the sword," she added in response to his advice. The woman in the dream hadn't used a shield or dagger while fighting--only the sword. Hell, it was insane to think she was going to be able to use even one weapon she'd never trained with before let alone a combination. And yet, she was feeling fairly confident as she picked up the sword again and walked to the middle of the room, well away from Jon's position. The bracelet was already growing warmer against her skin and she felt a growing sense of anticipation, an eagerness to get started. She recognized that this was something she normally enjoyed doing, in spite of having never done so before. Anna turned away from Jon, unconsciously falling into a ready stance, not sure what triggered her to raise the blade in a silent salute to an unseen opponent before encircling the grip on the hilt with both hands and sweeping the sword up and around, her footing sure. There was no fiery rage driving her strokes as there had been in the dream but rather she was experiencing a deep enjoyment, a personal feeling of satisfaction at how her body moved and reacted; striking, turning, blocking, then slicing before withdrawing, only to lunge forward and strike again at a phantom target that she couldn't even see in her mind's eye. This was a training exercise. The bracelet wearer had felt supremely comfortable in her skin and with a sword in her hand. Her technique had been perfected after many long hours of practice and seasoned in battle. Knowing she was barely half-way through the exercise, Anna stopped before she dropped. Drenched with sweat, she was winded and only with determination was she able to hang on to the sword. Her arms were trembling with muscle fatigue and the bracelet metal felt almost hot enough to brand. Trying to catch her breath, she gave Jon a sideways glance, wondering what his reaction would be. She wasn't surprised. The sword had felt uncomfortably familiar in her hands as soon as she'd begun the exercise. It was different than the dream—this time she'd remained self-aware but had felt the other woman's feelings overlaying her own. She'd ceded control of her body, while awake, in a way she couldn't explain. It was a little frightening but also exhilarating to suddenly have this ability. "Where or when did you learn to do that? I knew you're good with a throwing knife but this has me wondering," Jon asked, looking at the bracelet. "Was that the item you got during shore leave? I don't recall you having it before. Perhaps it's connected to the skills you now possess." He walked over to Anna to take a closer look at the piece of jewelry. "Were you able to get any information about this?" "I did get it during leave, yes," Anna answered slowly, reminded yet again of Jon's ability to take a small amount of knowledge and extrapolate upon it. "And you're right. I've had a couple of experiences with it that made me wonder if the knowledge of the previous user was transferable." She rubbed her thumb along the grip on the hilt. "Turns out...it is." Meeting Jon's eyes, she shook her head. "I haven't found out anything about it yet. Scans have been inconclusive and I don't know the planet of origin or the name of the woman who it belonged to. The metal is an alloy we haven't seen before and the stones are just an unknown mineral—tests haven't revealed any special properties." Jon gazed at the bracelet. "Judging by the design and the way you handled that sword," he said, pausing to examine the bracelet, "I am pretty certain that the stones appear to be a sort of memory anchor. I've seen this done in my travels by quite a few different races, mine included as well, in case you're wondering. Although, I'm not sure why it's bound to you. Perhaps it has chosen you for some reason." Shifting his glance from the bracelet back to Anna, "Outside of what I just said, I'm unsure as to the origin of it." Taken aback, Anna looked from Jon to the bracelet. "I occasionally forget how busy a life you've led and then something comes along and reminds me." She paused for a moment and then asked, her tone cautious, "What exactly have you seen done? Jewelry used as a storage device?" She wasn't too thrilled at the phrase 'chosen for some reason'. Jon nodded. "My sword from when I was in the Order was designed in the same fashion. There are 6 gems on my sword, one for each generation that served. Only thing, was that the sword could only be drawn if it has chosen that person as its user." Seeing that he had somewhat confused Anna, he added, "When I say that the bracelet has 'chosen' you it means that maybe there is something you must do. Perhaps atonement for a mistake that was made or an honorable act performed in their respect." "I find it strange that this metal isn't in the Starfleet database, Jon." Anna fell silent, turning over what he'd told her. "You've pointed me in a direction," she finally said. "I'll expand my search with that in mind." She picked up her warm up jacket. "I need to think about this," she said, more to herself than Jon, before looking up to catch his eye, a sudden smile breaking out. "You've been a big help, Jon, thank you." Nodding with a smile on his face, he replied, "I'm glad to help. Just try not to rush yourself when it comes to