G-Deck: A Captain Soma Halloween Adventure
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek and I derive no financial gain from this story.
Summary: A young Soma is haunted by a spectre from Enterprise's past.
Travis Mayweather crouched between two conduit buttresses. Beaded sweat rolled down his forehead, as he listened for any hint of sound from the darkened Jeffrey's tube. He was being stalked; hunted was a better word for it. Mayweather had taken refuge in the access corridor running parallel with G deck. The deck itself very well traveled, but he couldn't risk exposing himself out in the open, not if he hoped to escape detection. If he remained where he was, motionless and quiet, he might evade his pursuer. However, if he moved, then the hunter would know, and it would be only a matter of time before he was found. His stalker wasn't human. Able to hear his labored breathing and smell the scent of his sweat, Mayweather could only hide and pray that the acrid odor from the heated buttresses masked his scent.
A loud clang reverberated through the cramped corridor. Mayweather's head jerked sharply to his left. His pursuer, it had to be. The noise was close; just down the corridor, past the misty haze rolling out of the ejection manifolds. Leaning over, just enough to see down the corridor, he looked for any sign of movement. Unfortunately, it was too dark for his human eyes. The lighting was too faint to make out anything but long shadows. He glanced to his right. The exit hatch to G deck was at the opposite end of the corridor. Even at his top speed, he would be overtaken before reaching the hatch, and then he would be finished. His only other option was clear; make a stand. It was a futile gesture, but he wasn't going down without a fight. Bracing himself against the wall, he coiled his body into a tense spring, waiting for the right moment to strike.
Another noise, this one muted. His pursuer's movements were slow and methodical, but Mayweather could detect the faint footfalls. They grew closer. In a few moments, his pursuer would be upon him. Then it would be over. He resigned himself to the fact that he had put up a valiant effort and that he would go out like a man. Peering out of the corner of his eye, he caught the swift movement of a shadow on the opposite wall. Swallowing hard, he clenched his fists, waiting for the shadow to move forward…and then it did. Leaping out, he lunged forward, grabbing his adversary; holding onto him with all his strength. Moving without conscious thought, he flipped his pursuer onto his back, jabbing his fingers into the midsection and proceeded to…tickle.
“No fair!” shouted the young boy in a torrent of giggles.
“Give up?” asked Mayweather, as he continued his relentless assault on the boy's sides.
“Yes! Yes!” he shouted, squirming under Mayweather's assault.
Pulling his hands away, Mayweather leaned back, crouching against the wall. The boy looked up at him, the last few giggles escaping through labored breaths. His pointed ears, flushed green as were his cheeks.
“That wasn't fair, Uncle Travis!”
Mayweather smiled, “Life isn't fair, kiddo.”
The boy narrowed his eyes at him, and his pointed brow arched. He didn't like losing. Mayeather just smiled and shook his head.
“It's getting harder to hide from you, Jonathan. I remember when you couldn't even find me. You're getting too good at this game.”
The Vulcan boy's frown slowly turned into a smile. He liked playing with Travis. There weren't any other children aboard the Enterprise , and the six year old had always seen Mayweather as a surrogate older brother. For Mayweather's part, he enjoyed spending time with the boy, and looked at him as family. He also knew the boy was competitive. He liked winning, and didn't always respond well to the tougher lessons of losing. Mayweather knew the boy would have something to say, but just then, a chirp sounded from his pocket. Pulling out his communicator, Mayweather flipped open the antennae grid.
“Lieutenant Mayweather,” he responded.
“Travis,” replied the familiar voice of Captain Archer. “Ensign MacDonald had to go to sickbay; I'd like you to report to your shift early.”
MacDonald, the ship's secondary helmsman, was nine months pregnant and expecting any day. Travis smiled at Soma, whose eyes were wide open. The little Vulcan found everything a curiosity, much to the consternation of the crew. He had the unerring habit of finding trouble, or perhaps it was trouble that found him.
“Is she in labor, sir?” asked Mayweather, curiously.
“No,” chuckled Archer,” but Phlox wants to keep her for observation.”
Mayweather nodded his head. That woman had managed more false alarms than Commander Reed's security scanners being calibrated too high.
“I'll be right up, sir,” he said, closing the channel. Looking over at Soma, he gave the boy a quick nod. “Well sport, play time's over. I have to go to work.”
Soma leaned forward quickly. “Can I come with you?”
Mayweather gave the boy a disapproving look. “You know what Captain Archer and your folks said.”
Soma sat back, crossing his arms. “I know, but a whole month?”
“It's punishment, Jonathan,” Mayweather reminded the boy. “You're not allowed on the bridge for one month.”
“But Enterprise just got new upgrades for half the bridge,” pouted Soma. “I'll have to wait another three weeks to see ‘em.”
“Tough break kiddo; maybe next time you'll think twice before you dismantle one of Mr. Reed's phase rifles.”
“I was gonna put it back together,” said Soma, defensively.
Mayweather couldn't help smiling. The little Vulcan was precocious, to be sure. He had his mother's innate scientific curiosity and his father's headstrong hands on approach. At times, it proved to be a dangerous combination.
“Well, you know what your folks had to say about that too,” replied Mayweather, with a hint of sympathy. He knew how hard it was for Soma to be restricted from any part of the ship, least of all the bridge. “Now, I gotta get going.”
“Ok,” said Soma, with a hint of disappointment.
“Come on,” said Mayweather, nodding towards the exit.
“Nah, I'll go out the other end,” replied Soma, pointing down the shaft. “I left mom's scanner back at the junction.”
“Ok, little man,” said Mayweather, “But you scoot your butt.”
Mayweather watched the boy scurry down the corridor like a Centaurian hopper. He was a little scrawny, but being half Vulcan, the boy was quick and agile. When he saw that Jonathan had reached the hatchway, Mayweather turned and made his way to the exit on the opposite end. Crawling along the corridor, a sudden twinge of pain crept into his lower back. It reminded Mayweather that he wasn't built for crawling around in Jeffrey's tubes anymore. He would be happy to get out of the cramped tube and into the open corridor. Reaching the hatch, he turned the manual release, but stopped suddenly when he heard a noise. Listening carefully, he tried to hear it again.
Mayweather's eyes shot wide open. It was Jonathan. Instantly he spun around, clambering down the cramped corridor. Moving quickly, he shouted as he approached the opposite hatchway.
Looking in the direction of the exit hatch, he didn't see the boy. A panic suddenly gripped him, and he moved into the next section. Coming to the junction, he turned the corner, running right into Soma. The boy grabbed him, clutching his uniform. Looking down, he could see the panic-stricken expression on the boy's face. Mayweather had never seen him so frightened. Grabbing hold of him, he hugged him tight.
“Easy, easy!” said Mayweather. “It's ok, I got ya! You're all right.”
“I saw it!” cried the boy, his breathing pattern erratic.
Mayweather looked at him with obvious confusion. “Saw what?”
“It came right at me,” said Soma, becoming agitated. “It was reaching out, and it tried to grab me.”
“Jonathan, calm down,” said Mayweather, trying to understand what the boy was saying. “You're not making any sense. What tried to take you?”
Soma looked up at Mayweather with terror-filled eyes that threatened to unleash a flood of tears. “A Xindi.”
The doors to sickbay opened; Captain Archer and Commander T'Pol entered the antiseptically clean white room. At the far end, they saw Phlox and Mayweather standing next to a bio-bed, with Soma sitting up and dangling his tiny legs over the side.
Phlox turned when he heard the doors open. “Ah, captain, commander.”
T'Pol was the first to reach the bio-bed. “Is he injured?” she asked, a hint of emotion creeping into her question. She had long since regained control over her emotions, after her time in the Expanse, but her son always seemed to provoke the more primal of her suppressed and controlled emotions.
“He's fine,” said Phlox, raising his hands reassuringly. “He just got a little frightened.”
