SIM:T'Lea Broken Part 5

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JP Lt. Cmdr. T’Lea & 1st Lt. Dade Adarnis – Broken, Part 5

((THE WASTELANDS))

A caravan of alien looking camels and horses treaded through the sea of smooth sand and dry heat. At the front of the pack was T’Lea, dividing her attention between a map that she barely recognized and Dade. The Marine had been forced to carry two mule sacks for miles in the blazing noonday sun, and so far without a drop to drink. While T’Lea’s Vulcan heritage protected her against the harsh conditions of the desert, and it looked like Tomal came well prepared, Dade wasn’t so lucky. Despite her efforts to assist him and give him water, Tomal had threatened to blow him up each time. It was funny to him, and only him.

Dade felt like his back was about to break. He’d been through trials and tribulations with the Marines, he’d been through sessions where his back was about to break and finally he’d finished the course, but this was everlasting. Thirst didn’t describe how he was feeling; his lungs felt exhausted, his stomach aching and his brain wanted to make him collapse. Pure dignity and pride was keeping him alive.

The Romu-vulc tried to concentrate on the map. The faster she found the digsite, the faster Dade could rest and get a drink. She looked at him again. His lips were parched. His exposed skin, red from the sun. And then she looked over at Tomal walking along side with a smug, arrogant smirk across his face. He was enjoying the shade of the Stetson he’d taken from Dade.

T’Lea: How did you find out about my life here? Tal Shiar?

Tomal: ::he spat in the sand and swatted a stingfly.:: The Tal Shiar know only what I want them to know. I am beyond them now.

T’Lea shot a look at Dade. This guy was completely insane.

Tomal: I found your Uncle’s old transport on Vulcan and paid to have it shipped to me. I recovered part of the flight logs and found an Ullian named Shev in the Bogon System. You remember him don’t you? :: he watched T’Lea come to a dead stop:: His illegal medical facility? The one that took your memories -- plucked them right out of your pretty little head like candy.

T’Lea: ::fuming:: You went there.

Tomal: Good. I had so hoped Pelco and his goons hadn’t broken your spirit in the dungeon. Yes. I went there. Shev was most useful, after a little persuasion. ::he wiped the sweat from his brow.:: I had him download your memories into my head. Everything your Uncle tried to protect you from, is right here. ::he tapped his temple and hiccupped a strange giggle::

T’Lea: ::shaking off her anger, she calmed herself.:: That’s how you knew about the warrant, and Dragus, and this place.

Tomal: And so much more!! You really are one hell of a wild cat in bed. ::to Dade:: Isn’t she!

Dade refused to answer and just stared into the sand. The more he concentrated on what he was going to do to Tomal, how he was going to rip him to shreds and bury his head in the sand, literally, he could survive this.

Tomal: :: to T’Lea:: I know you better than you know yourself. For instance, I know why you’re searching for your Mother, and it isn’t for a jolly reunion. I know that you have no love for Vulcans, or Romulans and that you have no place to call home. AaaAAAaand I know that this sorry excuse for a mate, will never satisfy you like I can. I’ve relived your life through your eyes, T’Lea. I’ve been inside you. I’ve felt your ecstasy, your anger and your passion! I know what pleases you!

T’Lea: If you know me so well, then you know that I will betray you the first chance I get.

Tomal: ::he got excited and circled her.:: But that’s the thrill of it all!! Isn’t that so, Donkey? ::grabbing Dade by his hair:: The thrill of the hunt, taming the beast! Putting her on her knees!

Dade spat in the sand next to Tomal’s boots.

Adarnis: And she’d rip yours off first chance she got. Tomal backed up and put his thumb on the detonator, taunting the Marine.

Tomal: I could have her right here in front of you and there’s nothing you could do about it. Keep moving, Donkey!

He kicked Dade in the backside, and the caravan started to move along again.

Feeling a rush of vomit start to gurgle up his throat, Dade spat onto the sand once more and wanted nothing more than to latch his hands around the Romulan’s throat and throttle him.

Adarnis: Bleedin’ eegit…

Tomal: What did you say!

