SIM:Series: Inheritance

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A series of background sims relating to T'Reshik and PNPC Taurek.

OOC Content warning: Contains discussion of subjects some may find distressing

Ens. T'Reshik and PNPC Taurek: The Inheritance of Pain

((FLASHBACK - ???))

Dawn will come soon and you are still alive. Keep walking.

The stardate is 235008.28. Your name is Taurek. You are seventeen years old and soon to enter your second year at Starfleet Academy. The introductory Third Analects of Surak are as follows. One: Disciplines that can be abandoned in times of hardship when disciplines are most needed are no disciplines at all. Two: Life calls to Life. Three: The body is flesh to which the mind gives meaning and into which the katra breathes life.

These things you must remember, though your emotions cry out for oblivion, for you to forget your name and what you have endured. These things you must remember because you are nothing without them. Keep walking.

It is three more hours to the nearest clinic and you have been walking for two. You avoided public transport because you could not bear the scrutiny of those around you, the irrational insistence of your mind that they would somehow be able to see your pain - your failure - in your eyes.

You allowed your emotions to influence your decision. That was a mistake. You will not repeat this mistake again. You are Vulcan. Your name is Taurek. The stardate is 235008.28. You must remember these things; you must remember who you are. You must keep walking.

The ancient names of the constellations above you are as follows. Hu'a, the demon. T'Kehr, the teacher. Tsa-spakh, the raptor's claw. The chemical formula for serotonin is C10H12N2O. The latitude to which you are headed is 0.7031 west. Do not think about what you are walking from. Do not think about him. Remember who you are. Keep walking.

Clear your mind. Focus on your breaths. Find your centre, the peace and control you have refined since you were too young to remember. The desert stretches level and wide about you in the darkness. Think about the horizon. In two hours the gentle spires of your home city will rise above it and its shadows will reach toward you like a beckoning hand. Keep walking.

You must keep walking. You are Vulcan. Your people have endured centuries of violence, of infighting, of a harsh and inhospitable planet that has driven your physiology into a bladed edge of survival. Your genes were forged in magma, tempered by nuclear fire. Your ancestors endured worse than this and lived. You must keep walking.

You must keep walking, because if you do not, you will scream into the desert until your throat begins to bleed and there is no silence in this galaxy deep enough to contain the sound.

((FLASHBACK - USS Chrysippus, 2388))

It was no trouble to administer the compound. As far as Starfleet was concerned, it was an experimental treatment for early-onset bendii syndrome. T'Reshik's colleagues all knew, and sometimes they looked at her with a sympathy she did not deserve.

Had she been affected by such thoughts, T'Reshik might have felt guilty.

As it was, she felt no emotion, alone in her dimly-lit CMO's office as the hypospray touched her neck and hissed, as it had done every forty-eight hours since she and Sutek had first perfected their project - or, at least, thought it had been perfected. Sutek's death was testament to her initial failure. He'd collapsed into fire and pain some years ago, suffered until her need to gather information had been overwhelmed by her duty to give him a painless death.

But the problems had been ironed out since then. She dismissed the subject from her mind, put the hypospray aside, and went to stand.

For a moment, it felt as if the ship had moved, or, more specifically, as if the inertial dampeners had juddered for a second and sent everyone into a kind of transitory free-fall. A dropping in her stomach that rose through to her chest, a strange tingling in her limbs.The smell of ozone, which she knew came from no external source.

Her thoughts faded out and in again, and suddenly she was on the ground, tired and aching, one hand twitching beside her.

Harrok: Doctor?

He must have heard the fall and come running. Even as the automatic process of diagnosis rattled on in her head - the type of seizure, the areas in the brain that were affected, the knowledge of an urgent need for medical attention - denial cried out from elsewhere in her mind. It was nothing. She was fine. This had nothing to do with the compound. She had not failed. She could not have failed, not now, not after all this time...

T'Reshik: 'm fine. Merely fell. Leave me alone.

The Grazerite doctor was already kneeling at her side, his tricorder out.

Harrok: You're not fine. You've had a seizure. Stay still. NURSE!

T'Reshik: I am... fine...

But there was a strange glow around his head, around everything, and no amount of denial could keep her from realizing that a second seizure was on its way. Even as her mind insisted that the compound had nothing to do with this, the project for which she had lied and stolen and effectively killed two people - no, it couldn't be that, it couldn't - the terrible weight of realization was settling inside her even as the world went black.

Ens. T'Reshik: Pure Intention

((FLASHBACK - Vulcan, 2362))

She was supposed to be producing a historical analysis of the political and economic circumstances surrounding the last Vulcan intra-planetary war and the Awakening, but after the first few journal articles, T'Reshik found herself losing interest. At eleven years old she did not yet have the resistance to boredom that most adult Vulcans were disciplined enough to maintain, and besides, she could not see what possible applications this subject might have to her planned future career as a brilliant doctor and/or scientist (she hadn't quite decided which one she was going to be yet).

In this light, the amount of detail she was obliged to go into seemed quite irrelevant. Before Surak, her people were violent, irrational and murderous, and eventually began to fling nuclear weapons at each other until they almost wiped themselves out; after that the philosophy of Surak spread until they all became sensible and productive enough not to play with atomic bombs any more and that was that. There's your tedious bloody essay, Professor Barok: now sod off back to your archives to look at old bits of paper and leave the scientists to get on with the interesting stuff.

Knowing she would likely get in trouble for this, but not especially caring, T'Reshik dismissed the historical journals from her screen and diverted her attention back to this week's object of affection: her genetics textbook.

She opened it reverently, eyes bright and hungry for the reams of knowledge within. Formulae, diagrams, long streams of symbols denoting the secrets hidden within her own flesh... she could spend all night reading this kind of thing, and in fact frequently had, much to Barok's disapproval when she started nodding off in his seminars. (It wasn't her fault that history class was the perfect place to catch up on sleep.)