finding the purpose of the bracelet. I'm pretty sure you'll find out in due time." "Well, it's only been two days but sooner rather than later would be a good thing," Anna responded, thinking it had already made things uncomfortable for her on several levels, not the least of which had been Will's reaction to it. She turned set the sword down before leaving but almost immediately turned back, loathe to give it up just yet. "Jon, do you mind if I borrow the sword for a little while? I promise to take good care of it. I think I'd like to practice with it a bit more." Jon thought for a moment before replying, "Just be careful. For your sake--not the sword's." "Oh, I will be," Anna promised, heading for the exit. "See you in the staff meeting tomorrow morning. We'll be reaching the Moap system soon after that." "I'll be compiling some notes for the meeting," he replied. "Should be nothing we can't handle. I'll catch you later." "Good to know," Anna replied. "Night, Jon." Walking out, she wondered what he knew about the upcoming mission, not noticing the odd glances she was receiving as she carried the sword through the corridors.
  13. It took a considerable amount to put Caroline off her calm. During her time as a starbase counselor, she had honed an innate reaction to chaos, meeting it with reassuring placidity, and Reaent had only further encouraged this tendency, being as unpredictable as it was intense. So it would take a very close, very familiar observer to determine, as she eyed the curve of the bulkhead in the lounge, patiently waiting the arrival of her dinner partner, that she had more on her mind than usual. She was not precisely concerned. Not yet. But having two reports come to her in close succession about one of her closest friends on the ship -- and indeed, the dinner partner for whom she was currently waiting -- was cause for...attentiveness. Nothing Deb or Will had told her was enough to give her any absolute cause for censuring Anna's mental state, but it was enough to give her reason to believe her friend might be dealing with a level of anxiety belied by her usual cheerful resilience. What the root cause might be, Caroline wasn't sure, but it was important that she try to find out, delicate though the task might be. Anna entered the lounge and paused just over the threshold; a quick glance around showing that Caroline had already arrived and was seated at a table near one of the windows. She was looking forward to catching up with Caro-the leave had been short and they hadn't managed to get together during it. The last couple of days had been stressful; the mystery presented by the bracelet and Will's overreaction to it had taken a bit of a toll and spending some time with Caroline, enjoying some relaxed conversation and a good meal, seemed like a tonic. "Caro," Anna smiled a greeting as she took the seat opposite Caroline's. "I hope I haven't kept you waiting too long. I got hung up in the lab for a few minutes." "No problem," Caroline said casually, returning the smile as she turned her eyes from the bulkheads and focused in on the conversation. "Must have been something engrossing...what are you working on?" "Actually, nothing to do with work per se," Anna answered, her eyes gleaming with sudden amusement as she recalled JJ's passionate apology message. "Someone got busy during leave with a personal project and used up some of the supplies and I had to sign off on the requisition for replacement and look into changing access protocols for interdepartmental usage." "Ahh...the everpresent paperwork," Caroline said, not quite following the reason for the sudden laugh in Anna's expression but chuckling all the same. "Glad you managed to escape for a bite to eat." "We're not really busy right now. There's the usual ongoing research, of course, but nothing time critical. The Moap system does have three gas giants and is a binary system so the cosmologists are excited." Anna checked the menu. "Have you decided on anything yet? I think I'd like a drink first." "That sounds good to me too," Caroline said agreeably, having not really even turned her mind to the menu yet. "I take it this is an unusual sort of system then?" she asked curiously. "Somewhat unusual. They're just getting excited at a chance to update astrometrics and send a few long range sensor probes into the planets. Frankly, I think everyone's just thrilled to get to study something other than temporal anomalies." Anna looked up from the menu and grinned. "They're a jaded bunch." That elicited a laugh from Caroline; the science chief's feelings about the temporal anomalies which Reaent seemed perpetually to encounter were well known. "I'm always a proponent of a change of scenery and pace," she deadpanned in return, casually pondering Anna's expression as she ordered a cosmopolitan from one of the lounge staff who had paused at their table. Her friend seemed nothing less than her normal good-humored self, and Caroline began to relax some of her own preoccupation. "I'll have a glass of mead," Anna requested, absently turning the bracelet beneath her jacket sleeve while watching their waiter head back to the bar. She'd planned to order a glass of whiskey until the very moment when she'd opened her mouth and ordered