T’Lea: ::butting in:: Were you always this frelled in the head, or did all my wonderful memories make you this way?

Tomal: Funny.

T’Lea: You know what I think. ::she smirked at him over her shoulder as they walked. She was trying to keep the attention off Dade:: I think you can’t handle me and it’s making you insane.

Tomal: I think you’re right. ::he chuckled:: But you must admit that with insanity comes moments of great genius. How else could I have pulled this off so easily? The bio-nano-tags in your hand. ::at her look:: Yes, that was me. Way back when I gave you the honor blade. It’s not really your mother’s. It’s mine.

T’Lea: Freller!

She latched onto him like a rabid pitbull, her nails slashing the surface of his neck, drawing green blood. It took two hired men to yank T’Lea off Tomal. If Dade hadn’t been wearing the collar, he’d have been in there scraping with her. He looked up at the sky; the sun bearing down on them unrelenting. His mind was clouding over as much as his vision. He felt… tired…

Tomal: That’s all right. Let her go. ::he touched his neck and looked at the blood on his hand with a perverse grin:: I enjoyed it. ::they continued walking and he continued boasting:: The cave paintings on Bajor. Those were mine too. Professor Kad, obviously me. Making a deal with System Lord Pelco and trading you for free access to and from the planet any time I please. All me. But your stupid Marine. I hadn’t planned on that. Although he’s a great way to make you play fair.

T’Lea: When Pelco finds out you screwed him -.

Tomal: Pelco is dead. Gutted him myself, yesterday.

His statement only had time to briefly register in T’Lea’s brain, when out of the corner of her eye T’Lea saw Dade take a sudden nose dive into the sand. She rushed over, her knees plowing several inches into the soft ground as she came to a stop, and lifted him up.

T’Lea: Stay awake. He’s dehydrated! He needs water! ::nobody responded:: Give him water, or so help me I’ll bury you right here, you sick f-.

Damn, she was sexy when she threatened. Tomal tossed her a bottle and instructed the caravan to take a short break. While T’Lea tended to her Marine, Tomal turned and paced at the front of the group. He began mumbling something to himself like a man suffering from split personalities, but he never took his eyes of T’Lea. He wanted Dade dead. He was the only thing standing in the way of him bonding with T’Lea. But he couldn’t kill him yet, he reasoned. Not yet. No. No. She wouldn’t cooperate without him. He had to be alive. And then die. Yes. Alive and then die.


Coughing up what was left in his throat, Dade felt the water on his mouth and sipped it. He was out of it, but he knew better then to gulp it down while dehydrated. He was still in there somewhere, just intensely pissed off. He welcomed the few moments he got to look up at T’Lea and know why he was doing this, why they were being put through this.


The tall Romulan’s lip curled in pure hatred as T’Lea brought the bottle of water to Dade’s dry lips again. He could see the look in her eyes, strengthening him. Somehow they were feeding off each other’s energy. Making each other stronger. Was that at all possible? He watched closely as the two exchanged a few words, and then he saw T’Lea begin to cool the Marine’s brow and head with a wet cloth.

Tomal: ENOUGH! ::he shoved Dade in the back with his foot and yanked T’Lea away.:: Keep moving!

Biting his bottom lip, Dade stopped himself from shouting and had to restrain himself from punching the living daylights out of the man standing beside T’Lea. He wanted to kill him, to rip him limb from limb. His hand formed into a fist and he could feel, even hear his blood rushing around his body trying to make up for his mood. He picked up the packs and threw them over his shoulder, refusing to make his mood any worse.

Tomal: Are we any closer to the site? I would really like to get a move on with this.

T’Lea: What’s the matter? Is he not dying fast enough for you? ::she said, casting a look back at Dade – had it not been for that collar around his neck, this would have been over long ago.:: If it’s me you want then I’ll go with you. I’ll do whatever your putrid dren-for-brains wants. Let him go.

Tomal: Am I to trust a snake? You said yourself that you would betray me. Besides my little humming bird, I know enough about your little Marine too. Things that would make you think twice about him.

Dade spat.

Adarnis: You know hell about me.

Tomal tutted and waved the small device around in the air.:: Tomal: No, no, no, no, no that is not true. G'Stantek, I believe, a young woman and a heck of a mess.