Her small finger followed the page as she read, first in Vulcan, then in Federation Standard English, and the subtle linguistic discrepancies between the two columns did not fascinate her nearly so much as the content. She thought of her own DNA, encoded deep in her cells, its chemical signals sending out instructions like a general directing her troops from the war room, tissues proliferating and growing and shedding and dying as every day her body grew older and stronger...

At first she did not realise why her eyes had paused on a specific section, re-reading it over and over before she even knew it was happening.

T'Reshik: Iris coloration is determined by the below factors... Blue is largely the result of a recessive gene... Green eyes are caused by an inherited variance on the following and in Vulcans will always dominate that which causes blue and grey pigmentation if the superseding pattern for brown is not present...

Will always dominate.

T'Reshik closed the book.

She did not need to consult a mirror. Nor did she seek, as a human child might have done, a family photograph for reference, or perhaps to try and reassure herself that she had made a mistake. The relevant faces had been burned into her mind as clearly as those damning paragraphs were now.

Two blue-eyed parents and a green-eyed child.

She grabbed the textbook and consulted furiously; then, after a few minutes, brought up the genetic science database and consulted that as well, scouring all the available knowledge for anything that might disprove her unsettling conclusion. There were genetic disorders that could cause this, but none that were relevant here; mutations of this kind would have caused other observable factors in her genes, none of which she manifested...

Eventually her hands went slack on the inputs and she stared at the screen, her mind reaching for an explanation.

She already knew a little about Pon Farr, mostly from demurely-worded biology lessons and the dubious assertions of her classmates (some of which were more reliable than others - she was fairly sure that it didn't temporarily turn you into a mountain lion, for example). She was vaguely aware that she had an uncle, Shivok, who had died of the condition, and that these sort of things were rarely spoken of.

And she knew, with a cold flood of realisation, that whatever circumstances had driven her parents to conceal her true lineage - for surely a straightforward adoption would not have needed to be concealed, in a family as open and forthright as her own - they had been driven by a horrific kind of necessity.

Abruptly she returned her attention to the screen and rattled out a brief and petulant set of logical arguments for Professor Barok regarding the irrelevance of historical study to the progress of modern science. Then she turned elsewhere, back to the journal database, and this time her search was fuelled with determination.

As expected, there wasn't much out there about Pon Farr, or if there was it was couched too deeply in euphemism and scientific jargon for her to uncover as yet. The only thing she could find, hidden away in a second-rate offworld journal, was a case study, authored by one Professor Sutek of the local university, regarding the potential long-term uses of a particular hormone antagonist. Although the purpose of his research was not stated outright, the language in his conclusion hinted at the necessity of discussing such issues, the lives ruined and lost due to wilful ignorance where science could surely find a solution if only it were given the chance.

The rest of the article was mostly beyond her understanding, but T'Reshik wasn't going to let a small thing like that deter her. She hefted her biochemistry textbook onto her desk and prepared herself for a long night of study.

It was clear she had a lot of work to do.

PNPC Taurek: The Absence Of Her Voice (part 1)

((Vulcan, 2350))

Shivok: Shon-ha'lock. "The Engulfment". You are not alone in this experience, Taurek.

His tutor poured out two cups of tea as he spoke; Taurek, shamefully tearful, almost bent double on the seating cushion, curled his hand into a fist and pressed it against his mouth. Shivok's robe around his shoulders smelt faintly of incense and the vanilla-like scent of ageing books. It was a comforting weight, but it did little.

He had been so convinced he was ready to jump that he had not thought to protect himself against the cold of the desert night - a minor inconvenience on the ground that became almost whip-like in its intensity up on those bare and rocky cliffs, where there was nothing to help retain the heat of the day.

Shivok's was the closest familiar home to the site of his thwarted drop, but, more importantly, it felt easier to face Shivok with this shame than his parents. Easier being a relative term in this case; it seemed almost as if Taurek had brought the cold back with him. He was shivering, and he hated himself for his weakness.

Shivok: I do not believe you are a danger to yourself, but if you think you require psychiatric intervention I am willing to accompany you-

Taurek: No. ::He paused, took a deep breath:: I am... sorry. I was... not thinking clearly. I do not believe I would have proceeded with my plan. I merely... failed to properly address the pain.

None of it felt true. He took another shuddering breath as Shivok sat there silently, steam rising from the cups.

Taurek: I... find it difficult to believe that everyone experiences emotions of this... intensity. How does this not constitute love? How - ::His voice broke a little, but he steeled himself.:: How does anyone bear this?

Shivok's voice was calm, steady.

Shivok: With difficulty. But we survive. I have been where you are, Taurek.

Taurek: This... is different. You are... normal.

Shivok: Your condition may exacerbate the usual difficulties of adolescence, but I disagree that the girl's rejection hinged on your physicality. And "normal" is an imprecise and largely useless term, especially in your chosen field.

He slid one of the cups across the table.

Shivok: ::Abruptly:: I was twenty-two years old. My twin sister was... unwell. None of us knew the extent until it was too late to intervene. She could not stop her own heart, so she resorted to... surgical methods. I wanted to join her. I almost did.

Taurek felt suddenly small and ashamed. How could he have thought that his own infatuation for a classmate was so unbearable, when a man he respected and admired had weathered something far worse? He picked up the cup carefully, focusing on its warmth, allowing the sensation to override the aching tangle of feelings inside him. Shivok kept speaking, as if reciting a litany, and the words began to lull him into a blissful calm.

