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Erich Jaenke

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Everything posted by Erich Jaenke

  1. Something I've been wondering. I take it you add line breaks to squish the briefs? Guess it makes sense given how far across the screen it would be otherwise.
  2. K'Tel presents: Nijil's Greatest Hits... (with Jylliene, Annisha, and Nijil) Nijil laid in the bio bed covered in blanket and sensors all over his head and body. Everyone stared in a moment of odd silence, then Nijil laughed. "Well, here I am again. The doctors told me that if I have one more visit I get a free sandwich at Blubby's." He shot Annisha a smile. Her eyes blinked at the restaurant's mention. “Should just have your name on a bed here. Reserve one for you,” Jylliene suggested with a grin. With a more serious demeanor, she took Nijil’s hand and continued, “You had us worried about you. Let’s try to do that less often?” Jylliene's hand was warm to the touch and sent a pleasant shiver up his arm. "This was purely an accident. It went to check on me thinking I'd suffered a real injury during the drill." He started. "If this was not the entire station participating in this I'd have used the safe word to grind it to a halt. I figured I could garner more information from it if I played the role and explained we were merely practicing. I twisted to prop myself up against the wall when my sleeve brushed against it. I did not even feel the initial contact, but by the elements I felt the aftermath." Nijil turned to his daughter, making sure she was looking at him. "I have a new appreciation for what you likely went through as a slave to those people." Annisha pursed her lips and looked at him directly, her big eyes reflecting the lights above. "The pain was so intense I lost the sense of time passing." He reached out and took Annisha's hand. "I couldn't tell where the pain was coming from or where it was going to next. I don't think I stayed conscious very long from what the holo-recording showed." A tear dripped from his eye. "Annisha, I'm so so sorry I did not catch you before those people took you. I hope you can forgive me." Annisha for her part was pretty good at hiding her feelings when she needed, her own parents off for months on end. She diverted her eyes, trying to hide her own reaction. "Eneh, you had no way to know. I didn't know either. I got away and somehow the elements allowed you to be there in space when my stolen ship went by. I had no idea how that crazy thing worked if it was not already running. They were after me and I only had minutes left. You saved me." She buried her head into the back of her hand. Jylliene gave them space, stepping back slightly. She wondered what would have happened to Annisha had Nijil’s experience come to the worst possible outcome for him. More than ever, she wanted the stability and formality that their upcoming wedding would bring to their family. The scene had turned a bit emotional for all of them. Nijil smiled and propped Annisha's chin up. "I hear you have been accessing the subspace network making calls across the sector." "What? Who told you?" She frowned. "I bet it was Alexis, that blubbermouth." Her brow rose in mock revenge. She pulled back and stood next to Jylliene. "Well, since you know, I've been calling around for your bonding. I sneaked a peek and saw your choice for music." "What's wrong with the music?" Nijil thought he knew the right people. "Well, a group named after a bug is not going to cut it. Tragedy! A Bee Gees tribute band made up of an Andorian, Caitian, and Bollian. Boy did they name that band right. Let me see, the famous Tellarite Elvis impersonator. I looked up the old old photos of this Elvis person and that guy is closer to a Horta than a human." "Hey," he interrupted. "Wait, there's more. Raptors, the Romulan Eagles tribute band. I mean they are okay, but does every song have to be about the homeworld, like they wrote it?" Nijil sat up a bit. "And I suppose you have someone." "I'm glad you asked. The Ferengi at the shops, along with being a crook, can also book musical acts and he suggested the group Pure Logic." He wrinkled his forehead so much it looked painful. "Pure Logic?" "Yeah, six Vulcans who claim they can play any song after hearing it only once, in any style they choose. They even have holographic costume changes. They can play the new hotness or that old stuff you sing to in the sonic shower." "Hey, I sound pretty good." "Keep thinking that. Anyway, they are going to be here in a few days on a transport. I used your signature and expressed your passionate interest, though I don't know how much they value that." “Perhaps we should let you have your rest,” Jylliene suggested, stifling chuckles at the discussion between the two. “Annisha, why don’t you go on ahead, and stop by Blubby’s on your way. I’ll be along shortly.” Before Annisha left sickbay she tapped her necklace to call her friend Alexis, proclaiming that a tall Blubby burger was back on for dinner. The door opened with a hiss and closed with one, leaving Jylliene and Nijil alone. "Should have let her plan the whole thing, but I think the park would have been full of animals." Nijil smiled. "We are having it on the station, in the park, right?" “Yes, e’lev,” she agreed, taking his hand again. “The park will be perfect. My parents are looking forward to seeing the station.” "Good, because mine are bringing an entire feast on that cargo vessel of theirs. They said the wine is strong this first season." “Perfect,” Jylliene grinned.
  3. Telephone After months of communicating with her mind to Erich, Keb found the concept easier to adjust to than most non-telepaths. She still shut her eyes when she was trying hard to get a message across, no matter how often Erich told her it made no difference, but she had figured out by feel what worked when she needed to tell him something. When their guest had spoken into her mind, it was almost instinct to try to communicate back. Of course, Erich, so intricately linked with Keb, heard everything that she was trying to tell the creature. To him, whatever was in the cargo bay was like their technological attempts to get a reading on it--it was a dark mental space. Normally he could not block out others thoughts; here, he could get nothing but Keb’s half of the conversation. He once was in a chamber that absorbed all sound. After a few minutes he had needed to get out. Erich was beginning to feel that way again. It was a little distracting as he continued to work to open the doors. Just as the doors opened, he felt the overwhelming sensation of her hand on his arm. They both looked into the dark cargo bay. "Well, that is something you don't see every mission," Erich said, looking into a normal starship bay with very bizarre lighting. It was more of an absence of lighting, bending into different colors before fading to darkness. Lights at the back of the cargo bay, which he knew were there, appeared shut off. The closer the fixture was to the rift, for lack of a better term, the dimmer the light. Even light from behind Erich and Keb bent towards this rift. "I don't think I could have beamed in there." “I’m glad you didn’t try,” Keb said, taking a half-step forward toward the creature. Something about sharing her mind with it had made her feel already very close to whoever their visitor was. Something was bugging Erich about this upside-down situation, perhaps because he could feel how Keb was drawn to her new “friend,” who was a complete blank to him. "Let me get this straight. I can't hear this creature, but you and others can? Kansas seemed quite confused at the time," Erich pointed toward the bay, "it spoke." Keb nodded. “It’s like...it’s just like when you’re in my mind. Only--it feels a little less...warm, and he sounds like my brother. It’s weird.” She didn’t really have adequate words to describe what it felt like, but Erich was able to get a sense of what she meant in her tangled thoughts, which were a blend of awe at her own ability and compassion for the entity in the cargo bay. "An unexpected voice in your head other than your own is always disconcerting," Erich agreed. "And this is coming from a telepath with ability issues." He tried to swallow down a bit of jealousy at the idea of sharing Keb’s vibrant mind with a stranger. He flipped his tricorder open and made adjustments to its engineering settings. "Hmm." “We should...say hi, I guess. I think he’s a little afraid.” Keb let go of Erich, stepping toward the cargo bay as if magnetically pulled, and without regard to her own safety. Erich realized what she was doing and grabbed her hand. "Hey, just because you can speak to this creature does not mean you should go out on a date. We don't know the danger." His point was valid, but laden with a bit of telepathy envy. Tugged back, Keb looked around as if startled out of a daze. Kansas was just behind them both, hand on her phaser just in case. Not that phased energy is the answer to all threats. In the interests of relations with new species and keeping the ship together, Erich hoped Keb was up to bridging this unique first contact.
  4. With the Manticore safely docked at the soon-to-be-destroyed DS4, Keb found her off-duty time difficult to deal with; she was in her quarters, trying to figure out what shade of balloons was appropriate for a “Sorry We Blew Up Your Station” party. That’s where Erich found her, with an important question on his mind: Had she really offered to move in with him? Ding. "Keb? You in there?" Finally, she heard the door, and looked up from her plans. “Enter,” she said quickly, giving Erich a distracted and half-hearted smile as the door opened. “Did you need me for something?” He entered having just gone from a contained elation to a bit more concerned. "I'm here to room with you during the evacuation. A group of six will be taking my quarters." He smiled through his concern for her doubts. He placed the pack next to the bed. His few clothes were light for this short duration, but the pack contained some of his remote engineering tools as well. He sat opposite her. “Oh...I thought we would take your quarters...I…” She suddenly blushed brightly. “I just realized I forgot to ask you if it was okay before I volunteered. Is...is it?” "Would I have brought my overnight pack if not? In many ways I'm with you a little more than anyone could hope to be. Who knows, perhaps we will grow to despise each other as we share the same space for a while. I've heard it happens to people. I think I've felt it among the crew myself when I pass down the halls." He frowned a bit. "Depressing really. It's not like we are sharing the same bed." His face lit up. "Oh wait, are we?" He both hoped so and expected not. Keb took his hand, her face still redder than the captain’s shirt. "Oh no no I'm not pushing you to this. I imagine we will be so busy with this operation that there will be little time to argue about who's sleeping where and when." He looked directly in her eyes. "I'd certainly not try anything, even if it's down to the same blanket. I mean hey, I'll take the floor if it makes you uncomfortable." It...it doesn’t make me uncomfortable at all, just...a little nervous to say it out loud, Keb replied in her mind.I love you, and I want to be with you. I was...I was thinking if things went well...we could keep the arrangements afterward. She turned her face away in embarrassment at having been so forward, but the sentiments were genuine. "Wh-what? Really? I did not think that was something you wished to do. I can understand wanting to have a place of your own and its silence." He thought for a moment. “You’re with me wherever I am. You’re part of me now. And I...I need you to find me sometimes. Like now...I think I was obsessing again. Balloons are a stupid idea, aren’t they?” He rubbed her hands in his. "Look, I know you get obsessive about certain things and that's perfectly fine. I don't mind and have those tendencies myself when it comes to the ship. If it does not work out we can separate out, but do you think this place is big enough, or do you like mine better?" He looked about the room, but it seemed the same size as his. “If McFly assigned you here already, here is fine. We’re ready for this. I...I feel like things will be fine, Erich…” She kissed him gently. “At least for us, if not for...everyone on the station.” He tensed as the warmth of her kiss left him. "This has been stressful." Erich began to cry, The stress he had not told her about just ebbed forth. "Keb..." Those collars on himself, Tess, and Kansas over at the alien vessel had shocked him hard. "I held their fear back as long as I could and took it as my own. We were seconds away from having our heads separated from our bodies." Keb took a deep, ragged breath as he accidentally projected to her the memory of the fear and pain he’d been holding in, and she could feel the collar tightening around her own neck, her heart beat speeding up. She clenched his hand inside her own as the terror’s echo washed over her. “Erich--you never told me it was like that--” She hugged him close, trying to make the shadows leave both of them. "Ahhh!" Erich yelled. He winced as he calmed his own thoughts. "My apologies." He held onto her tightly. "I did not tell anyone as I thought I could handle it. Perhaps I was wrong." No...you can tell me these things. I want to know. I want your trust, too, she thought to him, eyes shut tightly. Then we can be a team. Be one.
