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Captain
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 3,579
# 11
09-22-2013, 01:06 PM
Literary Challenge # 45 - Freestyle

BROTHERS IN ARMS

Vulcan, 2349

As he entered the austere apartment, Selek felt the chill of the environmental controls which kept the temperature at a constant 23 celsius. As always, his eyes were drawn to the massive oil painting on the north wall -- an original Lynch sea-scape of Caladan titled Storm. At certain times of day, sunlight would fall on the painting, imbuing it with an almost lifelike quality. He tried to imagine the world, where an over-saturation of nucleogenic particles in the atmosphere meant that it rained constantly, but despite the churning green ocean and streaked torrential rain in the painting, he was unable to visualise being in such an environment.

The main living area was deserted, but ambient, electronic music drifted from the speakers, so Selek knew that the domicile was not deserted. Placing his rucksack by a sofa, and turning away from Storm, he headed down the corridor towards the bedrooms.

Reaching the first of the bedrooms, he looked round the open arch, and saw his best friend, Marcus Kane, leaning over a workbench set up in the corner of the room, with enough tools and equipment to put an engineering lab to shame. Remaining focussed on the project before him, he nevertheless acknowledged Selek's presence.

"Nashaut, Selek," he said, not looking up from the work which occupied his attention.

"Nashaut, Marc, are you ready?" Selek enquired in Vuhlkansu, stepping across the threshold.

"Nearly..." Marcus replied in the same language. After three years on Vulcan, he now not only read, spoke and wrote the language fluently, but due to his lessons and ongoing mental re-training with Master Sovak, frequently thought in Vuhlkansu as well.

Selek noted the climbing and camping equipment already packed in a rucksack on the bed, and stood closer to his friend. Clasping his hands behind his back, he peered over Marcus' shoulder.

"What are you doing?" he eventually enquired.

"I was going over that map of the Sas-a-shar desert last night, and I thought the Plain of Blood looked an ideal place to do some hoverboarding," Marcus replied, not lifting his eyes from the upturned meter-long form of a Margera Slingshot as he deftly manipulated two sonic screwdrivers on either side of one of the anti-grav discs. "This hasn't been out of storage since we got here, and I needed to adjust the graviton output to compensate for the local gravity."

Selek raised an eyebrow.

"An interesting proposal," he admitted. "I anticipate it would be an exhilarating experience, but I do not possess a hoverboard."

"No problem, I've got you covered," Marcus replied, sitting back on the stool. "Ali!"

He paused a moment, but there was no reply, so he shouted louder:

"ALI!"

"What?" came a shout from another room.

Switching to Federation Standard, Marcus yelled:

"Selek needs your hoverboard!"

"Fine!"

Marcus looked to Selek and raised his eyebrow, before leaning back over the workstation and repositioning his tools.

"Just one more tweak of the power cells, and it'll be good to go," he said, reverting back to Vuhlkansu, as behind him, he heard the slap-slap slap-slap of his twin sister's bare feet on the heated marble floor as she entered the room.

"Hey, Selek, try not to break it," she said, slapping the deck of the pink and green Mattel Classic against the Vulcan's midriff.

Unlike Marcus and Selek, who wore locally produced lightweight hiking clothes, Alix wore a faded grey Lantic City Raptors T-shirt, and high-cut black denim shorts which left her willowy legs bare. She made a show of glancing at the chunky black bracelet of the Rolex Star-Dweller on her wrist and sighed. "It's nearly lunchtime, and I'm not doing extras, when're you f*gs leaving?"

"We are not homosexuals, we are friends," Selek stated.

"Two guys going out into the desert by themselves -- sounds pretty gay to me," Alix countered.

"She's just yanking your chain," Marcus told Selek. "She thinks she's being funny. Isn't that right, Ali?"

"Gramma Lieselle thinks I'm funny..." Alix replied, with the sullen pout that warned she was on the verge of becoming spiteful.

"Gramma Lieselle thought she was sitting on a commode the last time we saw her," Marcus recalled. "Now that was funny..."

"D**k!" Alix snapped, shoving her brother as he adjusted the gravitic compensator of her hoverboard, before turning her unnerving glare on Selek: "And you can stop laughing too!"

"I am not laughing," Selek pointed out, although he was inwardly amused by the mental image.

"Both of you can just f**k off!" Alix howled, storming out of the room, before yelling over her shoulder: "And don't break my board! It's f**king Vintage!"

"Thanks, Ali, love you!" Marcus called after her retreating form.

"F**k off!" Alix yelled back, before muttering. "Love you too..."