Shivok: It is true that our emotions may seem impossible to bear at times. But we are Vulcan. We have endured centuries of violence, of infighting, of a harsh and inhospitable planet that has driven our physiology into a bladed edge of survival. Our genes were forged in magma, tempered by nuclear fire. Our ancestors endured worse than this and lived. You, too, will live, Taurek. Do not believe this experience makes you any less strong than you are.

When Taurek envisioned what he wanted to be, after the study and the transition and the years of experience that might mitigate this early suffering, he often found that he did not envision his own face, but Shivok's; pale, dignified, calm and wise. The thought of leaving his tutelage to pursue a career in Starfleet caused an odd kind of pain in his heart that, but in amongst everything else, it went unnoticed.

PNPC Ensign Taurek: The Things We Never Say (part 1)

((FLASHBACK - USS Leda, 2388))

The transmission was flagged as urgent; the captain had given him express permission to answer during his shift. He found a quiet room in the counselling department and was mildly surprised to see T'Praal's face appear on screen. Her hair was prematurely greying, her face more lined than when he had seen her last.

Taurek: What is the purpose of this communication?

T'Praal: T'Reshik is seriously ill. She requires a Myelin-B transplant from a member of her immediate family. Since- ::Pause:: Since her biological father is dead, and I am not a match, you are the only potential donor remaining, or I would not have disturbed you.

Taurek: I understand the seriousness of the situation. Where is she?

T'Praal: Earth.

Taurek: ::pause:: Less than five hours away by shuttlecraft. I will explain the situation to the captain. Am I to assume, then, that T'Reshik is now aware of her true genetic parentage?

T'Praal: ...No. She is unconscious. I have explained the... unique circumstances to her attending doctors. They will not lie on our behalf, but they are willing to say only that tissue has been donated by an unnamed member of her family.

Taurek: And she will not think this is suspicious?

T'Praal: I... do not believe so. ::Pause:: Taurek - T'Reshik requires this transplant because she has chosen to undergo the Pon Farr without resolution. The situation is... more complex than we have time to explain. Sevak and I offered to find her a mate at short notice, and T'Reshik told us in no uncertain terms that she would not consent to this.

Taurek: ::before he could stop himself:: That is ... tantamount to suicide.

T'Praal: It is simply one more course of action from her we cannot condone. She has no further desire to speak to us, and... we are of the same mind. If she survives, she is likely to assume that it was one of us, and that we left before she regained consciousness in order to avoid interaction.

There were so many things going unsaid. Had he been in a therapeutic setting, watching two non-Vulcans converse like this, he would have encouraged them to speak their minds, to address the many questions each would undeniably have for the other. But they were Vulcans, and they could not afford to waste any more time.::

Taurek: Understood. I will contact you when the transplant is completed.

For a moment, he wondered whether T'Praal would say something else. "Please take care of her" flashed into his head, and the sudden irrationality surprised him. But perhaps these thoughts were to be expected. Either way, T'Praal simply ended the transmission, and whatever thoughts had existed in that brief pause beforehand sped quietly back into the silence like a passing star.

PNPC Ensign Taurek: The Various Translations of Love (part 1)

(( USS Avalgariad, 2362 ))

He kept count in his head of how long it had been since T'Reshik was born. It was entirely irrational, but he could not help thinking of his life as something that had been severed into two halves, 'before' and 'after'. And when the pon farr hit, it was almost eleven years to the day.

He had known it might be difficult. Trauma often resurfaced at times of emotional upheaval, and this was the most emotional he'd been since he was a child. Still. Academic knowledge was one thing; experience was another entirely. He had woken up in a cold sweat in his cabin and gone straight to his console before he could think, marking the transmission as urgent. The call had been answered almost straight away.

Varek: Taurek. Are you well?

(( Da-leb, Vulcan, 2350))

It was his father, too, who had answered that call twelve years ago, from a civilian comm station on the outskirts of Da-leb city. Taurek had been missing for almost twelve hours. Again, there had been no anger in his father's expression, only the hint of concern.

Taurek: I am uninjured.

Varek: We have been attempting to locate you. :: Pause :: Shivok is dead. He stopped his own heart. We... are told he had sustained defensive injuries.

The knowledge hit him like a punch to the stomach, and moisture stung at his eyes. Suddenly it was difficult, far too difficult, to speak without his voice shaking.

Taurek: I am so sorry-

Varek: Nobody holds you to blame, my son. Your mother is attempting to locate you now. Can you meet her at the western temple? Do we need to arrange transport for you?

Shivok had once told him that many Vulcan scholars did not conceive of love as an emotion in its own right. Infatuation, yes, desire, yes, but the state of experiencing a close attachment to another living being was not, in itself, something that required suppression. The drive to protect one's offspring was considered biological and, usually, immutable; it was only logical to protect those with whose lives were closely intertwined with your own.

This interpretation was why the English "I love you" became "I cherish thee" in Vulcan, with all its nuances and omissions. To love as the emotional races did was to add a passive component to the experience, where love could be felt without being enacted, and any outward action was driven primarily by one's inner feelings.

For their people, however, love was a state of being that existed in its expression, like a language with no written form. Or so it was claimed. Before it became too painful to think of those early lessons with his tutor, Taurek had occasionally entertained the idea that the "love is an action" explanation was nothing more than an excuse.

Now, barely able to hold himself together as his father spoke to him from the tiny viewscreen, he suddenly recalled the day he had returned from the local clinic at the age of thirteen, after a difficult conversation in which he had not been able to divine his parents' reactions from their stony and impassive faces.

Pausing at the doors to their home, he realised that an amendment had been made to the small panel which traditionally held the names of the inhabitants, a leftover from the old customs of their clan. Where once had read "T'Rel", in his own uncertain hand, was now replaced by "Taurek" in his mother's.