the honey-wine instead. She hated sweet drinks. Interesting. "Branching out a bit, eh?" Caroline said with a chuckle, leaning back in her seat. "So it would seem," Anna said a little dryly, meeting Caroline's amused look with a direct one of her own. "Actually, when I said I wasn't working on anything special before...that's not entirely true. Remember earlier today on the bridge when I told you that Will and I had done some shopping and picked up a gift for his mother's birthday?" "I do." Caroline nodded, attenuating to the more serious look on her friend's face. "Well," Anna continued, folding back her jacket sleeve to reveal the bracelet, "I also got this." She leaned forward, her excitement obvious. "It's very unusual, Caro." Caroline had had a feeling, based on Deb and Will's reports, that the subject would probably come round to this on its own, and though she wasn't entirely sure how this connected to the mead, she could nevertheless read Anna's obvious emotion -- excitement, not distress -- and leaned forward curiously to eye the piece of jewelry. "Yes, it is," she agreed carefully. "And no doubt more so to you...you used to work making such things, didn't you?" Her mind instantly moved back over the things Deb and Will had told her, suggesting that they felt the bracelet directly connected to other more physical manifestations of anxiety, but she said nothing of any of this yet, waiting to see how Anna would direct the conversation. Anna nodded, answering, "Yes, everyone in my clan has some craft training that allows them to contribute. My specialty was metalcraft--small edged weapons and jewelry design. And it's the metalwork on this bracelet that caught my eye initially," she said, absently tracing the intricate design of the bracelet with her free hand. "I tried it on, thinking it wasn't particularly pretty but that it might be fun to see if I could try to duplicate the craftsmanship. Granulation like this isn't that easy when done on such a minute scale. Anyway, as soon as I tried it on, it just felt 'right'. I can't really explain it." She shrugged. "It didn't cost that much and as you can see the stones are cabochon cut--not even faceted...it's just an old piece, Caro." Anna leaned back as the waiter came by and deposited their drinks before continuing on his way again. "It's a cuff bracelet which means there should always be an open section--it shouldn't form a complete circle, but...sometime during the first night, it closed up. There's not even a seam showing in the metal. And I had the oddest dream..." She paused and picked up her glass, making a face at the first sip, but taking a second one anyway. "Go on." Caroline had already slipped unconsciously into professional mode -- listening intently but giving the appearance of no more than casual interest so as to keep her companion talking -- but she couldn't resist a faint glimmer of surprise in her expression. She'd expected Anna to be more reticent about the symptoms which Will had mentioned, and she could see from where she sat that the bracelet was, in fact, a solid ring too small to have slid off -- or onto -- the wrist on which it now sat; she'd half-expected that idea to be merely a manifestation of her deeper unwillingness to part with it. She made a quiet, interested noise in the back of her throat, wondering if she had misjudged the situation. "This is where it gets amazing. The dream I had was so vivid, it really felt more like a memory--even now I can remember it perfectly, and it wasn't me in the dream. I was there--but as somebody else. It was in a place I've never seen before, populated by people I've never met but who felt as close to me as my own family. Closer even," Anna added expressionlessly, thinking that those in the dream, Nils and Ari, felt closer to her than her own brothers, Brian and Sean. Or at least closer to whomever she'd been in the dream. Nils and Ari would never turn their backs on their sister... Realizing where her thoughts were going, Anna shook her head as if to clear it. "There was a battle and it was awful, and yet..I could feel how alive she felt. Tormented by the betrayal happening around her but also so determined to fight and have her vengeance against the traitors. But then, the most terrible thing of all happened..." She picked up her drink and took a long swallow in spite of the sweetness, clenching the glass because her fingers were trembling. Caroline raised one eyebrow slowly, folding her arms in front of her on the table, ignoring her own drink untouched at her elbow. "The most terrible?" she asked encouragingly, her tone soft to counter the intensity of Anna's. Anna set the glass down, taking a deep breath. This was the hardest part to describe. "As the dream began, I realized that I could 'feel' another person close by. I couldn't see him but I knew where he was so I was comforted knowing he was safe. At the end of the dream, I see him--he's fighting and I intend to join him to fight with him and then he's cut down and I realized that while I watched him die I also 'felt' the connection between us die...I...she could no longer feel him and it broke her heart." Anna paused, the emotions no less intent in the retelling than they'd been in the dream. "I woke up then, screaming