***

"I do not think your sister likes me," Selek said, as ShiKahr raced past the windows of the air-tram.

Both teenagers stood in the center isle of the air-tram, casually holding the overhead handrails, their rucksacks positioned between their feet so as not to inconvenience the other passengers. Marcus tilted his head contemplatively.

"Try not to take it personally, Alix does not like many people," he pointed out, realising that Selek deserved to know the truth behind Alix's hostility. "She gets jealous of others taking my time from her, but she can't help it. She was -- resequenced before we were born."

"Resequenced? Like an Augment?" Even with Selek's disciplined tone, his shock was clear in his voice.

"A similar procedure, but a very different outcome," Marcus replied. Aware that a few passengers had subtly shifted to better monitor their conversation, he specifically said: "Federation law allows for the treatment of genetic conditions. Alix suffered life-threatening genetic damage in-utero, which required resequencing to repair. She has none of the physical enhancements the Augments had, but she still experiences the same behavioural issues and social difficulties, albeit to a milder degree. If she truly disliked you, she would not have allowed you to take the hoverboard."

"I was not aware of that," Selek admitted. "I shall be mindful of that during our future interactions. Did you remember to pack the portable replicator?"

"I did, as well as two dozen Starfleet ration bars and a filtration canteen." Marcus said, before glancing at his own Star-Dweller as the air-tram slowed as it approached the next terminal. "We should reach Gateway within the hour."

The doors opened, and most of the passengers departed, to be replaced with a few new travellers.

"It is the Human weakling and his nursemaid..." a derisory voice said from the door, which made Marcus' blood run cold.

Turning, he saw Vonik, Stann and Serrak had entered the air-tram, and were aggressively observing him and Selek.

"I have nothing to say to you, Vonik," he said, focussing to keep his breathing even, and deliberately turning his back to the bullies.

"Only because you know I speak the truth," Vonik insisted. "Or are you afraid that I will beat you again, as I did before?"

Marcus turned to face his antagonist, his hands before him at his waist, his fingertips steepled together, pointing to the floor.

"You were only able to beat me before, because I was over-exerted and unacclimatised, thus unable to defend myself," he said calmly. "That will not happen again. I am accustomed to Vulcan's climate now, and have studied the va'sumi."

For all his apparent calm, Marcus' pulse raced as adrenaline coursed through his veins. He had indeed studied the Vulcan martial arts, but that did not change the fact that any one of the bullies had three times his strength, and could easily cripple, or even kill him, with a well placed blow.

"We accept your challenge!" Vonik declared, before launching himself forwards, his fists swinging.

Backing up, Marcus avoided the first two punches, but the third landed on his cheek, making lights flicker in his peripheral vision, and spinning him against the vertical handrail in the middle of the isle hard enough to knock the wind from him. Grabbing hold of the handrail and using it as a pivot, Marcus swung round and forwards, bringing his legs up and slamming the heel of his foot into Vonik's face. The Vulcan youth staggered back, tripping and crashing into a seat, where he then fell backwards onto the floor between the chairs.

Seeing Serrak grappling with Selek, Marcus moved to help his friend, when he felt pain flare in his lower left ribcage, as a hard blow landed from behind. His left leg went numb and he dropped to the floor of the air-tram, going down on one knee. In the periphery of his vision, Marcus saw Stann moving in behind him, and unable to regain his footing in time, he shifted sideways as Stann punched down at him, in a kneeling variant of the navorkot. Reaching out and grasping Stann's wrist, he stood, applying pressure to the back of Stann's elbow in an arm-bar technique, and using the Vulcan's own momentum to shift him off-balance. As Stann staggered forwards, Marcus' hand glided swiftly over Stann's triceps, up to his shoulder and neck, and he stiffened his fingers over the pressure points as Selek had taught him. After stiffening reflexively, Stann went limp, and he collapsed towards the floor of the air-tram unconscious. Marcus let him drop, and turned to face Vonik once more.

Using the seats to pull himself up from the floor, emerald blood streaming from his nose and mouth, Vonik stared aghast as Marcus stood firm, his fists still raised. He had never seen the to'tsu'k'hy employed by a non-Vulcan, and he began to realise Marcus was no longer the easy target he had been three years ago.

"There is another terminal in a few minutes," Marcus said, not lowering his guard. "Disembark with your unconscious lackey, and this need not go any further."

"That will not be possible," a stern voice said from behind Marcus.

Turning, he saw a dark-skinned Vulcan male rise from his seat, holding up a small PADD, clearly configured to provide a comm line.