(( USS Avalgariad, 2362 ))

His father must have been asleep, he realized. In Eastern Da-leb time, it was somewhere in the interim between midnight and dawn. And yet here he was, as if nothing was strange about receiving a call from his son in the middle of the night.

Taurek: My Time is at hand.

Varek: ::pause:: Understood. Have you made arrangements? Do you need us there?

Taurek: I have. And I do not. I simply... wished for contact. I apologise for the illogic of my decision.

Varek: It is normal for your logic to fail you at this time. We are here if you need us, Taurek.

And he began, finally, to understand why.

PNPC Ensign Taurek: The Things We Never Say (part 2)

((FLASHBACK - Vulcan, 2350))

Nobody asked why Taurek was there, just as they did not ask about the subtle incongruity of his name and his face, the tell-tale marks of a physiology at odds with his soul; the soft jaw, the smooth throat, the androgynous voice. The classic Vulcan reluctance to solicit personal details - not to mention the fact that their language didn't have gendered pronouns - made it easier to live one's life without question here, even before the benefit of surgical transition.

(He wondered if that would continue as the pregnancy began to show. He was trying not to think about that right now.)

If they noticed, too, that his emotional control staggered when the priestess chanted the litany, that the hormones made his eyes leak traitorously as they consigned Shivok's body to the silence, they did not comment. Even Vulcans sometimes wept at funerals.

As the mourners dissipated into the desert, Shivok's sister, T'Praal, was considerate enough to wait until he had composed himself to approach. Taurek offered her the traditional greeting, and she responded, her eyes flicking down to his still-flat abdomen before returning to his.

T'Praal: We understand that you are keeping his child.

Taurek: As my tutor, your brother instilled in me the belief that logic has no meaning if it is not tempered by a respect for life.

She looked at him with what, in a certain light, might have passed for sympathy.

T'Praal: I believe, in this situation, he would have forgiven you for choosing otherwise.

Taurek: Perhaps. But I would not. ::Pause:: I wished to ask if you were willing to adopt.

T'Praal: We had expected you might. Your age, your... circumstances...

Taurek: Understood. The child would realise the truth too early, and the knowledge would almost certainly cause harm.

T'Praal: ::Pause:: My mate and I have already discussed this. We are willing to raise the child as our own, but... there is one stipulation.

Taurek waited for her to continue.

T'Praal: What happened is likely still... challenging for you. We understand that protecting Shivok's memory is perhaps not your first priority-

Taurek: Your brother was a reasonable and compassionate individual and it would be illogical to assign blame for an event which was beyond his control. ::Pause:: I do not hold him at fault, T'Praal.

T'Praal: Well, clearly *he* did.

As calmly as it might have been delivered, the utterance was an unexpectedly emotional one, and Taurek looked away, suppressing discomfort. Shivok's suicide had not even been alluded to during the ceremony, and he wondered how many people actually knew about the situation. It was possible that most assumed the obvious - that, separated from his wife by circumstances nobody could prevent, he had died in the throes of Pon Farr. Taurek was content to allow them to believe this. And even as he thought about the situation again, he realised what T'Praal was asking him.

Taurek: You would rather the child never knew.

T'Praal: Yes. For this to become my brother's legacy...

Taurek: ... would do great discredit to his memory. I understand your conclusions, but I do not agree. That having been said... I am willing to consign his daughter to your care. What you tell her is your concern.

T'Praal: It is a female, then.

Taurek: Insofar as that can be inferred from chromosomes alone, yes. Do we have an agreement?

T'Praal: We do. Sevak and I will be in communication soon.

Another downward glance.

T'Praal: Peace and long life, Taurek. ::Pause:: Please take care of her.

PNPC Taurek: The Absence Of Her Voice (part 2)

((Vulcan, 2348))

It wasn't unusual for teachers to stay late at the college; neither was it strange that Taurek should have stayed to discuss his research project, especially given his status as one of Shivok's most distinguished students. The man pulled down a couple of tomes from his shelves as Taurek brought out his notes and a stylus at the other side of the desk.

The room had a pleasant silence. Those bare stone walls that might have seemed intimidating to a non-Vulcan were almost comforting here. An ancient mask hung from one; the rest were bare save for the bookshelves and a timepiece. Taurek stared at them, reading spines, memorizing the text.

Taurek was fifteen, and his future still uncertain, but perhaps this was where he would be, given a few decades. Perhaps Shivok would still be here, a few offices down the hall, although Taurek found it difficult to imagine himself as his tutor's equal, like envisioning his parents and himself at the same age. He found himself looking at the back of the man's slender neck, the subtle peppering of grey in his hair.

The older man broke the quiet abruptly as he turned and set the codices down.

Shivok: I see from your schedule that you will be absent for the next two days. Is that correct?

Taurek: It is. :: Pause:: I plan to speak with the family of my betrothed. Given my impending transition, he may wish to dissolve the marriage.

Shivok: Perhaps that is wise. :: He stopped, looked at his student, green eyes blank and direct.:: I refer to generalities, rather than to your specific situation. Arranged marriages can sometimes be... limiting.

Taurek felt himself stifling surprise. It seemed somehow as if Shivok was referring to his own situation, in an oblique way; he remembered the glimpses he had seen of the man's wife, the way the distance between them seemed to grate at his rudimentary therapist's instincts, yearning for verbal expression. He said nothing, wanting to ask, but knowing at the same time it would be inappropriate to inquire. Shivok broke that threshold for him.

Shivok: One sometimes wonders whether life might have been different, given the opportunity to choose.

Taurek was young enough that his emotions were not yet fully reined in, and he could not help but feel as if this quiet allusion to his tutor's personal life was-something precious, an honour or a gift. The emotion seemed dangerous in a way that the younger man could not yet articulate. He knew he should not have asked. And yet he did.