  5. Do you want to know a secret? Erich had summoned her to another picnic dinner in the hidden bowels of the ship. Keb found his penchant for finding secret places amusing and adorable, and so she followed his clues to the site, where he waited with the food between two large conduit pillars. Keb gave him a kiss before sitting next to him. “You like your surprises, don’t you? ...and your secrets, too.” Her face would have betrayed her slight frustration at the latter phrase, even if Erich could not feel every shift in the surface of her ever-changing ocean of moods. “Seriously. What was with the breach of protocol? McFly couldn’t just tell me the coordinates like a normal per--I mean, like...usual?” Erich looked like he was getting a migraine, and he may still. He knew very well the Manticore operated under black operation protocols, but he could not break Keb's trust again. "You need to promise me you will keep this to yourself." He tapped a key on his PADD as he gazed into her eyes for that look. A gentle hiss filled the air. Any clinks or clanks echoing along the long access-ways could not be heard. "There, so we can really be private," he snickered with a sly wink. "Telling secrets gives me a headache." He placed his hand lightly over hers. "One of the human associates of the Belosians slipped McFly a type of isolinear crystal. On it in very small script was the words 'tric me'. so I did. All I really did was place it on the tricorder and it came to life. Turned out it was a subspace dimensional folding transmitter. It pierces through the lower subspace bands with relatively low pow- but that's not important." He could see it in her eyes. "It was the Admiral, don't know what connections he has, but he sent us a warning about the Belosians. We were urged to gather additional intelligence in a rather off the books manner. McFly went to Captain Taggart and I bypassed the comms. And that is all I know." The Betazoid brain contained in Erich's noggin sent out a tangible amount of serotonin from not holding back from Keb. This of course was transmitted to her brain with much the same effect. It took her by surprise. She could feel her body relaxing, even as understanding dawned. “Wait...the Admiral? A9? But he’s...we’re over a month from the Sol system...how--?” There was a mix of excitement and confusion that the serotonin was dulling slightly. “And what’s with the cone of silence? I get coordinates in my head but this you tell me out loud? And...if this is classified...” She shook her head and kissed him, all her confused emotions piling into one action. Whatever agreement he had broken by telling her--his trust in her, and knowing that A9 was all right, pleased her more than she dared admit. The emotions expressed in that particular kiss blew his mind. Such an acute single point feeling was somewhat rare. Most people had all manners of emotions running at one one and Keb was no exception. Sadly if there was to be any fallout from his decision he wouldn't know it for some time, if it all.
  6. Tense Link Keb picked up a heavy sword, which glittered in the golden light that filtered through the leaves overhead, and gave it a test swing to get the weight and balance. Then she took a step toward the pell’s post, gave a scream of frustration, and began hacking at the wooden post so hard that chips flew around her. Robin Hood, standing against a tree nearby, applauded, but Keb ignored the hologram and kept swinging until her arms felt like they were going to fall off. She finally dropped the sword and leaned against the splintered post, panting. “I’m still too angry,” she confessed to Robin as he approached. “We still need to work on your form, milady, but your enthusiasm is admirable,” the thief said, clapping his hand upon her shoulder. It hurt her burning biceps, and she pulled away from him. Erich, deep in the bowels of the ship, winced as he felt the pain, too. --- "What is she doing?" Erich asked himself as he lay on the floor with an exposed panel centimeters above. When he was given the Chief position his worry was he'd only man the boards, sending others to repair. This mission travel time gave him the opportunity to get back to his roots and keep him busy. Often repairs took him to isolated sections, but as a special Betazoid never far from her.. No matter where he hid on the Manticore she was always there. Not merely a mental whisper, but spikes of raw emotions shaping his own. Their bond had formed such that he'd not be able to easily sever it. Now, unable to concentrate, he needed a break from the tedium. An infusion of Keb's emotional energy. He felt vaguely vampiric. --- Erich exited the lift and walked down to the holodeck door. He tapped the keys to gain entry. In the clearing just beyond the open door, he saw Keb whacking away at the post again with her sword, every swing making her sore muscles burn more. She was attempting to kill her frustrations. The blue-green velvet of her gown swirled with every blow in an interesting dance around her body. She’d been keeping her distance from him all week; it was like seeing a vision of her in a dream. The door chimed as it closed. Surely she knew he was there, but, if so, there were no signs of her stopping her butchering of an innocent post. "Keb?" He said softly at first. Nothing. "Keb??" he said with a bit more force. Keb heard him the second time, inside her head as well as over the sword blows. She dropped the sword and turned, panting, to see Erich. The usual glow she had when she met his eyes wasn’t there this time. “Something wrong?” she asked, waving Robin Hood away and stepping closer to Erich. "Uh, well no. I could feel your...emotion across the ship and needed to take a break anyhow. Hmm, how have you been?" He had never been this unsure of himself around her; perhaps the doctor had prescribed some mental blocker he did not know about. She shrugged. “You know exactly how I’ve been. You know why I’ve been avoiding you--I’m overwhelming you and I can’t keep doing that. And you know I don’t like that we left the admirals behind or that we’re on this stupid mission a million light years away or Captain Pickett one bit. You know I’m angry about all of it. You know everything the moment I do. What more is there to say?” "Keb, I can’t feel quite everything, but I've felt enough to be concerned beyond your affect on me." He had to choose his words carefully. He sat with his knees to his chest just like that time when they shared the rainy dream. No tears this time, no river between them, at least not like before. "For years I took a gray market drug that cut off my ability so I could be like the majority of humanoids across the galaxy. It was so simple to do: take, don't feel. Cut yourself off from other's concerns. I was complacent; however, all good things must come to an end, as did my supply. Than I had to face the reality that I could not hide any longer. I was different, not just to others but to other Betazoids. Before medication they were afraid too, their mental blocks ineffective." He sighed. "But now I can't imagine turning myself off to the emotions of others. Heck, even being on his holodeck is unnerving, like a grayscale painting in a universe of color. Unless I turn myself into a emotionless blob, this ability is something I will have to manage over time. More importantly, you need to be able to block me and live within your own thoughts. I've really missed you, but I understand." Keb sighed and sat beside him, taking his hand. She felt guilty about the pleasure and peace his touch gave her. “I’ve missed you, too, but I can’t help feeling like I’m hurting you. I know I don’t have a lot of control over my emotions--not when someone is feeling everything inside of me. And you shouldn’t have to deal with that when you’re still trying to get your own abilities under control. It...it has to be overwhelming.” Erich rocked back and forth. "Losing you would be traumatic. But if you still want distance for your own sake and not mine, I fully understand that." He squeezed her hand, not quite willing to let go. “I just need to figure out how to control my emotions, so you don’t wind up being a lightning rod for every surge,” Keb said, leaning her head against his shoulder. You aren’t going to lose me, she thought to him, closing her eyes. But the edge of fear, that she might lose him because of her own flaws, was hovering like a cloud in her mind, all of it palpable to him. Erich changed the subject to distract her. "So you don't like our new captain?" “Understatement of the millennium,” Keb muttered, kicking her skirts out away from the log they were seated on. “He’s horrible and doesn’t care about any of us.” "Oh, he cares, and my read of him indicates this is not his choice either." Erich rubbed the top of her embraced hand with his thumb. "We may not want him over Sovak or A9, but we've got each other for the duration. Perhaps a nicely prepared meal would help?” “You willing to risk that I might get angrier?” Keb asked, though there was a lighter, teasing tone to her question this time. Just being close to Erich had made the world brighter, easier to deal with. He looked at her. "I'd be disappointed if you did not. Keb, you wear your emotions closer to the vest, and by extension will speak up when you feel wronged. That includes anger. Love, joy sadness, loneliness, pride...rage. It's all there, in everyone of us. I just hope you don't try to hide it like I did with drugs, cutting yourself off from the world." He smiled, casting his gaze to something in the distance. "After all, it was your emotions that drew me to you in the first place, in fact, drew me here now." She pulled her hand free of his, withdrawing into herself as she made her confession. “I...I did ask Tess if she would...give me something to stop my emotions. She wouldn’t.” "Keb, it's me specifically that's the issue. I think she made the right call." Erich felt the texture of the replicated grass between his emptied hands. "Would you be open to, well, counseling, for us? I know I may be putting the shuttle before the starship, but I think we could both use some form of assistance. Perhaps," he put up his hands, "some kind of Tess and T'Prise collaboration." He got up on his feet, brushing the dirt from his uniform. Keb rose too, her appearance still as though she’d walked out of a storybook. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to be with you, Erich. I just don’t want to hurt you.” "You can't here: the safeties are on...right?"