"I have notified the authorities of this incident," Tuvok said. "You boys should be ashamed of yourselves for brawling publicly in this manner."

"Shame is an emotion," Vonik countered aggressively, attempting to draw himself straighter.

"On the contrary," Tuvok replied severely. "When one behaves unacceptably, one disgraces oneself. It is only a sense of dignity and self-respect which prevents one from repeating such acts. Do you respect your conduct this day?"

Vonik lowered his gaze.

"No, Master," he admitted, addressing the adult with the appropriate honorific for a teacher. "I apologise for my conduct."

"It is not I to whom you owe the apology," Tuvok observed.

"I apologise, Marcus," Vonik said.

"Forget about it," Marcus replied. "Just leave me alone from now on."

Vonik nodded silently, as the air-tram slowed and entered the terminal. He and Serrak stooped, and grabbed Stann under the arms, hauling him upright as the doors opened, and two security officers entered the carriage.

"Who precipitated the incident?" one of the officers enquired. The name on his uniform was Tonnek

"That boy," Tuvok said, indicating Vonik, who lowered his head.

"Has anyone been injured?" the other officer, Semok, asked.

"I am unharmed," Marcus replied. "The issue is resolved. Vonik has apologised, and I do not wish to press charges. I simply wish to continue my journey to Gateway with my friend."

"Why do you travel to Gateway?" Tonnek asked.

"I am a student of the Vulcan disciplines," Marcus explained. "My tutor, Master Sovak, suggested that I visit the Sas-a-shar desert. My friend, Selek, volunteered to accompany me as a guide."

"Is this correct?"

"It is," Selek vowed. "Marc is d'Vel'nahr -- he lives according to Surak's teachings."

Tonnek scrutinised the Human youth: He wore a student's robe over locally produced clothing which was well suited to hiking, and with his sleek, dark hair worn long in the style of Syrran, to cover the tops of his ears, he could easily be mistaken for a Vulcan at first glance. Tonnek nodded, satisfied with the explanations.

"Very well, you may continue on your journey," he said, before turning to face the three bullies. "As for yourselves, although no charges are being pursued, a reprimand will still appear on your files for disorderly conduct, and your parents will be notified."

***

Dusk had fallen, and Selek and Marcus were hiking through a gully with gently sloping sides.

"Are you still determined to join Starfleet?" Selek enquired. "Your grades would be enough to gain you entry to the science academy, and you would be able to study under some very prestigious engineers."

Marcus shook his head.

"Members of my family have served in Starfleet since the signing of the Federation Charter," he replied. "Engineers, scientists, medics, one even commanded an NX Class starship. I can't think of a better opportunity for a hands on engineering career, than keeping a starship operational."

"Unless you were to enter your father's business," Selek observed, but again, Marcus shook his head.

"It would be good to work with Dad," Marcus admitted. "He has always encouraged my projects. He didn't even object when I tried to increase the efficiency of the repulsors of his Ferraudi and corrupted the engine management system, but I think Starfleet represents the most rewarding opportunity for me. Working with Dad would be too theoretical, too corporate. Can you imagine me giving tours of the production facilities to his prospective clients?"

"Indeed, that might not be the best career for you," Selek conceded.

A high-pitched shriek tore through the deepening darkness.

"Sehlat!" Selek snapped, looking about in an attempt to locate the creature, which leapt over the crest of the gully. "We must reach higher ground!"

Rather than running, Marcus swiftly shrugged off his rucksack. His hands dove inside, and he pulled out his mother's Type II phaser pistol and a power cell. Slapping the power cell into the grip, he snapped the upper cowling forward and backward to prime it, as the sehlat bore down on them.

Raising the phaser, he snapped off a shot which brought the sehlat down.

"Is it dead?" Selek enquired.

"No, the phaser is set to stun," Marcus replied.

Selek turned to Marcus.

"We should leave swiftly, if the Sehlat recovers our scent, it will stalk us for the remainder of our hike.

"If we use the hoverboards, that might break the scent trail," Marcus suggested, removing the power cell from the phaser, returning it to his rucksack, and sliding his hoverboard from inside.

"I must admit, I have never ridden a hoverboard before," Selek admitted, taking Alix's hoverboard from his own rucksack.

"Nothing to it," Marcus replied, slipping his left foot through the throttle strap and fixing a flat rectangular clip to his belt and passing one to Selek, who examined it with a raised eyebrow.

"It's an orientation sensor," Marcus explained. "It interfaces with the onboard processor, and gives a reference point for your center of gravity to act as an additional axis. Without one, the boards have a tendency to slide out from beneath the rider during extreme manoeuvres."