Taurek: What do you mean?

PNPC Ensign Taurek: The Things We Never Say (part 3)

((Vulcan, 2351))

Carrying T'Reshik had been... difficult.

By the age of seventeen, gender dysphoria had become nothing more than a low-level distraction for Taurek; tiny background errors in his coding that nonetheless allowed him to function from day to day. Pregnancy had changed all that. For the first time in years, there was an emotional component to the experience which Taurek found... challenging.

It was simple enough not to think about Shivok. Not thinking about his own biology - with his daughter a constant presence inside him, palpable by the end - was far harder. So when the pain finally came there was also a kind of relief.

It was not that he did not love her, on some level. Rather, his love came with sadness fast on its heels like a shadow, and for all his efforts he could not force it to leave.

She stayed with him for less than an hour after the birth. Exhausted, aching, but with composure as impeccable as he could manage, Taurek watched T'Praal take the baby from his arms and study her, watched Sevak place a finger in her tiny grasp and wonder silently at those childish reflexes.

T'Praal: What are you going to do now?

At first he thought she was speaking to the child, but realized belatedly that T'Praal was addressing him. He sat up, wiping his hair back from his forehead.

Taurek: Resume the hormonal treatments with a view to undergoing surgery as soon as possible. Continue with my planned career in psychotherapy.

Sevak: You are still certain you do not desire any contact with T'Reshik?

Taurek: I am. Any other course of action would be... challenging for both of us. You are still certain that you do not wish to tell her the truth?

The couple exchanged glances.

T'Praal: We do not believe it would benefit her to know.

Taurek: Then there is nothing more to discuss. ::pause:: I thank you for this service you have done me. Please take care of her.

He watched them go, and felt that instinctive love for his child reach out over the growing distance between them, sadness fast on its heels like a shadow. He knew then that it would never leave him for as long as he lived.

PNPC Varek: The Things We Never Say (part 4)

(( Vulcan, 2351 ))

His wife arrived far later than expected, striding down the hospital corridor, posture stiff, eyes wild. Varek made no comment on her emotional state, nor on her arrival time, but T'Presh offered an explanation anyway.

T'Presh: There was a security alert in my department. The entire complex was unavoidably locked down. Where is he?

Varek: In surgery. The consultant elected to perform a caesarean section. There was... some emotional distress.

T'Presh looked away, as if she could somehow see her son through the walls of the operating theater, reach him, be there to comfort him. She spoke suddenly, with a tremor in her voice.

T'Presh: We could have prevented this.

Varek: Ashayam-

T'Presh: We knew what was happening to Shivok. His period of leave, his daughter's age-

Varek: We could not have anticipated his actions. ::Pause:: We did what we could to mitigate the situation.

T'Presh: I am... unsure if it was worth the cost.

Varek: As am I - but it is no longer relevant. We are here. That is sufficient.

Varek glanced down the long stretch of corridor to either side, then reached quietly for her hand. T'Presh gripped it, her anxiety seeping into him through their mental link and dissipating into calm.

Please take care of him, he heard his mind plead silently of the doctors and nurses on the other side of the wall, and he could not tell from whose thoughts it had come.

Ensign T'Reshik and PNPC Ensign Taurek - Facing Resistance

((Vulcan, 2351))

The Starfleet recruitment officer gave Taurek a long look as he entered her office. It wasn't too difficult for the younger Vulcan to guess why. Without the benefit of hormones and binding and weight-bearing exercise, and with the pregnancy now insultingly obvious on his slim frame, he was almost exclusively parsed as female.

He had been restricting his exposure to other people for the most part - first by staying home, and then by sequestering himself at a local monastery - and though most strangers were understanding of the situation, occasionally even Vulcans had... slightly regressive views.

T'Hana: Cadet Taurek. I see there is no need for me to ask why you deferred your first year.

She was avoiding "Mr". That wasn't very promising. Taurek bowed his head and took the seat she had gestured to. T'Hana glanced over his file.

T'Hana: Obviously you will be required to retake the fitness test. When is the child due?

Taurek: Stardate .05. Approximately.

T'Hana: ::Eyebrows furrowing slightly at her screen.:: Are you certain you will be ready for the third quarter intake?

Taurek: I believe it is highly likely.

T'Hana: And you do not wish to defer your entry further in order to concentrate on parenting?

Taurek: I will not be the child's legal guardian.

T'Hana gave him one more of those long, cold looks.

T'Hana: Mr Taurek. A Starfleet Officer must be willing to assume the responsibilities assigned to them, regardless of whether they are personally comfortable with the situation. I suggest you consider your career path carefully before your return.

Taurek's hands, clasped one within the other beneath her desk, went white.

Taurek: If I understand correctly, a Starfleet Officer must also be aware of their own abilities and limitations. It would be highly illogical to volunteer myself for a task to which I am ill-suited.

A chilly silence passed between them. Then T'Hana's posture seemed to relax slightly, although her expression did not change.

T'Hana: Do not be so quick to dismiss your own parenting abilities. I have two sons of my own. Motherhood can... affect one's priorities in unforseen ways.

The word "motherhood" - a gendered term, even in Vulcan - made Taurek bristle and he answered without thinking.

Taurek: I am ill-suited to fatherhood because I do not want to delay my career to look after a child who would be better served in the care of two fully mature adults. Are you here to criticise my life choices or are you here to facilitate my orientation into Starfleet academy?

He stared her down. The recruiting officer had the grace to look slightly ashamed. She tapped a few buttons on her console.

T'Hana: I will book you in for a fitness assessment on .0828.

Taurek: Thank you, ma'am. Is there anything else?

T'Hana: No. You are dismissed.