  7. Erich kept his head down, cloaked within his arms, as all of the worry, anger, and emotion poured out. He recalled stories of how emotional Betazoids could get just as stoic Vulcans can be. His mind tried to push his emotions out with the tears. His embarrassment was real, but drowned out as he sobbed uncontrollably. Unsure what to do, Keb rubbed Erich’s shoulders, biting her lip and willing everything to be okay. Maybe I shouldn’t have said I was mad at him for not trusting me, she couldn’t help thinking, even if it was true, even if it was coming between us. She tried to control her own emotions and thoughts, but she didn’t yet have the training she’d need to keep from affecting him with every turn of her train of thought. CLAP! With no warning it started...to rain? No...storm. The room had darkened and the drops pelted them with no mercy. Lightning, followed by a familiar rolling thunder echoed in the distance. Erich sat on the ground with his arms around his knees, crying here too. He rocked back and forth as the rain fell like tears. Keb was so focused on him and on her own thoughts that at first she didn’t even notice how he’d drawn her into his dream world. But suddenly she looked down and her hands were no longer on his shoulders; she was standing, apart from him, as the rain formed into a river between them. “Erich?” she called over the roar of the water. “What--what are you doing?” He waved his arm the the river flowed stronger. "I'm damaged goods Keb. I can't handle all of this. I failed to trust you! I failed. I failed." He voice trailed off as a wave of downpour passed over each of them. "How can you trust me...how can I trust myself? You were right..." He bowed his head into his knees. Keb knelt down at the river’s edge and tested it; it was deep and flowing fast, but she thought she could swim across if she had to. They were in Erich’s thoughts somehow, though, so he surely had control. “Why are you pushing me away? I’m as broken as you are.” "I'm-" he said as his voice shook. "Not. You're not broken, Keb. There’s something you don’t know. Another woman. I lost focus." He peered over his arm at her as he lifted his head. "I'm sorry... I'm really sorry. I don't even know who she was, just some crew member. She-" He broke off, so many recent emotions were raining down on him. And now her as well. Even an inkling of what he was thinking could enter her mind as a full blown experience. A vision of the woman loomed up beside him, standing there opposite Keb across the river. Keb stared at her bright red hair and adorable features, though the woman stood motionless. Keb’s own confusion seemed to stir the waters of the river like a whirlpool. “What are you talking about?” she asked, her shaking voice, or thoughts, crystal clear even over the sounds of the rain and the wild river. "I let my mind wander and accidentally entered this person's consciousness, without their knowledge." Erich looked more worried now that he opened this up, but in reality could not stop his thoughts. Not with this level of connection between them. "Crew said I was acting strangely... I think she did not know what was going on. Believe me when I say it was accidental and she means nothing. I'm so sorry." The water, while still coming down, had slowed down to a steady rainfall. Erich slowly stood up. His body spoke volumes of guilt. He'd tried to hide this from her, but here he could not. Keb stood, too, and the image of the woman started to fade. Her own body was soaked, and somehow Erich’s imagination had clothed her in a thin dress that went translucent with the water. She remained unembarrassed, though, trying to sort through her own feelings of jealousy and betrayal--and yet the way he looked at her, his normally loving, dark eyes plagued with the fear that she’d not forgive him, pulled at Keb’s heart. She needed his trust--but he also needed hers. “You’re still having trouble controlling your abilities,” she said, not a question but a statement. She stepped toward him, right into the river, which had quieted only a little. “Just like I’m still struggling with my anxieties. We’re both broken. We promised to help each other.” She took another step. The water went to her knees, but her eyes were focused on his. “I need your trust, Erich, but I need you, too. I’m not going to let you just push me away.” Erich entered the water a moment later, reaching out to her. The river flowed past them both. He pressed forward against the current to get even closer. She moved toward him, steadily, not allowing the current to sway her. She seized his hand the moment she could, gripping tightly. Something shifted as he accepted her hand; the river, the rain, and everything vanished, and Keb opened her eyes to find themselves both on her bed. "Keb," he said confused as to how they got there. "Help me, please." Keb bit her lip, still a bit startled by the shift from his mind to the real world. “I promised I would, didn’t I? And when have I ever not kept a promise?”
  8. And there was laughing... Keb and Erich, a log in a dream in a minute... The bridge lost all hint of color before everything froze in place. No bridge sounds. No pulsing indicators. Space, out there beyond the viewscreen, froze. In the Einstein world of sub-light velocities the stars held their ground. "Ha... ha ha ha," went a familiar voice in a less than desirable situation. The laughter continued as if caught in an eternal reaction to a punch line. Then the laughing stopped. "Keb. It worked," Erich spoke calmly. "T'Prise and I shared minds. She wanted to know what I felt at the meeting." Keb’s thoughts were cold, a little hurt. “So you’ve been sharing with everyone but me? Letting me worry?” He smiled. "No, there were far too many minds to share with, this melding was not of my choice. Doctor Abbingdon hypoed me asleep, then moments later T'Prise entered my mind. It was...weird. I could my time like a recording. She has control I lack." “You’ve been keeping things from me since you took control of the ship.” The pained accusation hadn’t left her tone; her arms were crossed over her chest and her eyes flashed at him. “I know you didn’t have your medicine, but...you didn’t trust me, either.” More color left the frozen scene on the bridge. "Yes, the Admiral's mind was quite insistent on Harris, and my actions left me..." He stumbled on his words. "making choices with little forethought." He’d been thinking to Atragon, too, then. Hot, jealous tears blinded her to the frozen grey scenery. “You didn’t trust me when the Admiral asked me to confirm it was him. You haven’t trusted me enough to tell me anything since. And you know I’m me. This isn’t like with those faking petaQs. It isn’t like I can keep secrets from you.” "Oh you actually can keep things from me. Some people leave their emotions out the in open. I follow the trail to see where it leads me." The room view bent a little, the temperature dropped a little. Erich bent down beside her, now close in their shared vision. "Things are not always a matter of trust Keb. I had self-proclaimed duties that put us all at risk. Me, my fellow engineers...and you. Reading everyone throughout the ship when my medicine was running out put me...in a slightly altered state. Aggression, tension..." He shook his head as he panned to the floor. Keb looked at him, softening slightly but still clinging to the core of her anger. She’d known it would be hard for him to deal with the chaos, especially without his medication, and she’d seen his face when the admiral was trying to explain the situation with Harris. Still, all the excuses her mind had come up with to explain his silence toward her over the past few hours crumbled against the idea that he had been happily communicating with T’Prise, A9, and who knew who else all the while--while she’d been left worried and lost on the bridge, just trying to hold things together. “You could have done more to reassure me,” she reproached. “You could have let me know what you were planning. You could have let me help.” "Yes...I should have. I'm sorry." A light drizzle started on the bridge, coating stations and the deck alike. For the first time, Keb seemed to become aware of their surroundings. “What’s happening? What are you doing?” she asked, distracted from her cooling anger. "My feelings are leaking out into the dream. I don't have the same control as Vulcans. Forget about me, how are you doing?" Her concern had shifted to the rainy, gray bridge and she didn’t answer him. “Are they okay?” she asked, gesturing to the still figures around them. "Oh, them? We are in a shared dream. You are on the bridge so much the image here is clear, as main engineering would be. I think we've stopped time..or slowed it down. How much time do you think has passed?" He asked with a smile, thankful his faux pa was not the subject. “You can’t stop time,” Keb gasped in disbelief, rising up and taking his hand between both of hers. “They’re trying to decide the fates of all those people on the other ship. You can’t just...make it stop.” "Nah, nah, I mean just for us. We are talking much faster than everyone around, at the speed of thought. This is fascinating though, perhaps if the situation was not so perilous we could..." He thought for a moment how to best use the time they have. "What can we do? I'm not entirely sure how much trust we can put in Harris. What if they are waiting in ambush on the other ship?" “We have to trust A9,” Keb said, with a loyal but doubtful glance at his frozen figure. “And...if that doesn’t work, we take matters into our own hands to protect the ship and the crew.” She didn’t consciously say it, but the thought was there--Helm is locked to my voice command. Erich had no trouble picking it up, and she felt it in the blue air between them. No secrets. "You know the engines have been repaired for a while. We could have orders to leave any moment." Erich squeezed her hands, though they were not really her hands. "Your loyalty for the Admiral is being tested, and, for that matter, trust in me." He stopped, released her hands then embraced her tightly. "We'll get through this and I'll keep in contact." She melted into his embrace for a moment, then pulled back. “Promise not to shut me out?” she asked. "Yes, promise, but make sure to keep calm if you feel something distressing from me; don't show it." He looked into her eyes, but furrowed his forehead. "Ah," he called out in what appeared to be discomfort, "I don't think I can hold this for much longer." The Admiral started to slowly walk forward. “We should talk about the rest--later,” Keb suggested, her anger abated, but not gone. There was more to say--just not now. The dream faded away, and they were back on the bridge--in living color.
  9. Clinical Analysis Erich and Tess There is an advantage to having a deep understanding of the psyche. Often what is not said is more revealing than what is said. Sudden pauses, rewording, hesitation, weight shifts, excessive blinking, tiny beads of sweat, and fidgeting are “tells” that a person is not being entirely truthful, and Dr. Tesla Abbingdon was watching for tells. The crew of Manticore had already shed one false admiral, and a false Commander McFly lay in the morgue, so there was good reason for the command staff of Manticore to suspect lies or half-truths as the second Admiral Atragon-9 stood before them to explain why this had happened. “I ... I am sorry that there has been so much confusion and deception about this mission since we found the convoy,” he began. It was a typical introductory ploy of assurance, and from the looks on everyone’s faces, no one bought it. From there on, his story grew more and more bizarre. As he spoke, the admiral’s eyes repeatedly returned to Erich. Erich looked overwhelmed, confused, and almost terrified, and Tesla suspected that his distress was not from a lack of medication. Whatever was being transmitted between the two of them was terrifying: something that needed to be passed on to Commander Kenickie. Whatever it was, Tess would tread lightly. * * * * * Kansas was probably right about Erich needing medical attention and agreeing with her did not sit with him well.. Everyone could see how distracted he was, from his staff down in engineering to the department heads in Ten Forward. The ship was loud, the voices overlapping, often the same speech, different writers. Difficulty in picking out one voice among many increased as time passed since his last medication. As useful as it was in listening to the Admiral's inner voice intertwined as he spoke the voices had to stop. Sickbay, at least the entrance, looked as it did most times: quiet, calm. Just as Erich liked it. The doors hissed open as he strode into the sickbay lobby. "Doctor? Any doctor?" “Yes, Erich.” Dr. Abbingdon turned away from the coffee pot and put down her cup. “How can I help you?” Erich stood unmoved. Lost. Distractions surrounded him. He could hear Keb, quite clearly to his current detriment. He mouthed the words rolling in his head. They overwhelmed as he spoke out. "Erich," he started with an odd rendition of Keb's cadence. "It's was really him. Trust what you felt and me. I don't know of th-" He stopped mid-thought and turned to Doctor Abbingdon. "Doctor?" He asked as he blinked. “I believe I know what you came for,” she said, taking his arm to urge him toward a private alcove. “Take a deep breath, sit down, and try to relax. I’ll have the dose ready in a moment.” The privacy screen materialized, and within a few minutes, Dr. Abbingdon was ready to mitigate his telepathy. "Doctor," he said without looking at her, only staring ahead as he sat on the biobed. "All is not well. I ejected the warp core and I'm not sure it was the right course." He paused as he organized his thoughts. "So many confused voices, so many doubts of my actions...even my own staff." Erich looked directly at her, looking disheveled. "Then the meeting in Ten Forward." Dr. Abbingdon turned, and, seeing his expression, put the hypo aside. “What about the meeting in Ten Forward?” she asked with casual interest. "The Admiral gave a speech to the senior staff. I thought he was going to berate me for ejecting the core, but he had some long speech about.." he searched for the name. "Harris? Yes, Harris," he said nodding at himself. "Did you hear the broadcast?" “I was there, Erich. And it was... interesting.” Erich looked confused. "I could hardly understand him, but he was speaking so much, shifting his thoughts...wait." He paused. "You could only hear his words. I think he was trying to tell me something. Yes, but what? I wish I could convey what it was like. The fallout from being late on my medication is intense." He appeared to be shifting his head randomly. Memories were pulling him this way and that. “Is it so intense that you cannot sort out what he said and what you heard him say in your thoughts? Will the medication will help you settle down enough to recall what you want to?” "I should take some, I don't think it effects my memories." He smiled. "It's like..." “Very well,” she responded, retrieving the hypo as she returned the smile. “Wait a few moments before you try to sort things out.” The hypo gave a quiet hiss, cold against his neck. “How about a cup of tea? Coffee?” "Dreams! Coffee! Yes coffee." His excitement settled as fast as it arrived. "Black with two sugars please. Two Atragons. One real, the other a dream. That's what it's like Tess, er, Doctor." “Tess is fine,” she assured him with her calm, pleasant smile, “so long as I can still call you Erich. Black, with two sugars.” Dr. Abbingdon rounded the corner and within a few minutes the rich aroma of freshly brewed Kona coffee drifted in, followed by the doctor, handing him a cup. He welcomed the cup to his hands and brought it to his lips. "Mmm, so you didn't hear it? The words spoken and not were distinct. It was the first time I have heard his voice actually. One sounded like a practiced speech. The other was...was... Did his voice sound shaky to you?" “He sounded a little shaken up, if that’s what you mean. I noticed him staring at you, and your frown as he did so. Were you confused? Were his words disturbing?” She sipped as she settled into a chair. "Yes, I was. I don't know if his words were disturbing. More conflicted, yet disturbing as well, or 'disturbed?'" “How so?” "Who is Harris?" Erich shook his head. "I think I felt fear in the Admiral when he thought of him. Fear of what he has done," he looked wide-eyed at Tess, "or what he will do. Plans to do. Oh no." Color drained from Erich. He felt fear. The warm coffee did not stop the pain starting in his stomach until a gentle hand touched his knee. “Erich, look at me,” said Tess, waiting a moment to engage his full attention before she continued. “That’s it. Take a deep breath and relax. Good. Now listen." “Captain Ben Harris commanded the USS Kitty Hawk at the inception of the Special Operations Program. As the admiral said, he was wronged, and yes, I have verified the admiral’s account. Now, after you settle down and focus, tell me why you believe he is here and is planning something.” "I don't know. I have not met Ben." He spoke of him as if he knew him on a first-name basis. "I, rather Atragon feels he has other plans. I have to stop him. I think he is lying, both the Admiral and Ben. Neither of them is speaking the truth. Tess, don't believe anything they tell you. Trust what you feel. Bah! You can't... we proceed with anything the Admiral says. I have to stop the crew from following his orders. Everyone's in danger. Tess. Planet killer! PLANET KILLER!" Erich's coffee spilt onto the biobed, but he drank the remainder in one gigantic gulp. The hand on his knee tightened. When he looked up, the doctor had turned to face him straight on and her eyes locked on his. “Erich,” she said with a direct, commanding tone. “Settle down... and focus on me. Take a few deep breaths and back up. If you lose your focus again, look at me, and wait until you regain control.” [TBC in sim.]