Dade froze and clenched his fist tighter. The Romulan male waved the machine in his hand once more, taunting him, knowing he was going to break. That’d been a step too far. That was something none of them wanted to remember; that was past, gone into a flurry of time and space, not a memory he wanted to retain.

T’Lea frowned at Dade’s reaction. It was not one bated by the situation, or by the unbearable heat. It was a reaction that went much deeper than either of those things. This was personal. Tomal knew something – something about a girl, something devastating enough to provoke Dade out of exhaustion. Carefully T’Lea watched and listened.

Tomal: Oh, I know it all. ::he smirked:: What you prevented from happening, why you reacted the way you did… even why you didn’t push that button. Everything in your Intel file. Oh, yes, I know it all.

The Marine squared up to the Romulan. It was unexpected and quick, but Dade restrained himself physically and mentally but verbally he couldn’t control.

Adarnis: I repaid for everything I did that day, I washed my slate clean with my own blood so don’t tell me you know me when you know nothing!

The Romulan laughed, just laughed and pushed him away from him, back into the sand. He motioned for them to continue, over the sand dunes and into the desert planes. There were ruins stretching as far as the eye could see; desolate plains of once proud empires now forced to be forgotten in the mysts of time. Unnoticed and unexplored, they would eventually slip away into nothing and find themselves erased from history like everything else.

If Tomal’s words were engineered to plant a seed of doubt in her mind about Dade, it had worked. Not by his own cunning, but through Dade’s own response to it. T’Lea wondered as she dredged through the whipping sands, her hand briefly reaching down to correct her balance as they traversed a tall dune. Was this part of Tomal’s plan, to drive a wedge between her and Dade, to expose each other’s dark secrets and let them rip each other apart? To give her permission to turn on Dade and kill him, like he knew she was capable of. She looked back at Dade as he stumbled, only this time she didn’t think about helping him. What sin stained his soul and would it change how she perceived him, as Tomal had said it would?


The Marine walked along behind, trying to keep his back from breaking. It hurt. The pain was intense and it caused him to double over, nearly falling with the weight he was carrying on his strong back. Marine training was a cinch compared to this. He hoisted it up once more and saw the sand that stretched out before them, laying a footpath in blowing dusty sand beneath their feet.

He couldn’t let go of the imagery he’d had burned into his memory. A gift as well as a curse, his photographic memory had remembered images he wouldn’t want to remember. Pictures that blurred together into one final memory that he would have erased long ago if it were his choice. The image of Lana, a phaser blast to her stomach, the episode of their distress signal being sent out and the information from Starfleet Intel not to interfere. How could he not? That wasn’t just his crew on that ship… Heath had ordered him too; his Major had made a direct order and he refused, faked an emergency in the Engine room, delaying them by pure minutes, but enough to cause her death.

In one instance he couldn’t forgive T’Lea for what she had caused but in the end he didn’t care because she was paying for it, bit by bit; her memories of her violent past would live with her forever even if her victims could not. Dade had to live with the image of Lana, her head in Heath’s lap as he cried relentless tears into her soft blonde hair, their unborn child in her womb and her impending death as Heath had cradled her into the everlasting sleep. He shifted the pack on his back and tried to straighten it out a bit more.


Tomal’s hand ordered them to stop. He knew they were close. He held his hand out to T’Lea, like a gentlemen helping a lady from a carriage, or in this case, offering her what he was about to unveil.

Against her better judgment, T’Lea took his hand and crested the top of the sand dune. There at the bottom was the evidence of Zadok’s old camp site, weather beaten and worn, but beyond that was the real prize. A pyramid half buried in the sand. Zadok and his team nearly had the ancient structure completely uncovered when he was forced to abandon the site. Now, years later the winds had undone all that hard labor, sinking it under the desert’s fine never-ending grit. Luckily, Tomal had brought the hires to dig it out again.

Tomal: We make camp here! The rest of you excavate the temple and find the entrance!


The caravan of pack animals made their way down the dune, some more graceful than others. Camp was quickly established within the abandoned structures left behind by Zadok’s team years ago. And the hires began to sift through the persistent sand, searching for an opening.