Taurek bowed his head and rose, body held tense. He didn't offer her the ta'al as he left, but if the woman noticed the subtle insult, she didn't comment.

((Medical wing, Bayeaux Criminal Rehabilitation Centre, 2388))

Dr Avenell kept a somewhat fixed smile on her face as she watched T'Reshik scrawl a series of example sentences on the digital ledger before her.

By and large, the patients here were far more polite and cooperative than she had expected. This wasn't saying much. Sabeen's experience of criminals was extremely limited, and even in this relatively progressive society, certain preconceptions lingered regarding those who chose to operate outside Federation law. With only a few exceptions, however, none of Sabeen's clients here had come across like the sneering, unrepentant wrongdoers her mind had caricatured them as in the beginning. Most were actually pleasant company.

Most. Not all.

The Vulcan opposite her looked up abruptly and carefully swivelled the display round on the desk so the occupational therapist could read it. Or attempt to. Sabeen narrowed her eyes.

T'Reshik: ::Slowly:: As I said before. A pointless exercise.

Avenell: I'll be honest, T'Reshik, I really think we need to work on your fine motor skills some more. This handwriting is barely understandable.

T'Reshik: ::Careful and deliberate, still struggling not to slur:: Manual transcription is a largely obsolete skill. Besides, it is almost identical to my handwriting before the brain injury.

Sabeen looked sceptically between T'Reshik and the screen. T'Reshik let out a huff of breath from her nose and called up a file on the display - a scanned prescription, written in the same cramped scrawl, for... was that "Loo my algae?" Wait, no, that was a numeral. 100 milligrams... digsyg... diasp... okay, well, clearly doctors had terrible handwriting on every planet.

T'Reshik: From two years ago.

Avenell: ... Why do you even have that file? Never mind. Alright, I guess since you insist you don't have any problems with the programming course, we can concentrate on gross motor control for a few sessions.

She clapped her hands together with feigned enthusiasm and pushed a jug of water and a half-filled cup to T'Reshik's side of the desk.

Avenell: I know you're still using specialised drinking containers, so let's see if we can't improve that. The neurologist tells me your scans are looking very promising on that front. So. How about you try to pick that up for me?

T'Reshik stared at the doctor, then at the cup. The Vulcan managed to get her hand round it relatively easily, but as soon as she tried to lift it, it became obvious that not all the neurons were firing in the right direction, so to speak.

Her wrist juddered. Water splashed out. T'Reshik stared at her own soaked arm with the eyes of a cat who had just had its paw purposefully shoved into a puddle, and was trying to maintain an air of dignity even as it planned its vengeance. Sabeen disguised a smile as she stood up.

Avenell: Not to worry! You're doing really well!

One quick clean-up later, the human set the now-empty cup down in front of her patient again, and gave her an encouraging look, keeping her voice bright and cheerful.

Avenell: Now, this should be even easier for you!

It might have been the admittedly patronising tone of voice, or the inevitable mood changes that came with most traumatic brain injuries, or perhaps T'Reshik just hadn't appreciated the comment about her handwriting. Either way, the Vulcan's eyes were defiantly fixed on Sabeen's as she very carefully set one finger to the side of the cup and, with calm and deliberate movements, pushed it off the edge of the table where it clattered to the floor.

Dr Avenell closed her eyes. This was going to be a long, long day.

PNPC T'Mika: The Absence of her Voice (part 3)

(( Vulcan, 2350 ))

T'Mika held her last breath in until the aria backing track was finished, eyes on her singing teacher's face. Usually human expressions were easy to interpret, once you were familiar with them, but this time she couldn't tell what the woman was thinking, and that challenged her control a little. At ten years old, most Vulcans had an acceptable handle on their emotions, but the inevitable mild irritations still filtered their way through, sometimes.

Chen Lian paused, as if framing her response carefully in the silence after the music ended.

Lian: Technically, it's... Fine. Highly competent, I mean. But look, it's not a reflection on your performance, I just think Un Bel Di doesn't suit a singer of your age.

T'Mika: The range has been modified to account for my laryngeal immaturity.

Lian: That's not what I mean. Look, you're aware of the context of this piece, right?

T'Mika: ::instantly:: Cio Cio-san is emotionally compromised because her husband is a culturally ignorant scumbag who abandoned her.

Lian: ::rubbing her forehead:: Okay, I... definitely should not have used that word around you. Look, you're not wrong, exactly, but there's a reason this is usually only performed by singers in their twenties or older. There's a kind of emotional depth to it, a kind of maturity that just isn't -

She paused, looked at her timepiece.

Lian: Shouldn't your brother be here by now?

T'Mika followed her gaze, eyebrows furrowing. Ms Chen was correct, and it was unusual for any Vulcan to not be punctual, let alone Taurek.

T'Mika: We have received no messages. Logical deduction holds that he must have been unavoidably delayed.

Lian: ::checking a nearby console:: You're right, he... hasn't been in touch. I'll wait with you, he probably won't be long.

T'Mika: There is no need. I can wait alone.

Lian: It's pretty late, T'Mika-

T'Mika: It is fine. There are still students present in the building.

Lian: ::rubbing her forehead again:: I can't get used to the hours you Vulcans keep. No offence. Look, I have some admin to do anyway, so why don't you do some practice on that Bajoran clarinet thing-

T'Mika: Tivara.

Lian: -Tivara, right, and I'll try to dig up that Klingon aria we were talking about, and you can come back to the Puccini when you're a little older, okay?

Though T'Mika knew she could get away with a little more disagreement here than with her Vulcan teachers, she chose not to press the point.

But Taurek didn't arrive, and Lian stayed with her well into the night, even after her parents had been contacted and the missing person's report had been filed, even though T'Mika insisted it was fine, and all the while her hands moved anxiously over the Tivara's keys though for several hours now she had not played a single note.