T'Pol looked down at Soma, and the boy returned the look hesitantly. Her expression changed from concern to disapproval. He was quite certain that she believed he had done something wrong. Looking away, T'Pol turned her attention to Mayweather.
“Lieutenant, what happened?”
“We were in the Jeffrey's tube on G deck,” explained Mayweather.
T'Pol and Archer looked at one another the moment Mayweather mentioned G deck. This wasn't the first time there had been problems on that deck. There had been incidents occurring there for years. However, it was the first time a small boy had nearly been frightened to death.
“We were playing a game,” continued Mayweather, “The captain called me to the bridge early, and we had to cut it short. Jonathan crawled down the corridor to the opposite exit. He wanted to get something he had left behind. The next thing I knew, I heard him screaming.”
“I see,” said T'Pol, coolly.
“I should have stayed with him,” said Mayweather, shaking his head. “I thought he'd be ok. The opening was only fifteen feet away.”
“Don't blame yourself, Lieutenant,” said T'Pol, looking at her son. “Jonathan spends many hours exploring places that he shouldn't. The fault is not yours; it's mine and his father's for not being sterner in the area of discipline.”
Mayweather looked at T'Pol. He didn't pretend to understand how the Vulcan mind worked. Commander Tucker had told him on more than one occasion, that he had married a Vulcan and that he had still found them to be a mystery. However, one thing that always bothered Mayweather was the almost clinical detachment that T'Pol could take with her son. He wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that she knew what lay ahead in the young Vulcan's future. He could sympathies with T'Pol. Raising a child was hard enough, but raising one when you were aware of how that child was to turn out...that had to make it that much harder. Never knowing if you were making the right decisions.
Captain Archer had remained quiet, while T'Pol spoke with Mayweather. After all, Soma was her son. Nevertheless, looking down at him, he decided a question needed asking. “Jonathan, what scared you?”
Soma looked up at Archer, hesitantly. He didn't like admitting that he was afraid, least of all to the captain. Archer was more than just the captain of the ship. He was also Soma's godfather and had a very prominent role in the boy's upbringing. His parents had insisted on it, and Soma had come to look up to the starship captain.
“A Xindi,” replied the boy, quietly.
Archer's brow shot up in surprise. “A Xindi?”
“That is impossible,” said T'Pol. “If there were a Xindi on board, we would have detected it.”
“It was a Xindi, Mother,” replied Soma, defensively. “A reptile; he reached out and tried to grab me!”
Soma started getting agitated again. Whatever happened had genuinely upset him. The levels on the bio-indicator began fluctuating as the boy became more excited. Phlox moved to the front of the bio-bed.
“Easy Jonathan,” he said, resting his hands on the boy's shoulder. “It's all right.”
Archer looked at T'Pol. He caught her expression immediately; they needed to talk, in private. Turning to Phlox, he touched the man's arm and motioned towards the next room.
“Travis, we need to talk to Doctor Phlox. Why don't you look after Jonathan?”
“No problem, sir.”
Archer and T'Pol followed Phlox into the next room. The doctor took a seat at his desk, while Archer and T'Pol remained standing.
“What do you think?” asked Archer, looking at T'Pol.
“He cannot have seen what he claims.”
“He's never lied before,” countered Archer.
“A hallucination perhaps,” suggested T'Pol, “or mistaking a shadow for something else.“
Archer considered those explanations. They were both logical and plausible, but something wouldn't let him accept them at face value. T'Pol could see the look on the captain's face.
“Jon, he has never seen a Xindi reptile outside of a history book.”
Archer looked at Phlox. “Doctor, did you have a chance to run any scans on him?”
“He's perfectly fine,” said Phlox, turning his desk monitor. Touching several buttons, he turned the screen so Archer could see the scan results. “With the exception of somewhat elevated levels of adrenaline and other processes related to a traumatic event, there's nothing abnormal.”
The captain shook his head, “This isn't the first time we've had this kind of problem on G deck.”
T'Pol gave him a raised brow, “You're referring to Corporal Cole.”
He looked at T'Pol. They had been through this before. Ever since they had returned from the Expanse, crewmembers had reported strange and inexplicable occurrences on G deck. Over the years, they had ranged from panels opening and closing by themselves to deck lighting fluctuating and rapid temperature changes…and of course…there were the sightings.
“I'm not saying that I believe in the supernatural-“
“Your attitude towards the matter, suggests that you do,” said T'Pol, interrupting him.
Archer sighed. How could he convince a logical Vulcan, when he couldn't even convince himself? At least not entirely, “Look, I can't explain it, but over the years, people have seen Amanda Cole; people who knew her as well as those who never met her. Can you explain that?”
“A myth,” said T'Pol, almost immediately, “much-like Earth's ‘urban legends', which are perpetuated by repetitive, preconceived misconceptions revolving around a place, object or person.”
Archer let out a low sigh. He wasn't going to get into another debate with her. In the past, it had been harmless occurrences and sightings, never anything dangerous. However, a Xindi reptile required greater consideration. He had to make sure that what Soma had seen was just a figment of his imagination or at most…a ghost.
“Have Malcolm do a security check of G deck. Tell him to scan for any Xindi bio signatures or residues.”
T'Pol looked at Archer. The captain could see the disapproval behind her stoic features. Over the years, he had become adept at divining her feelings on matters.
“Just in case,” he added.
“Very well, Captain.”
The doors to sickbay opened. Archer and T'Pol turned to see who had entered. Neither of them was surprised when they saw the familiar face of Enterprise's chief engineer.
“Trip!” said Archer. “What are you doing here?”
Tucker didn't even bother looking at Archer. “What d'ya mean what am I doin' here?” Rushing past, he made his way over to the bio-bed and the tiny patient sitting on it.
“Hey kiddo, how ya doin',” he said, smiling at Soma.
“Ok, I guess,” replied the child, looking up at his father.
“What happened,” asked Tucker, “you take a fall again?”
Archer, Phlox and T'Pol returned to the examination area. T'Pol walked up to the bed, and stood next to her husband. Looking down at her son, she could see that he was still agitated. Not wanting to add to his condition, she decided to forgo having him tell his story again.
“Jonathan claims that he has seen a Xindi Reptile.”
Tucker looked at her in surprise. “What?”
“I did see it!” said Soma, angrily, his blue eyes blazing at his mother. Tucker caught the look right away.
“Hey! You mind your manners mister,” said Tucker, sternly.
Soma dropped his head, staring down at the bed sheet, “Yes, sir.”
“Where did he see him?” asked Tucker.
Archer and T'Pol looked at each other before T'Pol answered, “G deck.”
Tucker shook his head. He was familiar with the stories; although he had never witnessed anything first hand. Tucker looked down at his son.
“Jonathan, are ya sure it was a Xindi?”
“You don't believe me either,” he replied, disappointingly.
“Jonathan, it's not that we don't believe you,” said Archer. “But it's pretty hard to accept…I'm going to have Malcolm scan the ship. If there's a Xindi on board, we'll find him…ok?”
Soma looked up at Archer, and shook his head. He wasn't lying.
Archer looked over at Mayweather. “Travis, I think Doctor Phlox has everything in hand. Why don't you head up to the bridge, I'll join you in a few minutes.”
“Aye, sir," replied Mayweather. Looking down at Soma, he gave the boy a smile. “Hey, I'll check in on you after my shift, ok?”
Soma smiled and nodded at Mayweather.
“I'd like to run a few more tests,” said Phlox, “Just routine.”
T'Pol looked over at Tucker, who nodded his head. “I gotta get back to engineering. Can you stay with him?”
“Of course,” replied T'Pol.
“You gonna be ok?” asked Tucker.
Soma shook his head.
“That's my boy,” he said, brushing Soma's sandy hair with his hand.