((CAMPSITE))

The midday sun soon drifted farther and farther away, with it went the scorching heat, replaced by a growing cold. A moon was rising with a pale pink iridescence. A large fire burned between the campsite and the digsite, while smaller fires pockmarked a bigger area, giving the entire scene a haunting inhabited glow where nothing should live in the wasteland.

Tomal: You aren’t built for the cold.

He handed T’Lea a blanket, expecting her to throw it back in his face, but he was pleasantly surprised when she accepted. Just like she’d accepted his hand up the dune, he thought. A small grin on his face said it all.

Dade’s arms ached and under the weight of the packs all day he felt as though his back had split in two and decided to permanently reside on opposite sides of his chest. The stake was running on the same length as his spine, whenever he tried to move a disk would move against the wood and hurt, causing him to curse and give up only to try again in the next few minutes.

The Romu-Vulc wrapped the heavy wool blanket around her shoulders and leaned back against a cargo case, warming herself by the fire. She grabbed a piece of fruit from a basket and started working on it, not realizing how hungry she was until the first bite. Dade was resting, tied to a stake in the ground and guarded. T’Lea had a guard on her as well, but she had freedom to move. Tomal stood at the edge of the fire, observing the excavation and his hostages, one eye on each. He lightly smiled at the distance between Dade and T’Lea. Alive and then dead, he kept telling himself. Alive and then dead.

Confused. The word didn’t even begin to describe how completely and utterly messed up she was inside. T’Lea took another bite from a fruit resembling an apple and watched Dade sitting across the popping and snapping embers in the night air. The blaze highlighted her face in shadows, paralleling a mounting darkness within.

The Marine looked up over the fire and into the smoldering eyes, the pits of the hybrid as she sat across from him. The line, the distance, the hatred had drawn an unspoken divide between them. The revelation of his past, something he had not told her about, something she might have wanted to know considering his reaction to hers had given her a reason, if not more of a reason to despise everything about him. For a moment, he didn’t hate her for it either. Her eyes burned into his and he could see, through the flames, through the smoke what he had caused.

By nature she was not a trusting or forgiving soul. Knowing death all her life, from the moment her Mother slit her Father’s throat and she was still in the womb, to now with miles of bodies behind her, there had been no truer friend than death to T’Lea. She looked up at Tomal standing like a King over his slaves. He had done what she had failed to do years ago. Orchestrate the ultimate deception. Kill Pelco. And now he was about to achieve unimaginable power. The temptation was still there, she could feel it.

Her eyes faltered toward the staked Marine. A girl and a mess. What did it mean? He’d paid with his own blood. Would knowing really make a difference how she felt about him? After all, she was no saint herself.

Hire: Opentak! Opentak!

Tomal: They’ve found the entry! Bring them!

The two guards escorted T’Lea and Dade down into a pit surrounding the temple. A narrow trench of wood held back walls of sand higher than the tallest man there. The freshly dug passage followed straight to a stone door with engravings on it. Tomal was already there examining the meaning when the guards arrived with T’Lea and Dade.

Tomal: This is it. The last great temple. The gateway to all that is, was, and will be. Infinite power, infinite knowledge, and infinite wisdom. ::he grinned and turned to T’Lea:: No wonder where the Vulcan’s got it from. ::he laughed:: They really aren’t that creative are they.

The Romu-vulc said nothing in return, and watched as Tomal’s hires started to bust through the stone doorway. She sidled up to Dade and lowered her voice. Feeling that things were about to climax, she was secretly about to make a decision based on his answer.

T’Lea: Is there something you want to tell me?

He tried to straighten.

Adarnis: Tell you what?

T’Lea: A woman and a mess?

His gaze dropped to the floor and he searched the sand for anything; a piece of forgiveness that had dropped form the sky or something…

Adarnis: You know all you need to.

T’Lea: So, that’s how it works? I bare my soul to you and get nothing in return?

Adarnis: You bared your soul to me because you felt guilty, you wanted relief from it, and you didn’t want to tell me.