  10. I'm a Doctor, not a Discrete Engineer (Keb and Erich} The LCARS console in front of Keb showed no record on the invaders. Frustrated, she gladly rose to relinquish the CC to Admiral Sovak. A9 and McFly vanished into the turbolift. Something was up and this left her with an odd, unsettled feeling in her stomach. Erich felt a pain in his own belly through the decks between the bridge and main engineering. Given his attraction to her was strong this unique link played in his favor. Well, most of the time. His stomach now distracted him greatly. Only the Holy rings of Betazed knew how different his life would be if linked to someone like Kansas. He shivered at this thought as he crossed the threshold of the engineering door on his way to the bridge. The lie he told was checking the navigation linkage. The truth was checking in on Keb. She rubbed her side as she took her place at Helm. In the last phaser blast that had stunned her--the third in one day--she’d fallen on her weapon, and it had cut the skin a little under her uniform. It would leave a nasty bruise, too. Erich had taken some of the pain from her when she’d gone with A9 to reclaim the bridge, but now it was bothering her again--and she had no desire to go to sick bay and see the people she’d had to shoot there. Travel to the bridge took longer than usual, the unending questions Erich endured slowed his progress. He deferred most of the work to others, making quick fixes only. After some minutes he stepped onto the bridge. Keb sensed his arrival. "Commander Mizu, I am here to regain navigation linkage. I need your help." Erich said with no pause as he walked towards her. He stopped short of running right into her as she turned towards him. She gave him the brilliant smile that his presence generally engendered, and started to reach for his hand--but stopped, remembering they were both on duty. “Okay, what can I do?” she asked. "I'll need you to completely log out and log into our subprocess. A processing core will be taking over navigation until we can fix the physical breakage in the links." His eyes met hers in a fashion under normal circumstances would be reported to Sovak. “Oh, yeah, I can do that,” she replied after a moment frozen in his gaze. She turned to her console and logged out, though it was going slowly. “It looks like it’s going to take a minute,” she told him. "Oh sure," he said calmly. His mind raced to scan how she was feeling, after the captivity and the stress of the battles to reclaim the ship. He could tell her side was bothering her, and something else that didn’t feel right to her. "Why are you here?" Erich asked as he stood beside her at helm. "I can tell." “You’ve already done enough,” she said, looking away from him and staring blankly at the rebooting console instead. “I’m fine. We got the ship back--that’s what matters.” Out of all his responses he chose laughter. "While I can feel your discomfort contrary to rumor I am not a medical tricorder." He glanced from side to side. He whispered. "Let me take a look. Everyone is busy and if you don't want me to alert the Admiral I need to look. Will only take a moment." Keb sighed. “If it’ll keep you from worrying…” She slid over a little on her chair to conceal the impromptu exam from others, and lifted up the side of her uniform shirt, revealing the still-bloody cut and spreading bruise just below her bra. Erich's face contorted, bloodied flesh was not his game. "Ugh... How is that not more painful? I-I... It's over a wide area." He thought to treat this like a piece of hull damage. No major breaches, but more of a large series of impacts all over her soft... No, this was not working. "I can't see it all. The purple is going up your side a bit. Hold still." He lifted the strap to see how far this gruesome bruise went. He got on his knees to look up. "Oh my." At the next station, Opsguy coughed pointedly, his eyes as big as the saucer-section. Keb quickly pulled her shirt down over the wound, her face looking like a red-alert light. "Erich, we can’t do this here," she thought loudly, pulling away from him. “I told you--I’m fine.” The cough alerted other crew on the bridge, having occurred at the apex of a sudden drop in chatter and bridge sounds. Eyes zeroed in their direction. "Look, just show me what to do to get full helm back." She was desperate to regain some face, especially knowing now how ruthless A9 could be. The Chief placed a hand on each shoulder, making sure she had to look right at him. "Look, when we get control back I need you to get this looked at right away. One blow to your side could cripple your ability to fly the Manticore. Do you want A9 to call me to make the attack run?" He laced the question with sarcasm, but his seriousness and humor were both dry in general. The horror at the idea that filled her struck him hard. He had hit a deeper nerve than he had intended. Her fear of failing in her duty again was stronger than her fear of medics...but there was a new layer after the battle, after watching A9 slaughter the invaders. "N-no," she whispered. "I...I'll go to sick bay. I promise."
  11. The under belly of the Manticore took the brunt of the assault, this much I could sense from the crew. It's amazing how much time slows down under stressful conditions. I wish the context of this was better, much better. The emotional wave flowed swiftly from the ventral engineering section. The first volley hit squarely behind the deflector dish then spread in a scattered randomness from fore to aft. So did the screams. The chief could not count how many were in the lowest of levels. Many had moved further inward due to protocol. The terror erupted from their minds with the fury of a Klingon bat'leth piercing an opponent's skull. The assault on Erich's soul was reminiscent of the last moments of those loops. Terror then silence. Existence to the void. Not again. Not even a second later the engineering and defense systems went into action. No humanoid in Starfleet or anywhere could react as quickly. The pool table board flashed in hues of red and yellow, indications of damage. Manticore had been punched in the gut to the point of blood. Flecks of hull spewed into the void of space and bruises looked as deep as bone. Unlike doctors who worked from the outside in the engineers worked from the inside out on their patients. Now was a time for triage.
  12. A year, six days a time, seemed to take forever. A month-long rest after that year breezed by. Erich parted ways with Keb early on to reconnect with his family and she to hers. No doubt she hated leaving him, after a year he needed the time off. His mother and father had buried their son months ago. They invited family, friends, and even shop clients. Surprisingly nearly forty people showed enjoying food and drink. Reportedly his father drank heavily as reality of the MIA sank in. He sang praises of a son doing good work among his peers. His climb from cadet, Ensign Waste Manager then to Chief Engineer, the last which genuinely surprised his father. Erich's special medical situation garnered a line or two. Any stigma now would fall on his father, not the son. All in all it was a good time of celebrating his son's life. An old vintage of wine was brought out for the occasion. This was the same drink used to dull the reality, the loss. Now, standing before him was Erich. He was very much alive, but looked weary. The repetitive journey took more than a year off his life. His expression aged a decade. It showed in his face, it showed in his thoughts. "I ordered a case and I want you to have the last one, " said his father, pushing the bottle to his son's hand. "But..." "There are no buts...take it with you to Earth." He smiled the same way he did after fixing a particular challenging clock. "Charm the girl you work with. Kansas is it?" "Holy rings no! It's Keb. I would sooner use the empty bottle on the other." Erich wondered if he was being played. "Yes yes. Keb. She's the non-telepath who can speak onto your mind. Ply her with it. Speak sweet nothings or whatever you kids do now. No matter what you do don't drink alone." "Yes father." "And for rings sake ask her. You above all others know how valuable time is." He placed a hand on his shoulder. "You are out there in the known and unknown. You claim to known her better than she knows herself. Open up to Keb before it's too late." Erich nodded. "Time is the fire in which we burn, some burn brighter than others." "I expect an positive outcome." He handed him his gravity-assisted bag. "Give that to the Ambassador." He hugged Erich quickly. "Let the Holy rings guide you." "By the Holy Rings..." Erich tapped his Starfleet badge. "One to beam up." In an instant he dematerialized into the air.