(( Timeskip ))

She didn't see Taurek immediately after he was found. Instead he went straight to his room, and stayed there, and what started as a temporary reluctance to face company soon turned into habit. Aside from family meals and a brief excursion to his tutor's funeral early on, it was as if he no longer lived with them.

Sometimes T'Mika would hear him practicing on the cello, an Earth string instrument he had taken up before she was born, but after a few bars, the music would stop and there would be silence again.

She kept playing, kept singing, kept studying. What else could she do? She had not abandoned her decision to pursue a musical career, though the prospect no longer held the appeal it once did.

After a few months, he came to her room to inform her that he would be moving temporarily to a nearby monastery, in order to meditate in seclusion, he said. T'Mika frowned without thinking.

T'Mika: The Founding Planets Music Festival is in three months. Will you return in time to see me perform?

Taurek: Regrettably, I will not.

T'Mika: That is disagreeable.

Taurek: But unavoidable. I will return, T'Mika, just not so soon.

It wasn't negotiable. He left a few days later without saying goodbye.

(( Timeskip ))

Though he returned after half a Standard year, as promised, something about Taurek remained absent. When he left for Starfleet Academy, it was barely noticeable. She kept playing, kept singing, kept studying. He spoke to her over long-distance channels, and they kept each other apprised of their lives and swapped music recommendations, and that was all.

When T'Mika was fourteen, and it was Vulcan's turn to host the festival again, Ms Chen set the score for Un Bel Di Vedremo in front of her with caution in her eyes.

Lian: You think you can handle this?

She wasn't talking about vocal maturity this time, though T'Mika knew she was still well below the average age for the role.

T'Mika: I am sure.

She barely noticed the way her teacher's expression changed as she sang - in fact it seemed, briefly, as if nothing existed in the universe outside of her voice and the deep twist of emotion inside her ribcage, helplessness and anger and despair, terrifying in their sudden intensity. When the music finished she realized her cheeks were wet. Lian was staring at her.

Lian: ::quietly:: I think you've got it.

T'Mika wiped her eyes, a dignified gesture, perhaps an attempt to pretend it was all a part of the performance. She wasn't sure whether Lian was convinced.

Lian: You know, if you didn't have your heart set on conducting, you could really make a career out of this. Are you sure you don't want to continue voice lessons at the Conservatoire?

T'Mika: I am sure. ::The next sentence followed slightly unexpectedly.:: In fact I have elected to play the Tivara only this year. I have a piece already prepared for the festival. We can therefore terminate our lessons early, if that is acceptable to you.

Lian didn't seem surprised. T'Mika thought she might have looked sad, but it was hard to tell.

Lian: That's fine, T'Mika. It's been a pleasure teaching you. I have no doubt you'll do well.

T'Mika: You have been a more than adequate instructor. Live long and prosper, Ms Chen.

Lian: Peace and long life, T'Mika. Look after yourself.

T'Mika walked home alone in the fading evening with the closing bars of the aria still echoing in her head.

PNPC Varek: The Various Translations of Love (part 2)

(( Vulcan, 2350 ))

After Taurek terminated the call, Varek informed his wife of their son's whereabouts, then put out clean robes for him, and contacted the learning centre and his two older siblings and Taurek's grandparents and the parents of his classmates and then-

Then what? It seemed as if the world had changed immeasurably in the twelve hours since his son had been reported missing, and illogical though it was, he felt as if there should have been more he could do to put things right.

It was two hours before Taurek returned. Tired, composed, empty-eyed, wearing an over-robe several sizes too large for him that Varek did not recognize, or not at first. Then he did, and his body went cold all over. His son's gaze followed his. Taurek took a long, steadying breath, and shrugged the article off, slowly and deliberately, as if disentangling himself from the grip of a sleeping predator.

Taurek: Can you-

Varek: I will take care of it.

He considered returning it to the owner's family, then dropped it on the brazier in the back courtyard and watched it burn. T'Presh came out after a while, but didn't speak.

Varek: The forensic team provided an update on Shivok's autopsy while you were gone. ::He saw his wife's posture stiffen, and continued.:: They have confirmed that he stopped his own heart and are not treating the death as suspicious.

T'Presh inclined her head, eyes on the rising smoke. She was silent for a moment or two more.

T'Presh: Taurek intends to carry the child to term.

They watched each other's faces. Varek knew instinctively that his wife must be feeling it too - that sick, angry helplessness, and beneath it, the weight of the irreversible choice they had made - and yet they both remained composed, as if the knowledge of what they had done somehow bolstered their control.

Varek: ::slowly:: Under the circumstances, I am willing to concede that we followed the correct course of action.

T'Presh: Understood. ::She looked toward the house:: I do not believe it would serve Taurek's interests for him to know.

Varek: I believe you are correct.

T'Presh left in silence, and Varek soon after.

When he returned to clear out the ashes that evening, he saw Taurek's kneeling form silhouetted in the outdoor meditation area, shoulders shaking, face in hands. Varek drew away silently, and waited inside, so his son would not have to bear the pain of knowing he had seen.

PNPC T'Presh: The Absence of her Voice (part 4)

A sudden chime, and EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION replaced the V'Shar holding screen. T'Presh looked up from her work.

She wasn't expecting any incoming calls. In fact her work in cryptanalysis meant that her part of the complex was essentially a sealed environment at all times, the sensitive information she worked with contained and protected as thoroughly as the air inside a starship's hull. She would have to move to a designated room in a different building to accept the message properly - one which had been designed to look a little more convincing as the remote postgraduate study centre which comprised her cover story.

Her hand swiped across the screen. The face of the communications officer appeared.