T’Lea: ::shaking her head:: You judged me. You walked out that door and when you came back in you weighed my sincerity. And like an idiot I gave it to you. Every frelling bit of it, and you can’t even tell me if that drenhead ::she pointed at Tomal:: is lying about you? Is it that bad? What you did, is it really that horrible that someone like me would condemn you?

He looked at her.

Adarnis: It was enough to make me condemn myself.

Tomal had his back turned, but was listening with a greedy, arrogant little smirk. It was hard not to, the space was confined.

T’Lea: Suck it. :: she turned her back on him:: You’re no better than I am. Deep down you’re a cold blooded killer, the only difference is you hide behind a code of honor.

Adarnis: At least I’ve got one; a code of honor is more fitting a cold-blooded Marine who would sacrifice one life, even ten to save tens of thousands from complete annihilation. My sacrifice, my torture, the demon that sits on my bleedin’ shoulder does not rifle through my soul half as much as your own conscience does through your own. ::he rubbed his wrists:: Face it, T’Lea; you see your reflection in me and you hate the look of it.

The Romu-Vulc whipped around and struck him, fist to face, but what she didn’t expect was an equally hard retaliation that split her lip wide open. He stumbled backward, a sudden pain in his jaw again; he was sick of this. He held it for a minute; it wasn’t broken, it was bleeding underneath instead, a cut made by her fist connecting with his face. She touched the damage to her mouth and saw the blood on her fingertips, any harder and he would have knocked out a tooth. After the shock wore off, she lunged at him and he did the same, only both were pulled apart before colliding into chaos. The guards hauled back Dade, while Tomal tackled T’Lea to the ground.

Dade fought against the arms that grabbed his own, wanting to kick her lights in but pull Tomal off her at the same time; a slightly strange feeling.

Adarnis: Get off me!

Tomal: Calm down. Relax. Good.

She felt the Romulan push on top of her and promptly kneed him in the groin. He gulped and fell off, curling momentarily in pain. The guards quickly yanked her to her feet, restraining her as tightly as Dade.

T’Lea: Touch me again, you frellin’ sack of-.

Tomal was up faster than a bolt of lightning, his hand clamping onto her throat like a two ton anaconda.

Tomal: You’ll bend to me in due time.

T’Lea’s head turned away from his foul breath, it didn’t help her struggle for air any, but it was better than smelling what had crawled inside his mouth and died. The sudden sensation of a hand on her chest and his disgusting saliva slobbering down her neck nearly made her vomit.

If he could, Dade would’ve broken free from the grip of the guards and shoved the stake up Tomal’s backside; it would’ve been a more fitting end. Instead, he had to look away. Aggression, emotion, whatever the hell anyone wanted to call it was building up faster and faster in his stomach, like a small ball of pent up frustration ready to be unleashed. The thought of Tomal… he didn’t want to think about it. He just wanted to kill him.

Hire: We’re through!

Tomal looked up from his delicacy and released his grip. T’Lea gasped for air and her knees gave way, but the guards held her up.

Tomal: Light the chamber! Touch nothing inside! :: to T’Lea:: You and I are about to become one with greatness.

T’Lea: Frell you. :: she touched her tongue to the cut on her bottom lip:: I may hate him, ::she was referring to Dade::, but I still hate you more.

Tomal: Oh, I don’t doubt it. ::excited:: Not for one second!

He scooped up the detonator from the sand and twinkled it at Dade one more time before entering the chamber.


((TEMPLE))

Dade looked at T’Lea, trying to keep eye contact with her for as long as he possibly could before the two guards pulled him into the next chamber. Inside was breathtaking; a magnificent doorway that opened into another world. The walls were a sealed golden color that shone with the lights, bouncing off one another forming a crescendo of twinkling starlight on the ceiling. Dade looked up; the light reflecting caused a starry effect that spread over the roof.

Wonderment was the best way to describe the look on T’Lea’s face as she was shoved into the room. It was a golden melting pot of native pictographs and foreign languages from all across the galaxy, all of which said the exact same thing over and over, “Infinite Power. Infinite Knowledge. Infinite Wisdom.” At the center of the room there was a platform with more of the same sayings engraved, and a single large, bold symbol at the base that simply implied, “Sacrifice”.