  13. Unhinged, Part 2 Erich sat at the side of the bed and faced Keb as she attempted to quiet her mind. He focused on her and only her. This proved difficult. Even with the medication he had the same ability as a normal Betazoid. Other voices from the ship and her own emotions made concentration hard. "Not clear enough," his voice resonated in her mind, though in reality he needed to purge his own doubts. He grabbed her hand; the physical contact amplified her thoughts, while the others dimmed a little. She had to see this. Flash Keb found herself on the Manticore bridge, but it was not quite the same Manticore. She could see herself sitting at helm. She was dreaming through his eyes. The Captain of the Utah appeared on screen, speaking, but she could not understand his words. The image changed, then a lifeless body appeared where the captain's face once was. As the camera zoomed in Erich's face showed clearly. A knot formed in her stomach. Another flash, another change. She was on the bridge--watching herself enter and take the helm. That "helmguy" greeted her: “Like the ribbon today. Kenickie will hate it!” Then she glanced back at herself with a worried smile and another flash. Klaxons! Erich was on the move. He nearly slammed down the coffee cup as he and the rest of the crew dashed to their respective departments. She and Erich would meet up again. Wait. No. He turned right, flung himself onto the turbolift. He yelled "Engineering!" The lift moved. The deck rumbled. The entire Manticore shook violently. The lift doors opened just across from main engineering. A jolting shift of view placed her in the middle of chaos. Engineers worked feverously at their stations. The core struggled to maintain it's heartbeat pulses of energy for the warp drive. The column above and below the core housing went dark. Warp field collapse. She, no, he yelled to the engineers something indistinguishable. The voice felt of panic, desperation and hopelessness. Two engineers appeared as multiple versions of themselves as they dashed across his view. A bright light from an exploding console whited out the room. Why so bright? Keb tried to close her eyes, but these were not her eyes. Not her memories. "Sir, a local gravity well has us caught and we can't break free! Trying to reinitiate the warp field," a junior engineer spouted, one of many times he did so. The voices overlapped one another, the inner voices did the same. It was all maddening. Every thought and voice was distinct, but laid out in a room of chaos. Panic swelled within as the memory of Erich's experience became her own. Flash She was running down the corridor to the transporter room. She saw herself ahead, running, looking back to see herself. Her hair looked frazzled, whipped to one side. The ribbon was gone. A yearning to reach out to herself was strong. Sadness as their world was falling apart before them only abated by the need to get off this ship. Flash "I will beam down after, Keb; I need to make sure your transport is right. Now GO!" Before she could protest the confinement beam took hold to begin the dematerialization process. In a shimmer of atoms losing their cohesion, she watched herself vanish, feeling an emptiness inside. "Sovak, I am the only one that can operate this.. Get on that damned pad now you Vulcan... argh.." Keb was speaking in Erich’s voice. She pointed her finger indicating resistance would be futile. Sovak backed up onto the pad and nodded Then, knowing she couldn’t be at her own controls, she made the best half-second guess she could and ran to the pad. The confinement beam took hold of his--her--body and started to dematerialize each and... F L A S H A bright white light shined through all of Keb's senses. She could taste it at the back of her throat, feel it up her spine, and hear it echo in her ears. Days worth of time reversed itself in a matter of seconds. She was right back on the bridge, the way it was three days ago when the Utah first called them. She could feel it was starting all over again, and she, Erich, was the only one who knew--the only one who could stop it--it would all happen again-- "AHH!" cried Keb as she shot straight up out of Erich's bed, her eyes wide as the dream collapsed from brilliant white to the dark of his room. She panted as she pulled her trembling hand from his, staring at him. “All that...happened?” She couldn’t remember any of it happening, save for the incident with the Utah. He placed his hand on her shoulder. "You woke up from my attempt to show you my memories. I'm so sorry. It's my nightmare." Erich buried his head in her side. He knew the experience was jumbled and intense. Nothing like a proper mind meld from a Vulcan, or like what he could have explained easily to another Betazoid. “But--is it a dream, or--or did it actually happen?” Keb said, still feeling stunned as her breathing calmed. "It will happen and has happened, Keb. I am losing count of how many times. It's real, but only for me." He continued to hide himself against her. "The only one holding me together is you."
  14. Unhinged, Part 1 Keb paused at the threshold of Erich’s quarters. Erich was crouched on the floor, pen in hand and paper on the ground. Sketches littered the entire room, drawings were pinned to the walls. There was not a single spot to sit in, except at his left. “Erich…” she said, a note of fear and warning in her voice. “What--what are you trying to do?” She swallowed and knelt on the floor next to him, putting a gentle hand on his back. "Mapping possibilities and roads not taken. I have to save us all. I need to save the ship. I can't..." His voice faded as he made notations on the sheet he was writing on. His notes were a mix of languages and eqiations. His fingers pressed into the paper with additional force. The lead of the pencil broke. "Oh damn. I forget how fragile these are." He placed the broken instrument in a pile of other discarded tools, then grabbed a freshly sharpened one from a dented cup. Keb bit her lip with concern. “Erich...the ship’s fine. I saw the diagnostics this morning. Whatever the Utah found...doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen to us. We’re light years away from there now.” She sighed, hovering over his paper. “Maybe I can help?” Erich shook his head from side to side slowly. "This has happened before and this will happen again. I lay out what is happening to me, you don't believe...like the others. They think I'm 'Fraenke Jaenke.'" He swallowed hard as another memory passed from neuron to neuron, then from pen to paper. "I-it helps me remember...each time I tell you. Will you listen?" She nodded, trying hard not to think up possible explanations--the medication, bad dreams, a stress reaction to the images. “Of course.” "NO!" He shouted, grabbing her hand. "The medication is working. The dreams...are bad, and I-I've opened up to the reality of my own death." He was losing control, and her own concerned emotions equally strong. His eyes watered up. A single drop fell to the paper below his latest scribble. "I'm so sorry, Keb. Each time you think of the possibilities and each time I lash out at you." I’m sorry. I’m scared, too, she thought at him. She was scared of losing him--either to whatever calamity he feared or to this strange madness she didn’t understand. “I’ll listen. I want to believe you...but I don’t want it to be true.” She pulled the pencil out of his hand and twined her fingers between his. Having his instrument taken from his hand, he looked at her. "This is bigger than me Keb. Bigger than you. They hail about my padd, they later find my body, we offload our supplies, the hail us again in trouble, we race there, and something bad happens when we get there, then BOOM!" He clapped his hands together along with hers, causing her to jump. "Then we are back to where we began. Over and over. Never to end." He brought her hand up to his cheek. "Each time it's nearly the same, the actions, the thoughts. I can't stop it, Keb. I just can't go on living like this." “Maybe if we changed something…” she said aloud, but inside she was wondering if her thoughts could be the same, over and over. "I don't think there is a 'we' in this. It's all about me. You," he waved his other arm indicating the ship. "You all go on as if nothing is wrong. Just a cheery day. Another day," he perked up. "Another dead Chief Engineer. The key is to remember." He pointed at his head as he looked into her pained eyes. He must have stared into them for hundreds of hours by now, all with the same worried expression therein. He bent in and kissed her, realising talk of their demise did nothing to help matters. Erich released her lips. He waited for her reaction to subside. "Don't worry, we all come back to life each time." But not back to normal? she thought before she could stop it. He leaned into her and placed his head on her shoulder. "If I was Vulcan I would simply meld with you to show you. I can't risk any kind of Betazoid attempt." “Why not?” she asked. “If--if it would help…?” "What? Are you serious?" Erich asked, surprised at her willingness. "Come on." He took her hand and stood up. The bed was in the other room, also covered in papers. With a single swipe of his arm, they scattered on the floor. "Lie down and relax. You'll need to clear your mind." Though she was nervous, Keb settled onto his bed and closed her eyes, trying to silence her thoughts and fears. I need to understand.
  15. Close to Sadness Chief Engineer's Personal Log Stardate 51502.07 After four days of non-stop contact with Commander Mizu I found place to be alone, sickbay. Upon seeing my dead form over subspace she has kept a close vigil over me. I ran into the table in my quarters and she came running as if I had be stabbed. Her eyes were upon me unceasingly, never more than a few meters away. Her mind lassoed me tightly, even in her dreams. I care for her deeply, but contact has it’s limits. There is an old Betazoid saying: "I'd rather suffer the torrent of an auditorium full of fellow Betazoids for hour than with one emotional person for days." I think I see the truth in it. Seeing my death on screen has haunted us both. She, as caring as she is, only wants to protect me. To that I have no words. She figures by staying with me through this crisis that it can be averted. Maybe, just maybe. I just hope all of this close contact in such short a time does fray our loose ends.
  16. Alone The PADD video log played for the bridge crew. Erich did not like seeing himself on the large viewscreen. Not this version. "I'm Chief Engineer Jaenke of the Federation vessel Manticore, Stardate 51501.28," he started. The image was dark, indicating it was night where he was. Light rain could be heard in the background, along with his wet footfalls plopping as he walked. The video jumped as he walked. "Something happened to the Manticore... I don't know what hit us: Romulans, Borg, space entity? I don't know. I- oh holy rings, where is everyone?" His face appeared as soaked as the ambient noise. "I don't understand. I beamed down using the emergency protocols. Most everyone that survived the initial blast made it down safely. Whoa...oof!" The perspective changed abruptly, now a low and tilted angle close to the ground. Erich popped up in the distance, then searched for his PADD. After a minute his hand reached for the PADD. His face appeared very large in the frame. "The ground is very wet and the air is humid to the extreme. This planet may be in a very early stage in its life, prehistoric from, say, Earth standards. Like I was saying, how am I alone? I beamed down to the same site as the others." "Damn," he exclaimed, likely in native Betazoid. "I don't know if the ship crashed into the planet or was cut to pieces." He looked up and pointed the PADD in the air. "I should have seen the Manticore streaking through the sky just over there." His hand, barely visible, pointed to a spot high on the horizon. "Nothing...let me try this again." He tapped his comm badge with the hand holding the PADD. "This is Lieutenant Commander Jaenke of the Federation vessel Manticore to anyone who can hear this. Please come in." No one answered. He went back to the camera. "I need to get to higher ground and modify my tricorder to emit a subspace distress call. It uses a lot of power, so I only get two, maybe three attempts. There's a hilltop a few clicks from my position. That's where I'll be. I hope anyone else is in better shape than I am now. Gods...Keb. I don't sense her at all. Damn. Got to save power. Computer, pause log." He plodded on towards the highest point he could see. The camera view steadied to show the point he was walking towards. He knew if anyone found it the image could be enhanced to really see it, as well as location information. Firstly, he had to get a message out from the planet. This moisture-filled pit of smells and slimy plantlife. He saw no creatures, but had a feeling they were out there...waiting.