The large bay doors opened to main engineering. Stepping through the giant arch, Soma wandered into one of his favorite areas of the ship. Next to the bridge, the engine room was the place he spent the most time. The engineering staff was used to him showing up, always asking them questions, but never getting in the way. He was like a regular fixture of the place. One of his father's assistants crossed the open deck, and immediately took notice of the boy.
“Hey Jonathan,” said the short redheaded woman. “You looking for your dad?”
“Well, he's at the back of the warp core, on the upper level,” she said, pointing to the lift.
“Thank you, ma'am.”
She smiled at him. He was always extra polite. Maybe even overly polite, but it was one of the things that endeared him to the crew. They liked having the little Vulcan around to ask them questions and generally be his curious self. Soma walked over to the lift. Riding it to the second floor, he got off and made his way to the end of the long catwalk. When he reached the aft section, he could see his father leaning over the main warp housing.
Tucker was tugging at an annoyingly stubborn relay. The part needed replacing and he had spent the better part of a half an hour trying to remove it. He was ready to take a phase pistol to it and be done with it! Hearing the footfalls along the catwalk, he looked up. Seeing his son, his look of frustration immediately changed to a warm smile.
“Hey kiddo; Phlox give you a clean bill of health?”
Soma nodded his head. Tucker was surprised at how shy and soft-spoken his son could be. Very different from the self confident and outgoing man that he knew Soma would become. Something that Tucker was in no hurry to see. He liked the older version of his son, but he wanted to savor the childhood moments while they lasted. There was plenty of time for his boy to become a man. Right now, he was just his little boy, and frightened little boy.
Tucker set down his scanner and knelt down in front of Soma. “Ya know…its ok to be a little scared.”
“I'm not scared,” said Soma, holding up his chin.
“I didn't say ya were,” said Tucker. “I just said it's ok to be scared. Ya know?”
Soma looked at his father for a moment. Tucker knew what the boy was thinking. He wanted to be able to face his fears. It was times like this, that he wished he were more Vulcan…more like his mother. However, Tucker knew that wouldn't solve his problems. Even Vulcans had their rough spots, as he had discovered over the years.
“Ya wanna help the ole man?”
Soma's eyes lit up. Tucker couldn't always solve his son's problems, but he always knew how to make them a little easier to deal with.
“Ok, sit yourself down and you can hand me the tools when I ask for ‘em.”
Soma sat down on the catwalk, and let his legs dangle over the edge. Tucker picked up his scanner, and walked back to the warp manifold. Running a scan over the plate, he glanced over at his son.
“So you wanna talk about it,” he asked.
Soma looked up, but didn't say anything. Tucker knew his son didn't like discussing his problems. He saw them as weaknesses. However, Tucker had found that if he kept after his son, eventually the boy would open up.
“Might make ya feel better.”
Soma remained silent for a moment, before deciding to answer. “Nobody believes me.”
“I believe ya,” said Tucker, matter-of-factly.
“You do?” the boy said in surprise.
“Lot's of strange things have happened on that deck over the years. Things folks can't explain.”
Soma looked at him questioningly. “Why?”
Tucker stopped his scan, and looked over at him. “Well, some folks think it's haunted.”
“Haunted? Like the houses in the movies?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” said Tucker.
A curious expression came over Soma's face. His father recognized it immediately. Hadn't he seen it more times than he could remember, on T'Pol? It was the look of intense scrutiny.
“How did it get haunted,” asked Soma.
“Hand me the hydro-spanner,” said Tucker. Soma leaned over, and picked out the tool from his father's box, handing it to him. “Well, things started happenin' quite a few years ago…before you were born. We came back from the Expanse…and well…a lot had happened; a lot of bad stuff.”
“Did people die?”
Tucker looked down at his son. He and T'Pol had decided before Soma was born, that they wouldn't hide the truth from their son. He needed to understand the world as it was, and not have it hidden from him behind half-truths and euphemisms.
“Yeah…people died,” said Tucker, shaking his head.
Soma could see the pained look on his father's face. People tended to assume that he didn't understand what grown ups thought and felt. After all, he was just a child. Nevertheless, Soma knew. He didn't always comprehend the intricate details, but he was very sensitive to the emotions of others, a bi-product of his Vulcan heritage.
“Who's Amanda?” asked Soma.
Tucker looked at him again, this time in surprise. “Where did ya hear that name?”
“Captain Archer and mother were talking,” explained Soma. “They both mentioned the name. I think they didn't know I could hear them.”
“Amanda…she was…she was a friend.”
Tucker's eyes narrowed and he pursed his lips. Somehow, his son always knew just which questions not to ask. “I'll explain it to ya when yer older,”
“You always say that whenever I ask you about girls,” pouted Soma.
“Yeah, well, you'll have plenty of chances to find out for yourself,” countered Tucker.
“Find out what?”
“I'll tell ya when yer older,” smiled Tucker.
Soma realized that his father wasn't going to tell him what he wanted to know, so he went back to his original question. “So what happened to her?”
“She was one of the MACOs assigned to the ship,” explained his father. “She was supposed to protect us in case anyone bad came on board. We…We got into a fight with some Xindi. A few of them managed to come aboard, and tried to take over the ship. Amanda and some of the other MACOs tried to stop them.”
Tucker paused for a moment. The memory of what they had gone through overwhelmed him. It had been a long time since he'd spoken about the Expanse to anyone but T'Pol. Taking in a deep breath, he let out a slow exhale, and continued. “A shot from a Xindi ship hit the underside of the ship, causin' a rupture in the hull. The whole deck depressurized. She didn't survive.”
Soma looked at him wide eyed. People always told Tucker, that Soma had his eyes. However, Tucker knew better. They may have been his color, but they were beautiful and expressive, just like his mother's eyes.
“We never recovered her body,” Tucker added hesitantly. “After the mission, some of the crew…well, they started seein' her; only on G deck. We ran scans; even turned the deck inside out, but we couldn't explain it.”
“Have you seen her?”
Tucker shook his head. “No, I don't get down to G deck that much.” It wasn't a lie, but it also wasn't the truth. The real-truth was that he was afraid that he would see her. He felt guilty about not having talked to her after he had slept with T'Pol. He tried to rationalize it by telling himself that everything had happened so fast, and that he hadn't had the time. The truth was that he was afraid. And when she died, a part of his life remained unresolved. He often wondered if she died resenting him.
“Maybe I can see her,” said Soma.
Tucker snapped out of his thoughts, when he heard his son. “Hey! I want you to stay clear of there.”
“No buts, mister. I don't want you going back there.”
Tucker could see the disappointment on his son's face. He was such a curious child. Something he and his mother encouraged. Therefore, anytime they forbade him from exploring or stifled his curiosity, it confused him. Tucker walked over to his son. Placing his hands on his shoulders, he knelt down in front of him.
“Just do it for the ole man, ok?”
He knew what his son wanted to do. Go back and find out what it was that he had seen. What he had seen, scared him, but he always faced things head on. Soma didn't reply, but just nodded his head, and his father pulled him close, giving a hug.
“I love you, ya know.”
“I love you to,” said Soma.
Soma entered his family's quarters. They had moved to one of the guest rooms on E deck shortly after Soma was born. Neither of his parents' quarters was suited for a family, so Captain Archer had reassigned them to something more appropriate for Enterprise's resident family.
T'Pol turned to look at her son. “Jonathan, are you well?”
“Yes, Mother.” Soma had taken to addressing her more formally than his father. He always tried to please them both, even though they had insisted that he should be himself. Something he would take to heart, as he grew older.
“And what have you been doing?”
“I was helping father in engineering.”
T'Pol looked at her son. She could tell something was bothering him, but wasn't sure if it had something to do with this afternoon's events or something unrelated.
“Is something troubling you?”
Soma didn't look at his mother. He knew how well she could read his expressions, but it would be futile to try to hide it from her.
“Father asked me not to go back to G deck.”
T'Pol looked at Soma curiously. “Did he say, why?”