his name...Tjarn was his name," Anna added offhandedly, her voice trailing off again before she gathered herself, finishing with, "And that woke up Will. For a minute there I couldn't differentiate between the dream and reality and became confused thinking something had happened to Will. That was the worst part of it, actually." She leaned back, reminding herself that it had been just a dream or an old memory. Caroline processed this for a few moments in silence, not sure what to make of it. Indeed, had she not known Anna as well as she did, she might have been considerably more confused -- but she was familiar with the other woman's vivid imagination and penchant for adventure stories. It was not hard to pin down, in the abstract, the sources of the dream that evidently had Anna so preoccupied -- an adventurous situation, in the role of a woman for whom Anna's relative familial estrangement had never been a problem, was not at all an unlikely fantasy for someone of Anna's general disposition. The issue was whether these dreams might be a manifestation of something more psychologically serious, in one way or another. "Who is 'she'? Do you know?" she finally asked after a considered pause. "No, I don't know her name or what she even looks like," Anna replied, relaxing in the face of Caroline's calm, accepting expression. "I do know she's wearing this bracelet and that the metal work on it matches that on the hilt of her sword. The same type of stones are also present on the hilt." She smiled, her eyes lightning with amusement, knowing how ludicrous her next statement was going to sound. "Her sword's name though...I do know that. It's Hani." Caroline smiled, rubbing her jaw thoughtfully. "Your subconscious has a definite attention to detail," she said with quieter amusement, shaking her head slightly. "My subconscious, huh?" Anna couldn't help but smile; she was pretty sure her mind could not have supplied the level of detail present in the dream. "I wish you would tell Will that," she said, striving to keep her voice light. "How do you mean?" Caroline asked, deciding not to mention just yet that Will had already approached her. "He's worried about me," Anna replied quietly. "I know he is but it feels..." She stopped. She couldn't tell Caroline that it felt like Will was somehow against her; that he'd thought it a good idea to report something this innocuous to the ship's XO. That it felt like a betrayal. Which hurt more than she could admit to Caroline, even though she was one of her best friends. "I think he's overreacting a bit," she finished. "Well, no one likes to see their loved ones disturbed, even by a dream," Caroline said lightly, then after a short pause, went on, "Are you concerned? About the dreams? Or...something else, perhaps? Violent or uncomfortable dreams often tend to show up as an expression of our waking worries..." "I wouldn't say I was concerned, exactly," Anna answered thoughtfully. "About the dreams or anything else, other than Will's reaction to it, I guess. The dreams startled me at first but now I think they might offer clues to the bracelet's origins. Debbie suggested I get it removed but I don't want to. I want to keep investigating it while it's 'active' so to speak." Caroline nodded slowly, her expression thoughtful. She was watching closely for signs of subverted worry or other emotional distress but Anna's expression was more curious than anything else. "And the idea that it might be isn't concerning? Its molding itself like that is somewhat odd, isn't it?" "I find it fascinating, Caro. It is a little disconcerting to feel someone else's thoughts and feelings in such a way that they feel like you're own but I think I'm getting used to it. And as for the bracelet closing the way it has--it's possible that it's designed that way," Anna said with a shrug. "The metal is an alloy we haven't seen before and though scans didn't show any odd properties, it's clear that it's reacted in a way that is unusual, strange even." She smiled suddenly, saying, "That's why I think it's more than my subconscious at work here. I think this is an artifact; Quantum dating puts it at more than 1200 years old. I am currently running a recognition search program using details of the metalwork. I'm also going to run an experiment later this evening." "What kind of experiment?" Caroline could tell that Anna's spirit of scientific inquiry was the prime mover in the situation right now, and that she seemed to have a logical outlook in spite of the exhaustion that Deb had cited as a reason for keeping an eye on her; that was reassuring, though she would not go so far as to say that what Anna was saying about the bracelet was reassuring. Feeling someone else's thoughts... No, that was still worth being concerned about; just not in the way Caroline had anticipated. "I'm meeting with Jon Shamor later on tonight to confirm something. He's an expert with most kinds of weaponry and has a collection of blades. I've asked him to let me handle one his swords." Anna sat back, folding her arms across her chest. "Caro, I've trained with knives and am rated as expert but I've never handled a sword--there's never been any reason to, but I am betting that it's going to feel mighty comfortable