This was it, thought T’Lea. There would be no going back now.

Tomal: Demons of air and darkness. Civilizations like this one feared Iconians for their technology. Thought they were devils. Built temples. Worshiped and made blood sacrifices to keep them away. But once you unleash greatness, it is unstoppable. Tomal pulled out the Iconian relic and matched up the seven symbols written down on a piece of cloth he’d wrapped the artifact in. The eighth symbol had already been sealed, and the ninth symbol was etched into the circular platform. With each turn of the artifact, he brimmed with excitement, knowing that by locking in the symbols he was locking in his destiny with immortality.

Tremors. T’Lea felt the faint seismic activity beneath her feet every time Tomal set the artifact to a new combination. She kept reading the inscriptions again and again, in Vulcan, in Klingon, in Bajoran. They all said the same simple thing. She watched with morbid curiosity as Tomal opened a slot at the base of the pedestal. He set the final symbol, the one meant for sacrifice and the relic’s shell cracked open, exposing a coupling, and a suspended ball of pure white energy. He gently set the device inside the slot, a perfect fit as it was sucked down into a socket and sealed inside the podium once more. At the same moment a large stone door slammed down, barricading the only exit.

Tomal: Iconians built gateways to other worlds and became gods among men.

The whole planet violently shook, and the podium of sacrifice started to glow in a circular capsule of light.

Tomal: But what became of them when they opened a gateway to gods greater than themselves?

T’Lea furrowed her brow at that declaration, a sudden fear striking her cold.

A hand signal from Tomal, and Dade was pushed down onto the ground, the hands of the guards tearing away at his shirt, ripping it open at the back with Tomal’s honor blade and throwing the rags away. They bound his hands with some of them, tightening it until the blood flow felt constricted. They strong-armed him up into position, holding the knife at his throat as he tried to gasp for breath. His back felt on fire, burning and itching trying to release itself.

Tomal: And for my grand exit out of this world and into something a bit more comfortable. ::he motioned once more:: If you please.

Captivated by the power she felt flowing freely in the room, the Romu-Vulc merely stood there in awe, listening to Tomal, absorbing his words and promises, but ignoring the destruction rumbling underneath her feet, and the sacrificial lamb being hoisted up on the cold stone podium.

The lumbering fools dragged the helpless Marine down onto a podium, raised like a stage, a ring in the center and as Dade was forced down to his knees, he saw the inscriptions that ran along the edge of the circle. Meaningless inscriptions; meaningless to him anyway. He looked to T’Lea, ready to sacrifice himself for the good of them both. To save herself the indignity of having to kill him.

T’Lea: ::a slight frown:: Sacrifice.

Tomal: We shall have it.

She felt Tomal’s hot breath on the back of her neck, but couldn’t take her eyes of Dade as he was forced to kneel on the stage, the hollow light encompassing him and preparing him.

T’Lea: ::softly:: No. This isn’t right. Your interpretation is wrong…

Terribly, terribly wrong. Her eyes scoured the pictographs, but Tomal would have none of it. He’d been delayed one second too long.

In a motion, Dade jumped up onto his feet and slid the knife between his wrists. His hands were free. His fist clenched and collided with the face of a guard, slipping his arm under another’s to pull him to the ground. He rammed his fist into the guard’s face, time after time after time in quick succession until he heard the coughing, the splattering of blood. He stood up, making the other attempt to crawl backwards, falling each time. He was in pain; his back was crippling him and he sank to his knees again; in time to feel the remote being pushed into the back of his head.

Tomal: DIE NOW!

He heard the click. Nothing. Click. Click. Nothing… T’Lea grinned at her handy work during the scuffle outside. Dade clenched his teeth together and breathed in, exhaling the breath with his eyes open, trained on the cavern floor. His hands grabbed hold of Tomal’s robes from behind him and flung his over his shoulder onto the cavern floor, kicking the knife up and holding it at Tomal’s throat.

Adarnis: ::through gritted teeth:: I’m not that easy to kill, Romulan.

T’Lea: Dade, NO!