Soma hesitated. T'Pol sensed there was something he didn't want to tell her.
“Jonathan?” she said, more sternly.
Soma bit his lower lip. “He said it was haunted.”
T'Pol's brow arched, “I see,” she replied, considering this new information. “Jonathan, there are no such things as ghosts,” she explained.
“Father says there are.”
“Your father is human,” said T'Pol, in a correcting tone. “They react emotionally when a plausible explanation is better suited.”
“So what was it that I saw?” asked Soma.
T'Pol considered the question for a moment. The reason that his father had given him demanded a more rational explanation. However, the truth was that she didn't have an answer.
T'Pol stopped when she heard the door chime. Standing up, she went over and pressed the access panel. The door slid open, and she was surprised to see that it was Hoshi Sato.
“Lieutenant, is something wrong?”
“No,” said Sato. “I just stopped by to see how Jonathan was.”
“That is very considerate of you,” she said, stepping aside. “Jonathan, someone is here to see you.”
Jonathan ran up to the door, but stopped short. He knew his mother disapproved of him running inside their quarters. Looking past her, he saw Hoshi.
“Hi, Hoshi,” he said smiling. Sato was the first female, aside from his mother, with whom he had extended contact. He had become much attached to the communications officer. He enjoyed taking his language lessons from her.
“Hi, Jonathan. How are you?”
“Well that's good,” replied Sato. “Travis told me what happened. You gave us all quite a scare.”
T'Pol looked at Sato. She was right; the matter had distressed them all. Even T'Pol found that she was unsettled.
“Hoshi,” she said, addressing the lieutenant by her first name. She didn't do it often, because Sato was a subordinate. However, she was also a friend. “Are you occupied?”
“No, I was just going to head over to the mess hall for dinner.”
“I was wondering if Jonathan might accompany you,” she said, looking down at her son. The boy flashed a smile at Sato. “I have some work to take care of and he has not eaten dinner yet.”
“I'd be happy to,” said Sato. “Come on Jonathan.”
Jonathan followed Sato to the exit. Stopping suddenly, he turned and smiled, “Thank you, Mother.”
T'Pol nodded. “You're welcome.”
Turning, he hurried to catch up to Sato, who was already in the corridor. T'Pol watched the door close behind him. She would make the most of this uninterrupted time, and find the answer to the question her son had asked.
Trip Tucker entered his quarters. He had, had a busy day. Between Soma ending up in sickbay and having to run a full diagnostic on the warp coils, he hadn't had a minutes break. Looking across the room, he saw T'Pol working at their computer monitor. The Vulcan never knew the phrase, "leisure time."
“Hey darlin',” he said planting a kiss on his wife's head. “I'm starved, what d'ya say we grab Jonathan and head down to the mess hall?”
T'Pol turned and watched Tucker enter their bathroom. “Jonathan is with Hoshi, and I wish to speak with you.”
“What about?” said Tucker, grabbing a towel. He leaned outside the bathroom to see his wife and caught the hard stare she was giving him. “Oh boy, I know that look.”
“What look?” she asked.
“The one ya got on yer face. The 'we need to have a talk Mr. Tucker,' look.”
“You told Jonathan not to venture back to G deck,” said T'Pol.
Tucker's brow furrowed. “I thought you'd be in agreement on that.”
“I am,” replied T'Pol. “But not with your reason.”
Tucker took a deep breath. He should have seen this coming. Even after all these years, he still had the uncanny ability of letting his mouth get him into trouble.
“You told Jonathan that the deck was…haunted,” explained T'Pol. “We agreed when we approached Doctor Phlox about having a child, that we would raise that child together and not with false notions.”
“It isn't a false notion, T'Pol,” said Tucker, defensively. “People have seen things throughout human history that have no logical explanation.”
“So your solution is to give him an illogical one?” asked T'Pol.
“And I suppose you have a better one?”
“I am currently attempting to narrow down the possibilities,” she replied, coolly.
“I'll take that as a 'no,'” he shot back.
She glared at him icily. He was the only adult, save her mother, who had ever been able to elicit intense emotional reactions from her.
“I will not have my son taught falsehoods.”
“You're son?” said Tucker, angrily. “I'm the one he comes to when he's got problems!”
T'Pol stiffened, at the comment. Tucker regretted it the moment he had said it, but the words had already come out. He was angry that T'Pol was suggesting that he might be adding to their son's troubles. Nevertheless, what he had said pierced even T'Pol's Vulcan heart, because it was true. Jonathan tended to seek out his father when he was troubled. It was something that she understood on a practical level. Jonathan was more human than Vulcan, at least in attitude. It made sense that he would seek out his human father. Nevertheless, part of T'Pol, the part she buried under layers of logic, found her noble Vulcan heart, broken.
She stood up from the desk. “If you'll excuse me, I have work to do.”
Tucker knew better than to try to say something when she was like this. Watching her pick up a tricorder, his eyes followed her across the room as she exited their quarters. Once the door closed behind her, he let out a loud sigh.
“Way ta go, Tucker.”
T'Pol stepped out of the turbo lift, and onto G deck. Stopping, she looked down the long, narrow corridor. There didn't appear to be any other crewmembers present. Pulling out her scanner, she took a reading of the deck. As she had hoped, there was no one else on G deck. She was free to examine the area undisturbed. Walking down the hall, she continued running scans. Commander Reed had already run a ship wide scan for any Xindi bio-signs. As she expected, none were detected. She was certain there was a more mundane explanation for what had happened. It was only a matter of discovering the catalyst. Moving further down the corridor, she came to one of the storage compartments that ran along the deck. The space was reserved for replacement parts and back up components, which explained why it was visited so infrequently. Opening the storage door, she leaned into the pitch-black compartment. The sudden beep from her communicator startled her and she straightened, reflexively. Taking a deep breath, she reached into her belt compartment, and pulled out her communicator.
“Commander,” said Reed, “the captain asked me to keep an active scan going on G, in case of anymore anomalies. Sensors just detected a low level electromagnetic field.”
“No doubt your sensors are reacting to my scanner,” explained T'Pol.
“No, Commander,” replied Reed, “I have your position just outside storage compartment two. The reading is coming from further down the corridor.”
“Can you pinpoint the exact location?”
“I'll try,” said Reed.
T'Pol waited while the armory officer attempted to isolate the source of the anomaly. If it was detectable by ship's sensors then it was something physical, like a power bleed or spatial distortion. No supernatural presence need apply.
“I've got it, Commander. It's at junction A, main Jeffries tube access.”
T'Pol looked down the corridor. It was exactly where Soma said he had seen the Xindi. “Thank you, Mr. Reed.”
“Commander, should I send a security detail?”
T'Pol considered it for a moment, but quickly dismissed the notion. A security detail wasn't required. “That won't be necessary. T'Pol out.”
Closing her communicator, T'Pol slipped it back into her belt. Removing a small flashlight, she proceeded down the corridor. Running her scanner along the bulkheads, she found the same anomalous reading that Reed's sensor scan had detected. The readings were becoming stronger as she approached the access hatch. It was as if her presence was somehow increasing the intensity. Stopping, she studied the readings for a moment. There was no further increase, but no decrease either. The levels remained the same. Resuming her movement down the hall, she watched as the readings continued to rise, slowly and steadily.
Reaching the access hatch, she stopped, studying the scanner again. The readings were much stronger here. Reaching out to the hatch, she stopped – drawing back suddenly as the readings on her scanner spiked. Something was defiantly reacting to her presence. Looking up, she noticed the corridor lights began to dim. For a brief moment, she hesitated. The feeling of fear threatened to take hold of her, as she considered what might lie beyond the hatchway. Almost as quickly, she banished the emotion. There were no such things as ghosts or supernatural entities. There was a logical explanation and she was going to discover it. Reaching out, she quickly turned the manual release, pulling the hatch door open. Shining her light into the narrow crawl space, she looked down the corridor. There was nothing there. Looking down at her scanner, she studied the readings. They were still present, and still elevated, but had shifted position. Standing up, she turned to run her scanner along the corridor and audibly gasped when she saw a Xindi Reptile standing over her. Its sickly blue aura glowed in the dark corridor, and T'Pol could see the malevolent expression on the scaled face of the reptile. Raising his arm, he swung his clawed hand at her. Instinctively, she fell back, landing on the deck. Rolling backwards, she came up into a crouch position. Raising her hands defensively, she looked up, only to see that the Xindi was gone.