Mivak: Your husband has contacted us with an urgent family matter.

T'Presh: Understood. I will be there in three point six minutes.

It gave her enough time to swipe out, lock down the office, step through the scanner, provide biometric verification, swipe out again, and repeat most of the process at the building adjacent, and it was only when she reached her destination with almost a full minute to spare that she realized she had been running.

Nobody else knew, not even her children, but Varek did, and he would never interrupt her work for anything spurious. As his face appeared on the screen she controlled her brief fear, and was calm again. He spoke immediately.

Varek: Taurek did not arrive to collect his sister from the music centre. His current whereabouts are unknown.

T'Presh: What was his last known location?

Varek: The lock on our door was engaged five point four one hours ago. The house is empty. I have notified the authorities and plan to begin a sweep of the area.

T'Presh: Where is T'Mika now?

Varek: With her singing teacher. Ms Chen has agreed to wait with her until we are able to collect her.

T'Presh: Acceptable. I will notify my superiors and return home.

Varek: I have a portable communications device. Contact me when you return.

The channel shut off. T'Presh stared at the screen for a moment or two more, then stood.

Mivak's desk in the communications hub had its own alcove, designed to prevent any glimpse of sensitive information from reaching passers-by. Vulcans were nothing if not thorough. He turned around in his chair and deactivated his screen when she approached.

Mivak: Speak.

T'Presh: My son is missing. According to standard missing persons procedure, the authorities are unlikely to request access to his personal communications until local hospitals and public transport centres have been consulted. This could take several hours.

Mivak looked at her. He reached over and activated his screen again without removing his gaze from her face, then typed an extended command into the input pad as he spoke.

Mivak: That is disagreeable, but unavoidable. Correct procedure must be followed. While I acknowledge the urge to protect one's family can override one's logic, I cannot contravene departmental regulations in this case.

T'Presh looked at the screen, at Taurek's last few incoming messages.

T'Presh: I acknowledge your reasoning and concur. I apologise for allowing my emotions to dictate my actions.

Mivak: It was a momentary lapse in judgement. I see no need to report this transgression. Will that be all, agent?

T'Presh: Yes.

Her eyes lingered on the top message for a moment. Then she bowed her head and walked away. Mivak turned back to his work.

(( Timeskip ))

Shivok's house was remote, a good half-hour walk from the nearest public transport station. T'Presh moved to activate the door chime, then paused, and waved her hand in front of the door. It was unlocked.

A table lay on its side in the entryway, two legs smashed, a cracked vase beside it. T'Presh stared at it, then forced her legs to move again. Shivok was standing in the main living area. There was a long set of scratches down the side of his face, a bruise swelling his temple, a cut on his lip.

T'Presh calmly removed the handheld phaser from inside her coat and pointed it at him.

T'Presh: Your wife has not yet returned to the planet.

Shivok: No.

He spoke softly, as if all the air had been stolen from his lungs. A silence passed between them, telling T'Presh everything she needed to know.

T'Presh: Where is my son?

Shivok: He left. I do not know-

T'Presh: How long ago?

Shivok: I... more than two hours. My time sense is impaired, I cannot -

Disagreeable. He would be impossible to track. Her hand tightened slightly on the weapon.

T'Presh: How severe are his injuries?

Shivok: ::after a brief hesitation:: Not life-threatening.

T'Presh: And your daughter?

Shivok's voice broke a little.

Shivok: Staying with family.

T'Presh: You are alone.

Shivok: Yes.

T'Presh: Stop your own heart.

It was delivered as casually and emotionlessly as her last few questions had been and Shivok did not seem to react. He leaned down, picked up a small sculpture, and replaced it onto the shelf beside him. The muzzle of T'Presh's weapon followed him.

Shivok: I must answer for my crime.

T'Presh: No. ::The response was immediate.:: If you continue to live, my son will face interviews and medical examinations and be obliged to testify against you. He will have to recount what you have done, probably more than once, and afterwards he will have to contend with the knowledge that you are still alive. If this happens then I will ensure that your family and colleagues know what transpired here.

Shivok said nothing. His hand fell limply by his side.

T'Presh: If you elect to bring my request to the attention of the authorities, my husband will attest that I arrived at our home forty minutes ago, and your accusation will be seen as an attempt to discredit your victim. So I am giving you a choice. Stop your own heart, or allow your wife and your daughter to be exposed to your shame.

She held the phaser steady. Shivok stared at it for a long time.

After it was done, T'Presh returned calmly to her vehicle and sped off into the desert night. She considered searching for Taurek, but the sheer scope of his potential routes meant that such an endeavour would be foolish. Though it tore at her heart not to go after him, she knew it was more logical to check with the surrounding settlements or wait until the authorities decided to scan the desert for his heat signature. Or lack thereof.

T'Presh pushed the thought out of her mind. There were still matters to take care of and tracks to cover, and she had been in intelligence long enough to know how to do both. After she had donned her gloves and wiped any traces of her DNA from the phaser, she wrapped it in an insulating material and buried it. The weapon would be difficult to trace, but even if it was found, it had not been fired. Shivok was dead. Nothing could be proven.

She stepped back into the driver's seat and began the long journey home.




Ashayam: "Beloved"

Ta'al: the Vulcan salute

Loose ends

If T'Presh was just going to ask Shivok to kill himself, why did she bring a phaser?

That was Plan B.

You know genetics doesn't work that way, with the eye colours and all, right?

Yes. I know. Shut up. It's space magic. I don't know.

Where's all the stuff about T'Reshik's unethical experiments and the compound to prevent Pon Farr?

Honestly, I have no idea. I posted it during my first term with SB118 years ago, and I no longer have access to the email address used to send it out. I might write some more sims in the future to recap.