in my hand. This hand," she said, holding up her right arm, displaying the wrist with the bracelet on it. Once again Caroline was silent. "Well, don't chop your arm off," she finally said slowly. Anna recalled part of the dream, seeing again the traitor Edalt's arm severed by her strike, then falling to the ground with his sword still gripped in his hand, his body following closely behind. "It's not my arm I'm worried about," she answered. "Or anyone else's either," Caroline amended, not sure whether to smile or not. "Anna, if you don't think it was just a dream, what do you think it was?" "I'm not sure yet. I'm considering several possibilities at the moment. As I said, the metal is an alloy that we haven't seen before and though the initial scans didn't show anything unusual I think further tests are a good idea. The stones are also an unknown quantity and again, scanned as inert but I think it's possible that what I'm experiencing could be an electromagnetic reaction to either element or a combination of them both. My dream indicated that at the very least an empathic bond was possible between members of this species and I don't feel I can yet rule out that I am somehow able to access stored memories." Anna shifted restlessly. "The bottom line is I don't know what exactly is causing the different things I've been experiencing but I do think that the bracelet is the key to it and I'm sure I won't get any answers if I just have it cut off." Or take medication that will keep me from dreaming. Caroline pondered this for a moment, examining the restless expression in Anna's eyes carefully. She could, frankly, see why both Deb and Will had become concerned at Anna's attitude towards the bracelet, but whatever the effects of the piece of jewelry were, Anna's behavior seemed at the moment primarily guided by scientific curiosity and Caroline was willing to take that at face value, knowing her friend's ability to be energized by new ideas. She trusted Anna to be aware of what she was getting into as a scientist, but she also did not mean to let the subject drop just yet. "You might not -- but if it is toying with your mental chemistry it's something to keep an eye on," she said mildly. "I know you don't want anyone curtailing your efforts but I hope you don't mind if I follow up on this with you." "Debbie's tests do indicate that it's affecting my ability to achieve REM state while sleeping and I am feeling less than rested, I admit, which in turn is making me a little short tempered," Anna replied. "But I am certainly nowhere near the state where it's affecting my judgment, and I have no intention of allowing it to reach that point. I will be following up with Debbie tomorrow and I certainly don't have any problem letting you know what she says or keeping you up to date on where my research has led." Anna considered the other woman for a moment, seeing not her friend, but the ship's Counselor and recalled that Debbie had called Caroline down to her office while they'd both been on the bridge. "Just to clarify, Caro--are you following up as my friend or as the Counselor? Am I going to end up as a file entry?" "The two aren't mutually exclusive," Caroline said, feeling somewhat caught out but smiling nevertheless. "Just about every friend I've ever had has been a counselor, by nature if not by profession." She paused, then shrugged slowly. "You're fascinated by this thing's effects but the idea of its being recorded by me concerns you. Why?" "I guess I just want to know that when I sit down to dinner with a friend, the things we talk about stay at the table." Anna managed a lopsided smile, not wanting to offend Caroline. "I already have the CMO looking out for my health and the acting CAG looking at me like I'm crazy. When I record something, Caro, it's in the course of scientific analysis. When you record something, it's a possible career changer." "Fair enough," Caroline answered with a slow nod. "Well, let me state for the record, then, that I am not secretly making any notes in my little black book; I just have never encountered anything like what you're describing in either the neurochemical or emotional sense, and I'd like to know how it progresses -- for your benefit, not for the sake of paperwork." She leaned back in her seat, picking up her glass, and smiled reassuringly. "I know you're not crazy or reckless, Anna -- but we encounter a lot of strange things out here." "I appreciate the positive affirmation," Anna replied, amused as well as relieved. "And you're right, we do encounter strange things and this definitely qualifies and I'm sorry if I overreacted," she apologized, looking sheepish. "I mentioned short tempered, didn't I? It's an O'Halloran failing at the best of times and especially noticeable when we get hungry. I think it's time to get that waiter back and order some dinner."