T'Pol approached the door hesitantly. What she was considering went against all the precepts of logic, and yet, what choice did she have. She had seen something that logic told her could not exist, but her senses told her it had been there. Conventional wisdom proved lacking in answers. Therefore, she had decided to seek out a source of unconventional wisdom. Reaching out, she depressed the buzzer to the crewmember's quarters. Straightening, she waited until the door slid open to reveal the short wiry frame of Lt. Ehawee. The lieutenant was the ship's geologist and a member of one of Earth's native tribes, the Sioux. T'Pol had selected Ehawee from a number of candidates; choosing her for her exemplary service record and scientific background. She had not gotten to know the lieutenant very well, but did recall that her name meant, “laughing maiden."
“Commander, what brings you by?” she asked, unable to hide her nervousness. Most of the crew was that way around T'Pol. They knew she was a no nonsense officer and a stickler for protocol.
“At ease, Lieutenant,” said T'Pol, trying to make the situation less formal. “I apologize for the interruption, but I need to speak with you. May I come in?”
Ehawee nodded and stepped aside, allowing T'Pol to enter. Stepping into the room, T'Pol immediately detected the lingering odor of incense. It was strong, but not pungent. The smell reminded her of an herb that Vulcan monks used during certain rituals. Looking around the room, she noted that it was sparse. Something to be expected in a junior officer's much smaller living space. However, several items adorned her wall, and T'Pol recognized them as Native American talismans. Ehawee watched the Vulcan, waiting for her to say something. She was certain that she had done something wrong, but couldn't imagine what it was. She couldn't think of any other reason why T'Pol would visit her.
“What can you tell me about ghosts?” asked T'Pol, still staring at the talismans.
Ehawee's eyes opened wide in surprise. “I beg your pardon?”
“I believe I was quite clear in my question,” said T'Pol, turning to face her. “It's my understanding that the native tribes of your planet are more…appreciative of such things.”
Ehawee wasn't sure if it was a compliment or not, but decided not to dwell on it. She was more interested in why T'Pol would be asking about ghosts.
“I was raised in Miami, Commander,“ said Ehawee, “that's a long way from where my people are from and doesn't exactly make me an expert on their beliefs.”
T'Pol looked at her with an almost confused expression. “I see,” she said. “I apologize for disturbing you.”
T'Pol headed for the door, but Ehawee's curiosity had already been piqued.
“Wait,” she said. “Maybe I can still help. What exactly did you want to know?”
T'Pol turned, looking at the woman. She had come here for advice. It would be remiss not to avail herself of the lieutenant's offer.
“What are some of the reasons given for spectral manifestations?”
Ehawee looked at T'Pol for a moment. She wondered why Vulcans always insisted on complicating everything they said. “You mean what causes a ghost to appear?”
“Well, we won't exactly get through that in an evening,” she replied. “Can you be more specific? I assume this has to do with something someone's seen.”
T'Pol hesitated. She was uncomfortable discussing matters that she considered private.
“My son,” she answered.
“He saw a Xindi reptile yesterday,” explained T'Pol. “We have scanned the ship. There are no Xindi on board.”
“But you believe he's seen one,” said Ehawee. It was less a question than an affirmation.
“I have also seen it,” replied T'Pol. “Less than an hour ago, on G deck, not far from where my son saw him.”
“Ah, G deck, “said Ehawee, nodding her head. “I see.”
“I take it then, that you are aware of the rumors?”
“Kinda hard to avoid on a ship this size,” said Ehawee. “Mostly second and third hand stories. Most of the original crew doesn't really talk about it. I understand the Expanse changed things for all of you.”
“Yes,” T'Pol said evenly.
“I've never heard anyone seeing a Xindi before, but I have been told that some of the crew had seen a women; a MACO.”
“Corporal Amanda Cole,” said T'Pol. “She was assigned to Enterprise during our mission in the Expanse. She was killed at Azati Prime.”
“I see,” said Ehawee. “So you've seen something you can't explain and you're hoping I can give you some kind of an answer.”
T'Pol stared at the lieutenant. This was difficult for her. As a Vulcan, she had always sought answers grounded in logic and fact, not superstition. Seeking advice on a matter as illogical as the supernatural was not something she found easy to reconcile.
“Must be hard,” said the lieutenant.
T'Pol's brow furrowed. “Hard?”
“Having to deal with something you can't quantify or qualify.”
She looked at Ehawee for a moment. The woman was correct; it was hard. She had seen many things during her career with the High Command and later on Enterprise. However, she had always found a logical explanation for even the most anomalous occurrences.
“Vulcans have a belief in a spiritual essence,” corrected T'Pol. “We call it the katra.”
Ehawee looked at her with genuine surprise. She would never have thought such a logical race as the Vulcans believed in something so intangible.
“Do you have an explanation?” asked T'Pol. Her tone wasn't hostile, but it betrayed her desperation.
She considered what T'Pol had told her. She was a geologist, not a shaman. Still, the situation must have been dire for T'Pol to seek her out, and she couldn't see herself sending Enterprise's resident Vulcan off without something. “Has there ever been something in your life that you would rather leave behind, but couldn't.”
T'Pol eyed her curiously, but didn't answer.
“Something you did…or meant to do that bothered you deeply.”
“Are you speaking of regret?” asked T'Pol.
“In a way,” she replied. “But it's something much deeper. It's something in your life that won't go away until it's dealt with. May be that's what's keeping this Xindi here…and Corporal Cole.”
T'Pol's brow furrowed AGAIN, as she considered the woman's analogy. She had to admit, that it was intriguing, if irrational. “So you are suggesting that 'spirits'…in this case a Xindi and perhaps Corporal Cole are tethered to our realm by a single event, which requires some form of completion.”
“It's one explanation,” she said, nodding her head.
“How does one bring about this completion?”
“You can't,” she replied. “The spirit is restless. It'll only leave when things are set right. Something is tying them to this ship and that deck, something that prevents them from passing on to the other side. Spirits usually make their presence known in a variety of harmless and innocuous ways. However, this Xindi's intentions may be more malicious.”
“Are you suggesting that he poses a threat to the ship?”
“Hard to say,” answered Ehawee. “The spirit world can be very powerful. Part of what we are in life is carried with us in death. At the very least, he could cause harm to an individual…such as your son.”
T'Pol bristled at that last comment. The thought of her son coming to harm sent a cold chill down her spine, “My son?”
Ehawee shook her head gravely. “I told you that I had never heard any stories of crewmembers seeing a Xindi before.”
“Jonathan was the first,” replied T'Pol.
“There might be a reason for that,” said Ehawee, hesitantly. “Your son may have been a catalyst that triggered whatever brought this Xindi's spirit to our plain.”
T'Pol considered what Ehawee was saying. It flew in the face of every logical thought she had ever had, and yet it had given her a course of action to pursue.
“Thank you, Lieutenant. You have been most helpful.”
T'Pol turned, and headed for the door. Ehawee moved quickly, blocking the Vulcan's path. Stopping abruptly, T'Pol fixed the women with an intense stare.
“You're going back there, aren't you?”
“I have no choice,” replied T'Pol. “If what you say is true, then my son may be in further peril. I can't allow that.”
“Wait,” she said, holding up her hands. “Just wait.”