  17. The Secret Space In Erich’s travels there were parts of the ship which were never silent. A hum persisted in rooms and down long access crawl ways. Erich sent Keb a message telling her to go to a corridor somewhere between engineering and sickbay. He arrived five minutes earlier, entered a maintenance hatch, and hastily set up camp. A single candle lit the dark tube. Only his face was close enough to the flame to give any hint of a presence. He waited and listened. Keb knew exactly where Erich had asked her to meet him, but it left her absolutely baffled all the same. There’s nothing there, she thought as she reviewed the instructions again, walking down the corridors. Erich wasn’t there. Is this some kind of joke? The corridor stretched ahead and behind her. The wall panels were blank, save for a solitary access hatch to her left. The hatch opened with a click, its lock status indicator going from green to red. The door swung open on its own. With a start, Keb turned to the hatch, biting her lip. “Erich?” she asked the air. No immediate answer. The Manticore's hum echoed from within the long crawl way. "Hmm?" A voice from within her questioned. "Come inside... first left." The voice sounded warmer the more it spoke. The voice made her jump, heart beating quickly, even though she had half-expected some kind of answer. It was him. She entered the door then crawled down the tube, where she could just see a flickering light. It looked like panel had shorted out, so she started to move a little more quickly, worried that he’d summoned her here because he was in trouble. "I'm over here," a real voice called out. "Sorry for the venue, but I did not have a lot of time. Come. Sit." Down around the corner sat Erich, a candle in front of him and a bubbling kettle of soup beside it. "The plasma here can't keep this warm forever." He gave her an inviting grin as he waved her to him. As it dawned on her what he had set up, Keb couldn’t suppress a smile. She slid next to him and kissed his cheek. “You’re so silly,” she said, quickly adding, “and I love it.” "I like soup, dark places," he hesitated, "And you. Thought I should put them together." She blushed, looking down at her hands in her lap. He put his hand on hers. "I asked the replicator for a human favorite." He waved the smell from the kettle to his nose. "Chicken soup?" With a nod, Keb helped him to start ladeling the soup into their bowls. So warm, she thought as she took a sip and closed her eyes in pleasure, which he felt as warm shivers through his own spine. He cleared his throat. "I'm sorry standing up is not possible, but the hum in here quiets the voices a bit." He tapped her hand. "I, er, sensed, you wanted to talk." Keb twisted her hand around to hold his. “Do the voices bother you?” she asked, which wasn’t exactly the question she had for him, but easier to ask. "Here and there. They are always with me. Even dear friends can get on your nerves after a while. If you're lucky it turns to white noise." He twisted his fingers into hers. "But you have another question for me.” She bit her lip, holding his hand a little more tightly. “I guess since you already know what I want to ask...I...I was wondering if you could teach me how to...how to block it. You know, so I could keep a secret from you or not jump three feet in the air when you think something in my head?” Her words were both hesitant and rushed as she tried to explain it, not able to put it as kindly as she intended to. Erich pulled her over and wrapped his arms around her. "I'm so sorry it..I scare you in that regard. I'll do what I can to help you keep thoughts to yourself." He closed his eyes, pressed a little harder, then released her. She shook her head. “You don’t scare me, Erich. It...it just takes some getting used to. You’re the first person who ever talked to me inside my head that wasn’t me.” She stirred her spoon in the soup, watching the ripples across the surface in the candlelight. “And I don’t exactly want to keep secrets from you...just things like birthday presents and stuff that’s classified.” "So, do you run into a lot of classified information?" he asked with a knowing smile. She tilted her head, her eyes narrow with impatience. “We work on a black ops ship...and you’re evading the question. How...how do I let you in when I want to, and keep you out when I need to?” Erich tilted his head in the other direction, leaned in to steal a quick kiss. "You're right. I first found your mind when your emotions peaked, then I latched onto it...tight," he said while clinching her fingers. "Some of how this works is your amplified emotional state. Now don't get me wrong--this is what I love about you. You have to dampen this attraction the same way I am to ignore the thoughts of others: meditation." He focused on her. They were so close he could see the candle's light reflecting in the darkness of her eyes. "Doctor Abbingdon wanted me to start meditation to calm my own mind; I don't see why it can't help you." “I don’t want to lose our connection,” she said, letting her forehead rest against his as she spoke. “Just control it some. I guess we can try the meditation.” "It should, but it will take some time and dedication to learn." Erich spoke warmly and was glad she could not hear his mind now. "This is uncharted territory, for both of us."
  18. Deeper In his rush to leave sickbay, he'd forgotten to change. Surveillance tracked him, and someone on the bridge spotted his assets. News of this got to the engineers along with most of the ship. Chief Jaenke's Betazoid telepathy had returned, after a few days in which he’d wondered if the ship’s silence was a permanent condition. It was not. The crew’s laughs, snickers, and Rear Admiral Jaenke digs were too much. It was his childhood all over again and he had enough. In a fit of rage he yelled at everyone. Ensign to Lieutenant Commander, every last engineer. He went on for a good three minutes, then, with a stare at the cruelest of thinkers, he stormed out. Erich marched out of main engineering. Away from all of the voices. In reality no escape while onboard was possible. After a bit of frantic running he decided to head to where only certain engineers go. A time and place before responsibility and leadership swallowed all his energy. Chirp. "Chief Jaenke, come in please." He tapped his chest. "What? Get Shelton to handle it." "O-Okay, but I am Shelton. How long are you going to be gone? Shall I run the diagnostic we spoke of earlier?" Feeling embarrassed, "Yes proceed. Make sure it can be broken on a moment's notice. Jaenke out." He closed the channel as he made his way to his only duty he had known upon arrival. Keying in his access code he entered Waste and Recycling Control, sealing the door behind him. He walked to the furthest corner and sat down next to the monitoring station. Stress flowed from head to toe like a giant wave crashing upon a rocky shore. All Erich could do was bow his head until the duress passed. Keb wanted to surprise Erich with a cupcake she’d picked up in the mess hall. She rang at his quarters, but he wasn’t there. She called Engineering, where she got a nervous Shelton explaining that the chief wasn’t in. Alarmed, she started for sick bay. Erich, you better be all right, she thought in a mix between panic and anger. He sat alone, but not for long. A singular voice stretched out among the masses. Twisted with emotion and thought, it was unlike any projection he heard before. "Hello," Erich asked the empty room. He had not heard a voice, but a thought, a desire. He shut his eyes. "I'm..fine...," he projected outwards. His eyes remained shut in waiting for a response. His voice filled Keb’s mind, and she felt her tense body relax in relief. She hadn’t heard his voice in her mind properly since he’d left the ship to go down to Titan. Where are you? she asked, trusting that now he could hear her again, too. "Aft," he shouted out with his ability. His breathing had become rougher as if stopping from a morning jog. He stopped and looked around frantically, then focused on the monitor, waiting. The way he shouted into her mind didn’t sound entirely like everything was all right, so Keb slipped into a turbolift. He’d told her once, in a quiet moment, that he had liked the waste and recycling area because it was so much quieter there. It took her a few minutes to get there, but she knew the inside of Manticore at least as well as the chief did. “Erich?” she called into the chamber as she opened the door, protecting the cupcake with her hand. Erich was perched in the corner next to the monitoring station, but got up as soon as the door hissed open. "Keb, was that you?" “Of course it was me,” she said. “Didn’t--didn’t you recognize my mind?” She stepped inside, concern filling every aspect of her being. "It was you." He stood there, disbelief melting. "You sounded different. I was not sure. So many voices over there," he gestured to the rest of the ship. He stood looking at her with his messed up hair and unshaven face. It had been a long day and the yelling at his staff did not help. "I needed to get away when the voices came." Keb retreated a step uncertainly. “Do...do you need me to go?” she asked, and he could feel the mixed worry and pain she felt. “I--I brought you a cupcake. I can leave it for you.” She held up the blue-frosted treat, holding it out as if she were afraid to get closer to him. "No, please stay. You ventured all this way..for me." He smiled through his stress. "I could use the company. We should talk...about us." She hovered near the door, still holding out the cupcake. “Is...is something wrong with...us?” she asked. She had thought that they were okay now--they loved each other. "No. I think we are more deeply connected than you realized or than I expected." He urged her to come over and sit. "Have you heard the term Imzadi?" She drifted beside him, setting the cupcake into his hand and licking a bit of the icing off her finger as she mulled over the term. She’d run across it somewhere in her reading. “It’s a Betazoid word, isn’t it?” she asked. "Yes, the most basic meaning is beloved, but it suggests a deeper intimacy, both physical and spiritual." He swallowed. "We seemed to have developed one of those, the spiritual." His face turned warm. "I wanted to know how you feel about it." Her cheeks reddened shyly, but he could feel the warmth of her emotions washing over him like a hot bath. She found his hand with her own, holding it tightly, and kept her gaze on their interlocked fingers. “I’m okay with that,” she said. “I told you...I love you.” Erich took a deep breath, leaning to reel from the sensation. He nodded. "One step at a time then."