  14. "Your electrolytes are a little off and your insulin levels are down." Anna smiled tentatively at Debbie, offering, "Well, that doesn't sound too bad...?" It definitely sounded like something she could tell Will to make him less uneasy. Without realizing it she frowned, remembering again how desolate she'd felt as Will walked away from her when she told him that she would be embarrassed for him to be present during an exam. First time she'd ever said no to him about anything and his response had been to turn away from her. "And your blood glucose levels are elevated," added Debbie with a slight frown. The biobed's scanners were set to run additional tests should anything abnormal show up during the preliminary scans. The CMO took a step back to await the new data. She kept glancing at the mysterious bracelet now stuck on Anna's arm. It was....intriguing. She couldn't say it was beautiful....not even pretty....but it was....intriguing. And it appeared it was having a somewhat negative effect on it's new owner. "It would seem your body is beginning to object to your lack of prolonged sleep," offered Deb in a calm voice. "Have you been suffering from headaches or nausea....or maybe blurred vision?" "I've had a low-level headache for most of the day," Anna answered, thinking that lack of sleep probably was responsible for that. "No nausea, although now that you mention it, I haven't had much appetite, either. I'll get something to eat after we're done here, but to answer your last question--my vision is fine. Well, at least it's not blurred," she amended. "A couple of times now, I've experienced a split second of disorientation where I feel like I'm looking at something different from what I should be seeing. It's not blurry though--I can't really explain it." Anna looked back at Deb. "I'm sure it is because I haven't gotten enough sleep," she offered hopefully. "I'm sure it is," replied Deb casually. "Right now, it isn't much of a problem. But if this pattern continues, you could develop more serious symptoms." She smiled at her patient and added. "I can start you on a medication that usually produces dreamless sleep. But you should check back with me in two or three days. If this drug doesn't work immediately then it probably won't. We'll need to put you on something else." She held out a hand to help Anna sit up. "In the meantime, let's try to figure out how to open this bracelet. What's it made of anyway?" "Thank you," Anna said, taking the other woman's hand as Debbie helped her up. "It's an unknown alloy," she answered absently with a slight frown. She wasn't sure she wanted dreamless sleep. The dreams were clues, she was sure of it. "There's no record of it in the database, Debbie, and the stones are also an unknown mineral, though scans didn't reveal any unusual properties." Anna held her arm out towards Debbie. "It's got no clasp--it's a cuff that slid on very easily when Will and I were in the shop but has since tightened but it's not uncomfortable. I've felt it grow warmer on occasion but not in any way that seems harmful. I really don't want to have to cut it off. It would destroy the granulation work and I have to be honest--I really want to try duplicating it. I've never before seen this technique before executed so beautifully." Debbie lightly traced the intricate metalwork with her right index finger. Did Anna say she felt the bracelet grow warmer from time to time? "What happens when the bracelet warms up?" she asked. "Is that when you have those dreams?" "No, I'm aware of it during the dreams because I'm wearing it...or that is, it's someone else wearing it but I feel like them." Anna realized that sounded confusing, but she shrugged, thinking what dreams don't sound confusing when you try to explain them? "I've felt the metal grow warmer at a few different times...sort of like it's giving me a warning. I'm not really sure how to explain it. I'm sorry, I can't be any clearer, Deb. It's more like I have an uneasy feeling about something and then the bracelet grows warmer at the same time." There was something about this situation that bothered Deb. She had no proof the bracelet was responsible for Anna's nightmares. But she didn't believe in coincidences either. Anna's problems began with the bracelet. Chances were they wouldn't end until she freed herself from it. The pharmacist approached and handed Deb a small bottle containing two tablets. She in turn passed them on to Anna. "I'm only giving you enough of these for two nights. Take one just before you go to bed. Let me know how they work." The CMO made a notation on her padd and then continued. "And find a way to remove that bracelet. I think we both know it may have a bearing on your problem." Anna took the bottle Deb handed her with a murmured, "Thanks." Everything inside of her rebelled at the idea of taking the medication. Her gut feeling was that the dreams held the clue to what was happening to her and she didn't want them to stop. Will had accused her of not being objective but in truth, she was intent on investigating any avenue of research that suggested itself and the dreams were one definite way to do that. "I would prefer to not have to cut the bracelet off, Debbie. The workmanship is exquisite," Anna explained. "I'd really like to wait a few days and see if it loosens on its own." The CMO quietly watched Anna as she admired the strange bracelet. She had "that" look in her eye and Deb knew exactly what that meant. The scientist in Ms. O'Halloran was very much in control. Her own health was secondary and that concerned Deb. "I'll keep the bracelet out of the file on one condition," said Deb. "You take one of the pills tonight and check back with me first thing in the morning. If the drugs work, fine. But if you're still plagued with nightmares that prevent you from sleeping properly, we'll have to explore....alternatives." Anna brightened, unmindful that the surge of relief she felt at not being ordered to remove the bracelet was way out of proportion to what it should have been. "Sounds like a plan," she agreed with an easy smile as she slid off the biobed, already considering how she might best circumvent taking the prescribed medication and the subsequent exam. Maybe she could take a half dose...