She caught him, latching her hand over his to stop the knife from slicing through Tomal’s jittery , sweaty throat. She had watched, she had listened, and she had read the writings on the walls over and over again. It barely made sense, but only because it went against everything she’d based her life on up to this point.

Outside the great temple, the hires had fled the desert when the tremors first started. Perilous gulfs were opening up far and wide across the world. The small planet was breaking apart at the very core. Tectonic plates pushed and pull against each other. Oceans surged in plums of steam, pitting molten rock against tons of raging water. Terrified cries from the people lifted to the heavens, and a society once torn apart by criminals, was now being torn apart by some magnificent unseen force reaching out through the gateway. By one, or one billion there would be a sacrifice today.

T’Lea’s hand clenched tightly against Dade’s, both white knuckling the hilt of the knife, both staring each other square in the eyes. Tomal quivered, feeling the cold metal against his neck.

T’Lea: Not him. Not like this.

Her reaction had startled him. She’d stopped him; forcibly stopped him from committing the same atrocity that the Romulan was going to do to them. It would make him just as bad as he was; killing a vulnerable, someone helpless. Dade looked at T’Lea, exchanging looks instead of words as they expected, or rather instinctively knew something monumental was about to happen.

The temple floor began to split the room in two, and Tomal seeing his only escape from death, dove across the gorge to the other side of what he thought was freedom. He ran toward the sealed exit and slammed into it with his shoulder. His fists repeatedly collided against the stone barrier, as if by sheer will power he could pound a way through. He tried and tried until his hands were raw and bleeding.

With a grip still on Dade and the knife, T’Lea turned and backed onto the podium pulling Dade with her. She never once lost eye contact, or the steady resolve within, but as they crossed the threshold of light surrounding the platform, her hand began to tremble against his.

T’Lea: Do you trust me?

He looked at her but he felt as if he was looking through her, through that visage of pain and suffering into something deeper, someone with a past, an atonement. Without question, he replied.

Adarnis: Always.

T’Lea: Then don’t let go.

She casually stepped into him, her free hand finding the back of his neck, pulling him down and toward her for a kiss, perhaps a final goodbye. It was undeniably the best thing she’d ever felt in her entire life, and if it was the last thing, then it would be enough.

Dade’s heart stopped and started as he found the deepest emotional center he would ever in her. A love that would surpass all, that would shake the boundaries of the Federation, of their worlds as it reached a climax there was no escaping from. As if pulling himself from a dream, he realized a wetness on his hand. Something dripping from it; warm and cool at the same time.

Suddenly her hands began to shake harder and her breathing shuttered against Dade’s lips. She knew what was happening. The pain in his eyes reflected back at her. She knew what she’d done. She looked down between them; the blade of the knife could no longer be seen. Tears swelled in her eyes, and blood soon soaked through her white shirt. Her grip was slipping. A sad smile.

His free hand touched her cheek, looking deeply into those brown eyes he would remember forever, no matter what lifetime he was in. He felt his emotions start to run, a tear cascaded down his cheek and dropped off into the mist of nowhere below them.

Adarnis: ::quietly:: What’s…

T’Lea: ::wincing:: Don’t let go.

His nose brushed against hers and his hand immediately found hers, locking their fingers together.

Adarnis: I won’t…

The light from the pedestal increased until it engulfed them completely. Soon, all that could be seen was a brilliance more powerful than the sun itself.

A trial by fire, Tomal thought, immediately glad that it had not been him up there. The Iconian gateway to the gods looked more like the gateway to hell. T’Lea and Dade had been burned alive by the light. He was sure of it. He turned at the sight, his flesh felt like it was about to melt off his bones. His back was pressed against the temple door, his arm covered his eyes, and he opened his mouth, but his scream was inaudible. He cursed all the gods that ever existed, and after his mouth uttered those hateful phrases the light fell to a vast and empty darkness.

Stillness now perpetuated all around him. Not a sound, not a glimmer of hope to be seen or heard. Tomal sat plastered against the wall, eyes darting wildly, straining to see something, straining to hear something – anything, but there was no return. It was just him. Alone. Sealed in the dark temple, under a sea of sand.

Forever.