  19. Keb, Space... The confined frontier. I know this ship is small, but they should have a larger sickbay. The devices attached to my chest allowing me to heal are off now. I didn't realize how heavy they were until the doctors removed them. I can feel my heart working on its own and feel the need to control my own breathing. I'm doing well, but this is not why I wrote you. When you were here earlier I wanted to reach out to you, but I felt held back. The medicine caused some of this, but other bits were me. When growing up my ability isolated me. The parents of my friends hurried them away when they learned of my condition. After a time my parents saw fit to institutionalize me. This was just as much for everyone else as it was my own health. While I did get medical help in the form of suppressants, there was a nurse who showed me life without hiding. Still, while I managed quite well during my stay, once I got out into the world the minds were too much to handle. This proved true when I entered the Academy, but I held on with the promise of empty space once I got my commission. At first I could deal with the voices. Soon whispers turned to shouts and raw emotions to waterfalls. I started to lose it. I contacted someone on Betazed for an alternative source of mental suppression. Down in waste recycling my supply kept me sane. I could work with people again. My life turned a corner. Good times ended as supplies of the drug ran out. I spread out my doses and tried to live with the voices. Again they got louder, more menacing. I was losing hope. Then you showed. A torrent of emotion spiked with self-doubt and worry. Exactly the personality type the doctors back on Betazed told me to avoid at all costs. I should of, but I didn't. I ran to rather than ran from. I heard the lone voice in my head telling me to do whatever it takes to stay away, even leave the ship for a lonely communication station. But I had enough. I found myself drawn to you, my mind like a tendrils wrapped around your psyche. Your mind was a narcotic I could not function without. When you visited I wanted so much to express this, but my mind searched for yours in vain. The drugs dulled my senses. I regretted not telling you how I feel. I've stood so far from so many for so long my own fears held me back. I see you in ways most can't imagine. I love you as much for your flaws as for your strengths. I hope when we have time together I can show you how much. When my strength is greater, Erich
  20. Once for the body, twice to the mind A log of Dr. Abbingdon and Chief Jaenke The world around Erich, after a long nap, was much clearer than before. He knew where he was, who he was, and what had happened. If anyone had visited him he did not remember. The trauma room remained his home, at least until someone needed it. As he awoke he sat himself up. The soft boom, boom of the health monitor pounded behind him. He'd seen the pulsing red dot before on old schematics. It amused him to see it in late 24th century medical accommodations. He pressed outward with his mind to read anyone outside his room. Someone was out there, but he only felt faint impressions. Medication must have suppressed his ability. More pressing was his thirst. A nearly depleted cup lay on a table just out of his reach. Getting to it required stepping onto the floor, a task he was unsure he could handle. Willing the cup to come to him did nothing. He started to remove the blanket that lay over him. “Hello, Erich.” A voice, any voice, kicked Erich out from his relative relaxed stupor. He also halted his escape from his bed. "Doctor, I did not sense you enter." He covered himself back up as if caught with his hand in a cookie jar. "I-I was not trying to escape. Just thirsty." “That’s why we’re here, Erich,” Dr. Abbingdon replied, approaching him with the glass he was about to retrieve. “And I know you can’t sense me; it’s partly because of the medication and partly because of the trauma your body and mind are trying to deal with. How are you feeling?” Handing him the glass, now filled with cool, clear water, she sat comfortably in the chair by his bed, as she always did when she counseled. Erich drank the water and let it flow down his throat slowly. To his surprise it tingled as it passed through the center of his chest. He took control of his own breathing for a moment as he collected his thoughts and contemplated his answer. "I feel different. A bit vulnerable and oddly tingly? It's hard to describe. I think I slept without having a sense of terror. A nurse said I awoke screaming once." What would he call it? He almost said accident, but that was not the right word. "I think my mind is much less cloudy," he continued, taking another drink. "I think I'm in a light fog." He gazed about the room as if looking for further answers from the walls. “That’s understandable, considering what you have been through. But that the light fog is allowing you to reason and form comprehensive sentences is a sign of recovery, and the feeling of vulnerability is, again, partly trauma and partly your temporary loss of telepathy. But what exactly do you mean that your mind is much less cloudy?” "When I first woke up I was confused. Unable to concentrate. I felt fear, but I think mostly from not knowing what happened." He looked down and pressed his hand into his chest. "I understand the phaser blast was quite severe?" “You’ll have to ask Dr. Chalice about that. I’m the brain doc, remember?” Her smile broadened in jest. Erich nodded as if he simply forgot. "Of course, but my head was not injured, so you must be here for my other brain problems. The hardware is on the mend, but the software needs a defragmentation." He wrinkled his forehead. "I don't know if starship metaphors translate to people." He paused. "So, how is the patient doctor?" “Well, in my professional opinion, still in need of repair in the form of rest. But in my personal opinion, just as feisty as ever and probably well on the mend. Yes, starship metaphors do translate to people. Our brains were the very first computers; the computers we use today are extremely elementary attempts at replicating the humanoid brain.” "Actually we have to put in safeguards to prevent the ship from becoming sentient." He smiled. "Not many know that is part of the very low-level code. I'd not call it humanoid intelligence, but we like our control." He patted his legs with both hands. "You are not here to talk about the ship. This is about me. While I have you, I do have a concern, or make that two concerns." Dr. Abbingdon chuckled in her smile. “I don’t charge extra for more than one concern, Erich. Please, go ahead.” "Nightmares. I got them frequently as a child. I was institutionalized in part because of them. I don't want to go through that again. The other concern is regarding Commander Mizu." He straightened up. "I nearly forgot, how is she?" “I haven’t seen her lately. Erich was hoping she had. "A nurse said she came in complaining of chest pains." Guilt poured over.him. He knew the source of her pain. "I think it was me, my ability." He held his head in his hand, hiding his eyes. Note: I messed up the title a bit, but kept it. Sorry for the lateness.
  21. Unintentional Projections Erich did not feel well. His eyelids felt the weight of a sizable amount of medication. Maybe he had a bender down at the mess hall and not that synthetic stuff. It would explain the fuzziness, the headache, and the tingling sensation flowing from his chest. The view ahead formed a tunnel. As the darkness crept in a sharp pain shot like a cannon from his heart. “Ahhh…help m-me.” A nurse cleaning a hypospray nearby sprang into action immediately. “There there Mr. Jaenke,” she comforted as she arrived at his side. “Those phantom pains again? We can’t risk any more medication.” She checked his health status display just over his shoulder. Elevated levels for sure, but not owing to any problem in his upper body. “You’re fine. This is all in your head and not at the point of impact. Try to relax. Oh, and try to not peer into other people’s heads. You’re projecting your emotions again.” “Oh, I did not realize. To whom do I need to send my apologies?” The words were a struggle to utter. The nurse answered with no effort. “I’d direct them to Commander Mizu.” Dread began to trickle into Erich’s mind. If his emotional state tittered on the edge this could surely push it over. All of the doctors and all of the counselors may not be able to put poor Jaenke back together again.
  22. I Know "I love you..." Darkness flooded his senses. The universe grew colder. He laid in sickbay no longer. He was everywhere, and nowhere. Silence, a total absence of sound. Cold was the only sensation left, and that too was fleeting. Time stopped and lost all meaning. Death had finally come to rest on his shoulders. The air was warm, but no wind blew. His eyes were already opened. He was standing, but where? A window. A window with sunlight passing through it's panes onto a table. One this table lay tools for the hands. Tools for working with delicately tiny objects. More windows lined the walls, walls littered with tools of another sort. They all looked quite different, but taken as a whole looked quite the same. Timepieces, wall clocks, watches, and chronographs. Some hung on walls, some sat on tables, others fitted on bands for appendages. He looked all around. More walls, more tables, and more tools. After a moment he realized where he was, his father's shop on Betazed. Yes, but the feeling was just not right. Nothing was moving. Neither the mechanical timepieces nor the over-engineered clocks counted the passage of time. Could all of the clocks cease operation at the same time? There must be another explanation. He examined various clocks for any pattern. There was one, the time. Each clock stopped at 6:43 pm, local Betazed time. This accounts for the lowness and position of the sun at his ship. The front wall faces west, but just what was going on? "About time you visited home." Erich jumped out of his skin if he was sure he had any left. He recognized the voice. "Father, what am I doing here? What's wrong with the clocks?" His father, bent over working on a delicate timepiece, smiled out of view. "You were always one with the questions, and never just one question either. Just one minute." He continued to work. As Erich approached he recognized was he was working one. A wristwatch he had stolen and subsequently broken that day. "I remember that watch, but that was a long time ago. Why is it here now?" He laughed. "I said wait a minute, and I think you know what is happening. First," he stopped working and placed his eye-mounted microscope on his head. "I don't rightly know what you are doing here. It was not me that brought you. As for the clocks, they are all working fine, well, except the ones I'm working on. The ones you see on the walls are all in working order, just like you remember. Sadly the need for them has vanished." "What do you mean? Time is very important." He cleared his throat. "Yes it is, but as you can see it is eternally six and forty-three hours. It will remain that way for, well, I don't rightly know that either." He brought a pocket watch to his hand and gave it to Erich. "So, if that watch I gave you is not broken, but stuck at 6:43 pm, what does that mean?" Erich thought for a moment, as funny as that seemed. "Time. Time is not passing." "Right, but not right. Time is indeed passing, just not for you." Erich stepped back. "How can that be? I'm breathing...talking to you. How, if time is not passing can I be doing these things?" His father wiped off his dusty hands on a cloth then placed it on the table. He looked his son right in the eye. "Are you really breathing? Is this really air coursing through your lungs? Wave your hands. Do you feel the air over your skin?" "Of course I...," and he did wave his arms, and he did not feel anything over them. "I don't feel anything." He felt like panicking, but could not. "How did you know?" "I did not. You did." He looked upon his son then settled on a slight smile. "Erich, why are you here?" "What do you mean? I'm asking you." "Okay, what is the last thing you remember before arriving here?" "I-," then suddenly he gripped his chest. "I...Aaaahh!." Erich doubled over in pain beyond belief. As he dropped to one knee he pleaded for help. "Father!" "I'm sorry Erich, but I can't help you." He remained perfectly calm. "I know you are in pain, but you need to answer my question. Why are you here? You should not be, no normal person should." "I d-don't know. Ah!" His father reached out to him, laying a hand on his shoulder. "You are nearly dead my son, you are quite literally running out of time. Why are you not dead yet?" "How would I know?" He clutched his chest in an effort to stop the pain. His father continued his questioning. "You must have something to live for that's keeping you here. Think of what that is. I ask again, why are you here?" The sun shining through the window flicked as if it was a common bulb, as if it was angry. The pain started to overwhelm. He could not answer. Erich reached up with a hand. He was confused. "Think! What brings you here? None of this should be here, just the void of death. What keeps you here?" "Keb?" Erich softly answered through the grit of his teeth. "What? I can't hear you." "I said Keb. I'm here because of Keb!" "Who is she? Why is she so important?" Now the pain was so extreme Erich flinched uncontrollably on his back. His father tried to hold him still., "I, Ah.. I lo- Argh! I can feel her mi- AH!" Erich continued to struggle through the pain. "Please...I love you." The clocks in his father's shop started ticking and tocking once more. They all flipped over to 6:44. Erich's vision started to go blurry along with even more chest pain. "Go, before it's too late!" Then his father was gone, along with everything else.