Moving past T'Pol, she walked over to the dresser along the far wall. Opening it, she reached in and pulled out a small leather bag. Turning, she walked back to T'Pol and held the bag out for her.
T'Pol's brow arched. “What is it?”
“It's a talisman,” she explained. “It's been in my family for six generations. It's supposed to protect the holder against spirits.”
Ehawee could see T'Pol was about to protest, and she quickly cut her off. “Look, if you believe enough in the spirit world to go after this thing then can't you extend that belief far enough to take something to fight it?”
T'Pol considered the logic of Ehawee's statement. Reaching out, she took the bag, and nodded.
“I will return this when I'm finished.”
Ehawee nodded, and T'Pol turned, heading for the exit. The doors slip open, and she moved to leave, stopping suddenly when Ehawee called out again.
T'Pol turned, looking back at the young woman.
Soma stepped into the turbo lift, signaling it to proceed. Sato had invited him to come along for movie night, but he had declined, telling her that he wanted to go back to his quarters. He didn't like lying, especially to Hoshi. However, if he had told her the truth, he would never be able to complete what he had set out to do. Gripping the turbo lift's control, he flexed his tiny hand around the cylinder. He could feel his sweat soaked hand sliding down the control. He was afraid, and with good reason. The turbo lift was carrying him to the unknown. Even though he had promised his father that he wouldn't return there, he was descending to G deck. As the lift began its deceleration, Soma swallowed hard. His mother had insisted that there were no such things as ghosts. However, she had failed to give him an alternate explanation, and this only increased his anxiety.
The lift slowed until it came to a stop and the twin doors slid open. Soma looked into the long corridor, but made no attempt to leave the lift. He could go back to his quarters or see the movie with Hoshi and his other friends. He could forget about all this and never come back here, as he had promised. However, before those nagging doubts could take root, he stepped forward, exiting the turbo lift. Hearing the doors close behind him, he took in a deep breath. He had made his decision. Looking along the corridor, he noticed that the lighting for the deck was lower than he remembered. Long shadows stretched across the walls, reaching out to him. Hesitantly, he started forward. Taking short steps, he walked slowly down the corridor, making his way to the Jeffries Tube hatch.
A second turbo lift sped in downward course towards G deck. Inside, T'Pol adjusted her scanner, checking the calibration. When she was satisfied that the device was functioning properly, she placed it back in her belt compartment. Reaching into another compartment, she pulled out the talisman Lt. Ehawee had given her. She found it difficult to place her faith in a superstition, but Ehawee had been right. If she was willing to face a superstition then she should fight it with a superstition. However, T'Pol wasn't about to put all of her faith in the native talisman. She had stopped by the armory and taken out a phase pistol. Checking the weapon, she made sure that the power pack was fully charged. She was uncertain if it would have any effect on an incorporeal being, but she wasn't going to go in unarmed.
The lift slowed, coming to a halt on G deck. The doors slid open and she stepped out of the lift. Pulling her scanner out, she took a reading of the deck. Looking at the illuminated panel, she was surprised to see that it showed no life form readings, not even her own. Either the unit was faulty, which she doubted, or something was interfering with the scan. Putting the scanner in its case, she drew her phase pistol, and headed down the darkened corridor.
Trip Tucker sat at the engineering station. After his argument with T'Pol, he had grabbed something quick to eat, and then decided to come up to the bridge to get some adjustments done on the new systems. He certainly didn't want to sulk in their quarters. Work always managed to take his mind off his problems. Focusing on his control board, he had managed to lose himself in the work until Commander Reed's voice broke the silence.
“Captain, I'm registering power fluctuations.”
Archer turned in his command chair, “Location?”
Reed looked down at his board, “G deck.”
Tucker looked over at Archer, who gave him a quick glance.
“Is anyone on G deck?” asked Archer.
“I'm detecting two bio readings,” said Reed, adjusting his controls. Then he looked up, “Both Vulcan.”
A sudden panic overcame Tucker as he leapt from his seat. Archer had already tapped the comm. button on his chair.
“Bridge to T'Pol,” he said, waiting a moment for a response. “T'Pol, this is the captain, respond.”
Archer looked at Tucker, who had already rounded the engineering station, and was approaching him. He could see the fear on his friend's face. Turning, Archer addressed the duty officer manning the comm. station.
“Ensign Kyle, is there a problem with communications?”
Lieutenant Sato always made sure the communications station was in perfect working order. Nevertheless, Kyle did a quick check on the equipment, just to be certain. Looking back at the captain, he shook his head, “No, sir.”
Archer turned back to Reed. “Malcolm, take a security detail down there; find T'Pol and Jonathan.”
“Aye, sir,” replied Reed, nodding.
Tucker came up the steps, following Reed to the turbo lift. Archer, stood up, but stopped suddenly. As captain, he knew that letting a crewmember join in a rescue for personal reason was a bad call. Their emotions were running high, and it could cause them to make mistakes. However, in Tucker's case, he knew that his friend would never stand by if his wife and child were in danger. At least with Malcolm along, Tucker would have someone to keep him from doing anything rash.
G deck, aft section…
Soma moved down the corridor, towards the aft section of the ship. The deck stretched the entire length of the lower part of the ship, and had several access corridors to the Jeffries tube system that ran adjacent to it. However, Soma was only interested in one access hatch: aft section, hatch “A”, where he had seen the Xindi. There was no way he could be sure the Xindi would be there again, but it was the most logical place to look. Walking along the darkened corridor, he squinted his eyes to see further ahead. Vulcan eyesight was better suited to the harsh brightness of a sun, not the dark shadows of a corridor. Soma berated himself for not thinking ahead. He had come ill equipped for the task: no flashlight…not even a scanner. His mother would have planned every step out before attempting to undertake the task. Unfortunately, his human heritage and his father's headstrong tendency to act before thinking, had won out.
Moving slowly, he listened for any hint of noise. However, with the exception of the low thrum of the ship's systems, which reverberated through the deck plating and walls there was no other sound. It made the boy uneasy. He would have preferred something…anything. The oppressive silence of his enemy made his tiny Vulcan heart beat rapidly. Watching the darkened corridor, his eyes darted back and forth, as he made certain to catch any movement. More than once he thought that, he had seen something move in the darkness, something reaching towards him.
G deck, forward section…
T'Pol attempted to use her scanner once again. Adjusting the settings, she pointed the device in front of her. The instrument was set to detect electromagnetic variances within the deck. However, the blank illuminated display gave her the answer that she had expected. Under normal circumstances, the device should detect background electromagnetic signatures from the power cells and circuitry that lined the deck. However, its continued absence had confirmed her suspicions; something was interfering with the device, which meant something was present. It wasn't the hard proof that she sought, but it was a sound logical deduction.
Moving further down the corridor, she observed her setting. She had already noticed that the lighting levels were at least three settings below standard. She had considered alerting the bridge to the situation, but had decided against it. Logically, whatever circumstances were affecting the deck was somehow related to her investigation. If the situation proved a danger to either the ship or the crew, she would notify Captain Archer immediately. Stopping for a moment, she felt a chill go through her body. She could feel a definite change in temperature. Stepping back, she noted that the sudden chill left her and the surrounding air warmed; it was as if she had just walked into a thermo-cline. Straightening, she continued forward, confident that her answers lay somewhere down the corridor.
Outside G deck, aft section…
Tucker climbed down the final rungs of the emergency shaft leading to G deck. He and Reed had found that the turbo lifts weren't responding and the only other access to the deck was the emergency shaft. Tucker had suggested they beam T'Pol and Jonathan out, but almost as soon as he had mentioned the idea, the bridge had lost sensor contact with the entire deck and everything on it. There was no way they could beam anything out without a lock and trying to beam in blindly was nothing short of playing Russian roulette with the transporter. They would stand a good chance of beaming into a bulkhead or the deck floor. Stepping off the ladder, he looked over at Reed and the security team. They were staring at a closed bulkhead in front of the corridor opening.