  15. Anna was quiet as they left the antique shop on the starbase. The proprietor hadn't been very helpful and in fact, had seemed a little leery that they were asking questions at all. "We shouldn't have gone back wearing our uniforms," Anna finally said. "I could tell it made him nervous. I think he thought we were doing a security investigation." "In a way, we are Anna." From his tone and the fact that she continues to blow up at him whenever he brings up the bracelet was wearing thin on him, she could tell he was getting upset. Hearing something in his tone, Anna gave him a sideways glance, and narrowed her eyes at him. "It's a scientific investigation," she clarified, her own voice picking up an edge. "Nothing bad has happened, Will. It's more a curiosity than anything else. I think you're over reacting." "If you say so, Anna. I'm just along for the ride. It's just a little difficult to conduct a scientific investigation when the scientist isn't acting very objective." He steps slightly away from her to get a little distance from the explosion that he knew was coming. "In what way have I not been objective?" Anna put her hand on his arm and gave his sleeve a tug, waiting until he stopped to remove it and step in front of him. "I went immediately to the lab this morning with you and you watched while Miles and I conducted some tests. It was my idea to go back to the shop--all you wanted to do was turn me in to Ridire!" Will sighed, "Anna, when you conduct a scientific investigation you need to collect all the relevant data possible, yes?" "Of course," she said crisply. "I fail to see how informing the XO at this point in time has any relevance." "I'll address that in a minute. But if we want all the relevent data, why not have a scan done from Medical? Give me a rational scientific reason please." "Medical?" Anna looked at him blankly for a second and then remembered that he'd mentioned that before they'd visited the shop. "I'm not averse to having a physical exam," she told him. "I don't know what you expect it to find. All I had was a bad dream--granted, it was a very vivid dream..." She recalled with sudden clarity the agony the death of Tjarn had caused the bracelet wearer and how somehow, in the strange period between sleeping and being fully awake, she had been so sure that Will had been struck down. "It was just a nightmare," she whispered. "A terrible nightmare." Will wanted to hold her when she was like this but he had to maintain his composure. "I talked about taking this to Ridire because I'm worried about you. I just need to know you're alright. If something were to happen to you..." He looked sad when he spoke to her. "I'm sorry, Anna." Hating to see him looking so downcast because of her, Anna smiled, trying for a teasing tone, "Will, it's a bracelet. Just a piece of old jewelry. It's unusual in its design but it's not going to hurt me." She reached for his hand. "I'll stop in at Medical first chance I get after they're back from leave. I'll talk to Debbie. You don't need to be worried," she assured him. "You can understand why I don't want you to overreact and go to the XO, can't you? That would be embarrassing for me." He looked at her and smiled, "I understand. I don't ever want to embarrass you. Please don't ever think that I'm your enemy." "Enemy?" She looked at him in astonishment. "How could I ever think that?" The bracelet suddenly felt very warm against her skin and she unconsciously rubbed it. "You would never betray me, I know that. I could never think you a traitor," she stated firmly, slipping her hand into his. "Never." He saw her rubbing the bracelet, "You alright?" "I'm fine, Will," Anna said lightly. "We should think about heading back to the ship." Will nodded, "Alright. Can I ask one favor?" Suddenly wary, Anna paused, and then looked sideways at him, her smile feeling a little forced. "Of course. Anything." "May I please be present when you are scanned at Sickbay? I promise not embarass you." "You don't trust me," Anna replied, the hurt she was feeling obvious in her voice. "I'll feel like a fool in front of Debbie, Will. Even if we were a married couple it would seem strange." Will dropped her hand and sighed sadly, "No Anna. It's you that doesn't trust me." He matched her hurt tone. "Let me know how the scan goes." He walked away from her without another word. Anna watched him go, feeling lonely and hurt and also...relieved. Things were going to be busy with leave coming to an end and new orders coming in. She wouldn't really have time for a physical right away. It could wait. Will had just made it very clear that he wasn't going to ask her about it.