  23. Grounded The joint thing once more Erich started to wake from the most unusual rest he’d ever had. His body was not tired, but his mind was spent. Keb had let him sleep, trusting that his gentle breathing meant he was going to be all right, and grabbed her latest Bag O’ Stuff from under the bunk. There was little time if she was going to get everything together in time to leave the ship before it left orbit. She rifled through her things for anything she’d need for possibly an extended stay on Earth, oddly at peace even though she hated the idea. Perhaps the peace was Erich’s gift to her--the vision he’d given her before he passed out. When he began to stir, she was debating whether she needed both her teal and her aquamarine hair ribbons. He was able to watch her for a few minutes as she packed, but she noticed his open eyes at last. “Are you okay?” she asked first. “I-I think so.” He held the corner of his forehead with one hand. “I have the strangest headache. Whoa.” The room started to spin, no, he started to spin as he righted himself on her bed. Some time had passed, but he was unsure how much. The thought jolted him alert, but with a lingering panic. “This ship, the inspection... How long was I out?” “Only about ten minutes. You were breathing fine so I didn’t call sick bay...maybe I should have. I’m...I’m almost packed.” Keb sat down on the bed beside him, taking his hand with care. “It looks like I’m grounded for a little while.” Erich looked shocked. “Only 10 minutes?” He shook his head in disbelief. “It felt a great deal longer. Must have been instant REM sleep.” He saw the room in a dreamy haze, still not fully awake. The warmth of her hand slowly brought him into focus, but brought a sense of guilt. Could he have caused her distress enough to prompt her father’s action? He closed his eyes. “How long is a little while?” He asked as he raised a brow. She shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know,” she said honestly. “I’ll do what I can to get back to y--to the ship, but...I have to convince them that I’m getting better, not worse. I think Dad was using the memorial service as...as a way to get me to come home for a while.” She was trying hard not to think that he might have other concerns besides a relapse of her breakdown--such as a boyfriend he might not approve of. The thoughts flitted too quickly across her brain to stop them, though. “A boy-what?” Erich thought as he picked that out of her darting thoughts. “Slow down. You are thinking a light year a minute.” He pressed harder into her hand and looked into her eyes. “I could speak to your father on your behalf, convince him to, I don’t know, consult Dr. Abbingdon. Surely she’s qualified. I’ll call him now. Get this straightened out.” Keb shook her head. “No...That would probably make things worse. He’s as stubborn as I am--I got it from somewhere, after all. And maybe he’s...a little bit right. If you hadn’t been there at the service…” She took a breath, trying to fight the emotions of grief. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she heard waves crashing on a shore; it steadied her. “Maybe I do still need some help,” she said quietly. “But I promise I will come back to you.” He knew she was right, but did not want to give in. A feeling deep in his stomach formed slowly. A hard swallow prefixed him bowing his head while he covered his eyes. Why at this moment? Something was happening between them and now...now it would screech to a halt like an emergency stop. Softly, “No, not now.” His eyes began to water. Her emotions with his own were hard to hold back. She ran her fingers along his cheek and then kissed him, soft yet there was an intensity to it. “It’s going to be okay,” she promised. “You’re…” Her mind raced for words to express what she was feeling; she just knew that he was worth fighting through anything to get back to. And she would, whatever it took. “You’re important,” she finally said. It didn’t explain it at all, but she could see in his eyes that he understood what she meant. A voice broke over the overhead comm. “USS Manticore will be leaving orbit in one-half hour. Final departures for Earth in ten minutes.” Erich sighed at the shortness of time. “I will walk you to the transporter.” He gave her the best smile he could under the situation. “Is there anything else you need to pack?” “Do you think you’d fit in the bag?” she asked, standing and picking up her Bag O’ Stuff. He looked at it longingly, imagining how he would fit. “I wish. Let’s go.” Erich held on to her hand and lead her out the door. While he may have cared to not show others his feelings toward another officer, he was beyond that now. He could hear their inner voices anyway, filtering real feelings from the front many people put on. Right away another engineer passed by. “Ensign.” The lower ranked officer rounded the corner. “So, where will you be, in a facility or some kind of camp?” “Sleeping at my parents’, spending the days at the same institution they sent me to when I had my breakdown.” She shrugged. “Maybe I can prove I’m getting better.” “Remember, if they have a Betazoid there anything you try to get pass them will likely not work. I mean I can feel a lot more than most, but your thoughts bubble to the surface.” He felt genuine affection for that, while other telepaths may find it hard to shield themselves from. He intertwined his fingers with hers as they walked closer together. “There was a Vulcan researcher there, but it’s mostly humans--it is on Earth, after all.” Keb relished the last few moments of holding his hand, feeling the warmth between her fingers. The transporter room was all too close, and despite her reassurances to Erich, she didn’t know when she could return to the ship. “I guess it’s time,” she said as the door to the transporter room opened for them. Erich turned to the Ensign on duty. “You are dismissed.” The woman simply nodded and left quietly. He led Keb up to the pad. Held both her hands for a long moment. It was the fountain outside the restaurant all over again and again he kissed her like before. Two seconds. Five seconds. Ten seconds. Twenty seconds, then he let go. “Keb...” “Erich…” She wasn’t going to say goodbye. It wasn’t going to be goodbye. He gave her a final embrace. She felt his voice in her mind again; it was getting easier. “Remember the beach. It was a happy time for me from my childhood. Let the memory help you as it does me. Erich turned to walk to the console. It was hard to see her just standing there looking at him as if for a last time. “Keb, take care of yourself and remember the boy.” You too, she thought. He smiled. “Energize.” He activated the transport controls and she was gone.
  24. Naughty Rated Keb for Erich Content Erich had two drinks before even getting his meal at the restaurant. Soon he needed relieve himself, but he also could feel Ambassador Mizu’s immediate desire to speak alone to his daughter. He excused himself for a few minutes, but the bathroom was not far enough away to silence Keb’s thoughts over the noise of the other patrons. “Keb,” the ambassador said in a hushed, warning tone, “you need to be careful. You do realize he can read your every thought?” A bit of teenage rebellion stirred up in Keb, and she rolled her eyes at her father. “Yes, Dad, I’m quite aware that Erich’s from Betazed, and I know he knows what I’m thinking. We’ve had a few discussions about it. It...doesn’t bother me.” Her statement was not completely true, which stung Erich a bit, but she was trying to defend him. Keb’s father shook his head and rubbed his beard. “You have to watch that he does not take advantage of you,” he said, still quiet and concerned. “He can tell you exactly what you want to hear, because he knows what that is. How do you know if you can trust him?” “You always told me: trust but verify,” Keb answered. “And...I’ve been trying to do just that with him. He’s a hero; just got an award today for saving our home planet.” “As did you,” her father pointed out. “Just...watch yourself, all right? You’d...be better off with a more...equal match.” “Humans can lie, too,” Keb countered. Erich couldn’t justify hiding in the washroom any longer. He washed his hands and went back to rejoin them. They both halted their conversion and sat up as they caught sight of him walking back to the table. Father and daughter expressed the same emotion -- wrenching guilt over talking about someone behind one’s back -- A rare sight on Betazed. He looked at them for a moment, not knowing how to respond. He cleared his throat and pursed his lips. “I-I need to go outside for some fresh air. If you will excuse me.” He wasted no time making a beeline for the restaurant’s front door. “I will return, just need some fresh air,” he said with a quick glance to the maitre’d as he walked outside. Erich kept his beeline pace as he crossed the street and into the nearby park. Soon Erich lost sight of both Keb and her father. His mind could hear both of them. Erich knew he had panicked and held no desired to jeopardize Keb’s relationship with her father. This was not a matter of his heightened ability, just any old Betazoid. As far as he knew her father did not know he was special. Walking further away he could still feel them, but as they were family the patterns were harder to discern. But even against her father’s similar patterns, Keb’s voice rang out in his head. She was telling her father just how grateful he ought to be that a Betazoid saved his life. Behind what she was saying, though, was the growing affection she had for Erich; somehow her anger made it glow all the brighter, like iron heated in a forge. At one end of the part a stone pathway lay before him. Tall bushes lined each side of the winding path. He figured it would abruptly end, but it opened into a circle of stone and grass some twenty meters in diameter. At the far end was a stone bench, but right in front lay an oblong pond. Water poured out of a statue standing in the middle. The gurgling noise of the running water broke his flight response. He sat on the bench and pressed his hands to his face. It was only a few minutes before Keb sought him out; the peaceful park barely caught her senses as she searched for Erich. She didn’t speak before sitting down next to him, though her thoughts were a jumble of worries and questions--mostly about what her father or she had done to make Erich run away from them. She reached for his hand, enveloping it in her own with gentle cautiousness. “I should not have run, but I did not want to say something to anger your father. I don’t think he trusts me, or at least not Betazoids.” He glanced at her. “It stung for some reason.” He let out a long sigh. “He must think I’m unstable.” Keb lowered her eyes to the ground. “He doesn’t really know you yet,” she said. “Maybe it was a bad idea to invite you...it’s...too soon.” Erich nodded. “Guess we’ve not really been able to decompress from the past week.” He paused, clasping her hand. “I should go back, perhaps tell him it was Manticore business.” Keb giggled all at once, that burst of immature rebellion swelling in her heart. “Or we could do terribly naughty things out here--or make him think we are--and drive him batty.” She met his eyes and sobered a little from her wild thoughts. “Not that I’d want him to have a heart attack or anything...he’s being silly about you, that’s all.” The Betazoid’s mind wrapped around the word naughty and took a chance. He leaned over just as she was off balance and kissed her straight on the lips, not giving her time to react, nor him time to read her mind. He held her motionless, trapped in the moment. Startled at first, Keb melted into the kiss, and a smile was playing on her lips as Erich pulled back enough to look at her again.
  25. She heard a distinct reverberated form of Erich's voice inside her head. Delight, followed by amazement, leading to shock crossed his mind in succession. Her mind recognized his mental projection as an inner voice, but not hers. They stood apart at the door to her quarters, eyes locked in realization of what transpired. A Betazoid’s telepathic projection resonating in a human’s mind. Her mind was not configured for reception from a telepath’s mind, or was it? Keb? he thought again, using his continued gaze into her brown eyes as a focal point. He knew immediately that he was still getting through, even without her sudden intake of breath. Her tight embrace grounded his flight response, and now she needed him. He could feel her mind starting to process things, going into overdrive after the initial shock. He didn’t want her to take this the way she had the dream incident. “You better sit down,” he nodded, keeping his stare. He led her by the hands to sit back on the couch, then turned around to get fresh water in a goblet for her. She sat and watched him return. It was a little frightening to have him show again that he could be inside her head, but this hadn’t felt like when he’d been in her dream. He’d been crying out to her for...for help. And she’d already come to terms with the fact that no matter what, she was happier with Erich around than not; she consciously didn’t want to drive him away by freaking out, especially not if he needed her. “Here,” Erich said, handing off the goblet. He sat by her as he had at dinner; he couldn’t leave now, not like this. “Are you okay?” She hesitated, taking stock of herself. She was still a little shaken by his voice inside her head, but things were quiet and normal again--and part of her was fascinated and intrigued by what had happened, if still confused. “I think so,” she answered. He closed his eyes, then opened them again. “Not completely,” he smiled, comforted by the fact that she was starting to accept the connection forged between them, as unusual as it was. “Are you okay?” she asked. “You--you were shaking--before…” “Fear,” he said, drifting to silence, considering his visions of the past. “My memories. I’ve tried to forget. You don’t know. No one does.” “You were...hearing my fear, too...my memories of being sick,” she said, gazing down at her water. It rippled slightly. “Is it--is it always so loud, when you hear what others are thinking?” It had felt like a plasma cannon booming inside her. "No, it was my strong projection," he laughed lightly. "Our emotions opened up a link between us. One that should not exist, for normal humans." This made him particularly happy to know she was atypical. She could understand what is so hard to put into words. What is sight to the blind, hearing for the deaf, and inner thoughts of others to the normals? She bit her lip before voicing the question, though of course he could see it forming in her mind. “What...what is it you fear?” Erich gazed at her for a long moment before he answered, and brushed his fingers against her cheek. “That part of what I can do will hurt you,” he admitted. She leaned into his touch. “You told me before that my thoughts gave you focus--and I know you were able to relax me,” she began. “And you’ve been helping me, not hurting...you’ve been keeping me focused on things like the ship, instead of being afraid of what I’ll do wrong all the time. Even with everything going wrong, I haven’t been doing the counting thing quite as often. I know things have been...weird between us, but...I...I think maybe we can help each other with our fears. It’s hard for me to admit I need help...but my career in Starfleet’s over if I can’t move past my breakdown.” Erich knew what she meant. “Doctor Scott will not let me keep my post either if I don’t get myself under control. Don’t worry about my reaction. I have to learn to accept vivid memories of others without their shock value. We can work on this later.” He considered her for a moment, lost in those damned eyes. “We are two messed up Starfleet officers. We have to keep each other grounded. Deal?” She nodded, amused that she was always making deals with him like a Ferengi.