“What the hell?” spat Tucker.
Reed shook his head, “It was in place when we got here. I tried the manual override, but it isn't responding.”
Tucker pulled out his communicator. “Tucker to the bridge.”
“Archer, go ahead.”
“Cap'n, what the hell's goin' on? The forward bulkhead to G deck is closed.”
There was a moment of silence, while Tucker and Reed waited for their captain's response. Reed could see the frustration on his friend's face. His family was trapped behind that bulkhead and heaven only knew what had put it there.
Archer finally responded. “All the bulkheads on G deck have closed, Trip. Something triggered them, but we don't know what.”
“What about T'Pol and Jonathan?”
Archer paused before replying. “Trip…we've lost their readings. We're not getting any readings past the bulkheads.”
Tucker's jaw tightened at the captain's words. He wouldn't…couldn't accept that his wife and child were gone; not as long as there was a chance…any chance…he would take get them back. Turning abruptly, he grabbed a phase rifle from one of Reed's men. Adjusting the setting to maximum, he took aim and fired at the bulkhead.
“We'll use the phase rifles to cut through,” he said, holding a steady beam on the bulkhead.
Reed looked at his friend. Tucker held the phase rifle with a white knuckled grip as he continued to fire a concentrated beam. It would take Tucker take at least forty-five minutes to cut through. With two more phase rifles, they might cut it down to twenty. Nodding to his other security officer, Reed slung the phase rifle off his shoulder, and the two men took up positions next to Tucker.
G deck, Jeffries tube access…
Jonathan approached the access hatch leading to the Jeffries tube. Hesitantly he drew nearer. The thought of what he might find on the other side gripped him with fear. He could feel his insides churning as his heart raced and his breathing became labored. For a moment, he considered turning back. Then he reminded himself of what Captain Archer would do. He would face whatever lay ahead. Soma knew he wasn't Archer, but it was enough to strengthen the boy's resolve. Reaching out, he grasped the access hatch. Gripping the cold metal handle for a moment, he took a deep breath, and jerked the hatch open. He breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing but an empty corridor. Looking in, he could see the tube extend out several meters before turning sharply towards the front of the ship. Placing his hand on the edge of the hatchway, Soma suddenly felt a chill run through his body. It felt as if the ambient temperature had just dropped several degrees. In the feint blue lighting from the Jeffries tube, he could see the vapors from his own breath. It had gotten colder. Swallowing hard, he realized that he wouldn't have to go looking for the Xindi; the Xindi would find him.
Moving away from the hatch, Soma looked up and then down the corridor. The low lighting made it difficult to see more than a few meters in any direction. Gripping his tiny hands, he tried to listen for any sound. However, with the exception of the beating of his heart pulsing through his ears, the corridor was silent. Suddenly, he heard something. It was unfamiliar to him. The sound had a raspy quality to it, almost like sickened and labored breathing. He listened closely for a few moments. It was definitely breathing. But who…or what was making the sound. Swallowing hard, he reached for the hatch once again. Tiny fingers grasped the release mechanism. Squeezing tightly, he started to pull at the release when he suddenly felt something touch his fist. The hair on his arm went up and he sucked in a breath of icy air. In an instant, he was painfully wrenched away from the hatch, and found himself violently shaken, held suspended in mid air.
G deck, forward section…
T'Pol stopped at the main junction. Pulling out her scanner, she pointed it down both corridors. The device's low illumination cast an eerie green glow on her features. Staring at the screen, her brow arched in frustration. The device was still detecting no energy traces. Putting it back on her belt, she turned and headed down the left corridor, leading to access hatch alpha. If her instruments were of no use, then returning to the last known occurrence was a sound logical decision. Walking down the corridor, she reviewed, in her mind, what Lt. Ehawee had told her. T'Pol was still skeptical of what she had been told, let alone seen, and a nagging doubt began to trouble her. Was she really equipped to handle this alone? Perhaps it would have been wiser to enlist the Captain or Commander Reed's assistance. Maybe even her husband. T'Pol stopped for a moment, considering their last conversation. She regretted walking out on him. She had allowed herself to become angry. The object of her emotion wasn't really Tucker, she concluded, but herself. She had tried so hard to be a good Vulcan mother to Soma that she had alienated herself from the boy. He wasn't a Vulcan, nor was he ever going to be one.
Suddenly, T'Pol's head snapped up. A loud and agonized wail echoed down the corridor, and her heart jumped as the sound rang in her ears. She recognized it immediately.
Sprinting into a run, she bolted down the corridor towards the source of the screams. Racing to the end of the corridor, she came around the corner only to stop short of a horrific site. Suspended a meter off the deck was Jonathan, swinging frantically about in a sparkling blue mist that enveloped his tiny body. He was screaming and kicking in a futile effort to break free. T'Pol froze for a moment as she watched her son shaken and tossed. Reaching for her phase pistol, she pulled it out, taking aim. Gripping the weapon, she looked for something to shoot, but there was only the blue mist and Jonathan in the middle of it.
As he spun wildly, he caught a glimpse of his mother at the opening of the corridor. His struggles intensified and he called out to her. “Mother!”
Hearing her son call to her, T'Pol tightened her grip on the phase pistol. Humans called it maternal instinct, and Vulcans would say it was nothing more than a heightened response during a critical situation. Whatever it was, she took aim, firing at the outer edges of the blue mist. The phase pistol fire pierced the envelope of blue mist, harmlessly exiting the other side. Firing again, T'Pol was greeted by the same lack of response. Adjusting the bean to a higher setting, she fired again with not more effect than before. Tossing the weapon aside, she reached into her belt and pulled out the talisman. Gripping it in her hand, she lunged forward, thrusting it into the blue mist.
“Release my son!”
The reaction was instantaneous. A crackling thunder, followed by an agonizing scream before both mother and son were thrown to the deck. T'Pol landed with a heavy thud, striking her head against the deck. Dazed, she reached up and touched her head, feeling something wet. Looking at her hand, she could see that it was burned, and could make out a tinge of green on her fingers: blood. A sudden groan from beside her quickly made her forget her own injuries. Looking, she could see the unconscious form of her son. Reaching for him, she tried to see if he was injured, but before he touched his still form, she heard a loud hiss come from behind them. Turning, she saw the blue mist. Its eerie glow, the only illumination in the corridor. Pulling herself up, she grabbed her son, pulling him to her.
Watching the blue mist shimmer, she could see that it was growing smaller, coalescing into a physical form. In a moment's time, the mist had taken on the definite shape of a Xindi Reptile. The form stood over them, glowing an eerie blue with a rictus grin on its fanged mouth. Looking down at them, it shifted in a slowly, favoring its right leg. T'Pol stared at the spectral Xindi form. Even in so dire a setting, her scientific curiosity was piqued. Could a ghost be injured? Looking at the Xindi, she noticed its uniform was tattered and torn, and that there were dark patches on his face. She didn't see how she could have caused them, even with the talisman. Were they some kind of spectral manifestations of injuries? Before she could ponder further, she saw the Xindi move towards them. Gripping Soma, she looking for the talisman Ehawee had given her. She had used it to rescue him from the creatures grip, but they had both been thrown and she had let go of the talisman. Straining to see it, she looked in the low light that emanated from the Xindi specter. It was no use. The talisman was nowhere to be seen. Backing up, T'Pol pushed Soma behind her as she placed herself between the Xindi creature and her son. Whatever it was, it would not take her hi. Not while she was alive.
Suddenly, the Xindi stopped its advance. Nearly three meters away, it stood motionless as it stared. T'Pol watched, trying to discern what it was doing. However, the reptile's attention was no longer focused on her or her son. His gaze was focused on something behind them. Turning, T'Pol looked to see what had captured the Xindi's interest. Looking behind her, less than a meter away, she could see a second glowing blue apparition. This one was smaller than the Xindi and decidedly human. In fact, T'Pol recognized the figure immediately. Even after all these years, she knew…
The spectral form looked down at her, but gave no response. T'Pol studied its features, uncertain what to make of this second visage. It was Amanda Cole, or at least it looked like her. There was an ashen, tired look to her face, as if she had been in a prolonged and exhausted battle. The dark weathered lines cut into her once smooth skin, her sunken eyes showed a woman who had surrendered long ago.
T'Pol watched as Cole stepped past her. She made no effort to stop her, and truthfully, she didn't think there was anyway that she could. Whatever reason Cole had decided to make an appearance, it had something to do with the Xindi. T'Pol was certain of it. Watching the former MACO, she saw the corporal position herself between the two of them and the Xindi. She was blocking his way, making herself the Xindi's target.
Hissing, the Xindi lunged forward at the spectral form of Cole. Grabbing hold, it twisted and wrent violently at her. Cole clutched her glowing hands around the Xindi's throat as both fought for control, twisting wildly. T'Pol watched, seeing them dissolve in and out of the corridor walls, as they continued their battle. Energy violently flowed through them when they made contact, sparking and arcing like two polar opposites thrust together. She sensed a loathing hatred from the two combatants, as if they were mortal enemies who had battled one another for years. The sheer savagery of the Xindi was apparent. What was also apparent was that Cole was losing the battle.
T'Pol shifted, uncertain what she could do to assist the spectral Cole. As she moved, she felt something under her boot. Reaching down, she pulled the object up. It was the talisman. It was charred and pitted; from whatever energy had been released, she struck the Xindi. Gripping it in her unburned fist, she looked back at the two battling specters. She could see that Cole's form was fading. Whatever the Xindi was doing, it was weakening the corporal's hold in the physical world. If T'Pol was going to act, it had to be now. However, the two specters were in such close proximity that an attack on the Xindi might also harm the corporal. Would the talisman discriminate between good and evil?
Deciding on a course of action, T'Pol moved Jonathan to one side, laying him gently on the ground. Holding the talisman, she moved towards the two specters as they continued their supernatural battle in and within the corridor. Electric blue bolts erupted from a nearby EPS manifold as the Xindi's form dissolved into the housing. T'Pol reasoned that their spectral energy was having an adverse effect on the physical systems they contacted. If their battle continued, they could set off the energy conduits that ran through the walls, obliterating this entire section as well as several heavily populated areas above.
T'Pol looked down at Jonathan, clutching at her arm. Motioning him back, she tried to move forward, but found herself restrained by her son's hold.
“Jonathan, you must let me go.”
He shook his head, “No, they'll hurt you. Don't go.”
T'Pol swallowed hard. A swell of pride came over her for a brief moment as she realized that her son was trying to protect her. “Jonathan, I have to. People on the ship…our friends are in danger. Please, I will exercise caution.”
The little Vulcan stared up at his mother. He didn't understand the how or why, but he trusted his mother's judgment. If she said the ship was in danger, then he believed her. It didn't make letting go any easier, but he knew that she had to act.
Releasing T'Pol, Jonathan watched her move towards the two battling specters. Crouching down, she did her best to avoid the surging arcs of raw spectral energy that erupted from the violent clash. The intensity of the battle had increased, and so had the danger to the ship. The two combatants were dangerously close to a primary interface. If one of them touched it, the explosion would take out the entire deck. T'Pol knew that it was now or never. Getting as close as she dared, which was well beyond a safe boundary, she held up her arm. Holding the talisman, she waited as the two specters twisted and turned. Cole's back was facing her. If she threw the Talisman, it would strike the corporal. She had to wait for the Xindi to expose itself; it was the only way she could be certain that the talisman's power would reach its intended target.
As if almost realizing T'Pol's plan, Cole grabbed the Xindi, jerking it into a spin. Suddenly, the two opponents exchanged places, and the Xindi was now exposed. Not wasting a second, T'Pol threw the talisman at the Xindi. The artifact pierced the spectral blue aura, striking the Xindi on its right side. The creature's reaction was instantaneous. A screeching snarl emanated from his mouth as his aura fluctuated in a cascade of blues. T'Pol could see the talisman affixed to the Xindi, as if it had grafted itself to him. The Xindi spun wildly as its blue aura became a flame that enveloped him. T'Pol crawled back to Jonathan, sheltering her son from what she suspected was coming. Mother and son huddled together as a violent blinding light flashed wildly from the Xindi.
Almost as quickly as it had started, it ended. The cacophony of static and blinding light had ceased. Hesitantly, T'Pol raised her head to see if the Xindi were still standing. However, all she saw was an empty corridor. There was no sign of the Xindi…or of Corporal Cole. If it weren't for the scorch marks along the corridor, there wouldn't have been any sign that it had even happened. Suddenly, she felt a tingling in her hand and realized that she was finally beginning to notice the pain from her burns. Turning towards Jonathan, she stopped suddenly, when she noticed a blue aura behind them.
Corporal Cole stood behind them, staring down at the two of them. T'Pol and Cole looked at one another for a moment. The dark weathered lines were still there, but T'Pol saw something more, a sense of completion. She remembered what Ehawee had said about a spirit being tied to the physical world by an object or event. Perhaps Cole was here to stand guard over a crew that she believed that she had failed. It was as sound an explanation as any. However, T'Pol suspected that she would never truly know the answer.
She nodded at the spectral figure. “Thank you,” she said, glancing down at her son. Jonathan's eye's fluttered and T'Pol wasn't sure if he could see Cole or not.
The corporal stood in the corridor for a brief moment, staring at the two Vulcans, before her form slowly faded, dissolving into the thin air. T'Pol wasn't certain, but she believed that would be the last anyone would see of Amanda Cole. Whatever tied her spirit to this ship, had passed on, setting Cole's spirit free.
The emergency bulkhead to G deck retracted. Looking at the opening, Reed and Tucker could see the darkened corridor with its intermittent blue emergency lights straining to penetrate the inky darkness. The power relays hummed as the lighting to the deck fluctuated, slowly giving a clear view of the corridor, and the two people sitting in the center. Tucker pushed passed Reed and his security detail. Racing down the hallway, he ran to the two figures kneeling in the center of the corridor. Heart pounding, he reached them, stopping suddenly, and dropping to his knees.
“T'Pol! Jonathan!” he cried, wrapping his arms around them. Hugging them both tightly, he sobbed, rocking back and forth. “I thought I'd lost both of ya!”
T'Pol was holding Jonathan in her arms, as Tucker clutched her tightly. She could feel the hot wet tears that fell from his face as he held them both tightly. Looking up at him, she studied his face for a long moment. In her bid to save her son, it hadn't occurred to her that she might never have seen her husband again or felt his soft caress against her skin. Reaching up, she slid her hand around his neck, pulling him into a deep kiss. Tucker's eyes shot open in surprise, but he made no effort to resist. Allowing his lips to caress hers softly as he held her firmly. When she released him, he looked down at her, shaking his head in confusion.
“What was that for?”
“An apology,” she said, “for dismissing your beliefs.”
Tucker looked at her, shaking his head. “T'Pol, I-“
He started to speak, but her fingers pressed against his lips, silencing him.
“There is nothing more to say.”
“Are you ok?”
“I am now,” she replied, looking down at her son. His breathing was soft, but steady and regular. “We both are.”
Tucker looked down at Jonathan. The boy held onto his mother, but looked up at his father. Tucker placed his hand on his son's head, brushing his disheveled hair out of his face. He had almost lost them both. Looking back at T'Pol, he shook his head.
“T'Pol…w-what happened here?”
Turning away, she looked down the silent corridor. Where should she start, and did she believe it herself? Had a ghost from the Enterprise's past, saved both her and Jonathan to make atonement for the past? Looking back at her husband, she shook her head.
“Trip, let's take Jonathan home, and perhaps together we can try to make sense of it all.”