"Will it help me stay on the board?"

"Not exactly... It will help the board synchronise to your weight and movements, but it is only the throttle strap which is keeping the board under your feet. An abrupt change of direction, and you will still be thrown off. Rotate your dominant foot clockwise to open the throttle, anti-clockwise to slow down, and flex your ankles to change direction."

"Rotate clockwise, rotate anti-clockwise, flex ankles," Selek repeated, clipping the sensor to his belt. "I believe I am ready."

"Okay, let's go," Marcus said, putting his rucksack back on, and pulling the straps tight.

With a practiced flick of his foot, he launched the hoverboard forwards, gliding up and down the sides of the gully to avoid some of the larger boulders, the cool evening wind blowing through his long hair as he raced forwards.

Aiming towards a clear section, he looked over his shoulder to see that Selek was following, his Vulcan reflexes allowing him to control the unfamiliar device without difficulty, as he skimmed over the undulating terrain.

***

Selek awoke to a fizzing, snapping sound. Pulling his shirt over his head, he opened the front of his one person tent, and saw Marcus crouched by the fire, cooking food in various pans. He looked up as Selek shoved his feet into his hiking boots and resealed his tent.

"Nashaut, Selek," he said, raising his right hand in the ta'al, as his friend approached the warmth of the fire.

"Nashaut, Marc," Selek replied, returning the gesture. "You said you had packed a portable replicator."

"I did, it's right there," Marcus replied, nodding towards the unit, while using a wooden spatula to manipulate the streaks of bacon frying in the pan next to thick patties of reddish-brown meat. A second pan to the right, contained fluffy scrambled eggs, while in a third, beans simmered in a thick, orange sauce. "Whenever our mother took Alix and I camping, she would always replicate raw food to then cook in the traditional manner. She said it was important that we know how to cook without access to replicators."

"I have eaten your sister's offerings," Selek observed. "Even with a replicator, her culinary skills leave room for much improvement."

Marcus nodded, a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

"This is why I prepare all the meals," he said. "Would you like some bacon? There are bread rolls ready beside you, along with the following sauces: red, brown, American mustard, English mustard and tiger."

Selek nodded, and picked up the red bottle.

"What is next to the bacon?" he enquired.

"Sausage meat patties," Marcus replied. "Would you like one with the bacon?"

"I think I shall," Selek decided. "Flesh of swine is clearly part of the traditional Human camping experience. It is a misconception that all Vulcans are vegetarians, and it would be illogical to not partake fully."

Marcus used the spatula to first drizzle some of the cooking oil onto the split roll, then laid strips of bacon into place, swiftly followed by one of the sausage patties.

Selek used another spatula to scoop some of the eggs onto the top of the mound, then covered it with the top half of the bread roll. He took a large bite, and inclined his head appreciatively.

"Excellent," he said. "You were clearly attentive of your mother's lessons. If you cannot become a Starfleet engineer, you could always enlist as a chef."

"I had never considered that possibility," Marcus admitted, amusement clear in his tone, despite his training, as he began to prepare his own breakfast roll, and reached for the bottle of tiger sauce.

After a second course of eggs and beans, the youths re-packed their gear and smothered the fire. Selek looked up at the vertical rock wall of the canyon, then looked back to Marcus.

"What do you think?" he enquired.

"Summit by lunch, back down by sunset," Marcus replied confidently, reaching back into his chalk pouch and dusting his fingers.

"I agree," Selek said, moving towards the rock face, driving a fusion piton into place and then tying off a support rope. "I shall ascend first, having climbed here before with my father, I am familiar with the route."

***

Two hours and over a hundred feet above the canyon floor later, wiping rock dust from his eyes, Selek reached out to take hold of an outcropping, but as he shifted his weight, it crumbled away beneath his grip, and as if in slow motion, he felt himself falling back, away from the rock face.

Looking up, Marcus saw Selek plummeting towards him, and reacted instinctively. Taking a firm grip on the rope with his right hand, with his left, he reached out and grabbed.

He felt his fingers close on something solid, nanoseconds before an almighty pain exploded in his arms and shoulders, nearly causing him to black out. A terrible pendulous force threatened to rip him from the rock face, but he maintained his grip on the rope. Gritting his teeth and ignoring the sound of blood rushing in his ears, Marcus looked down.

He saw his hand clamped round his friend's wrist, Selek's fingers gripping his own wrist. Pain flared again from wrist to elbow, and his shoulder felt like it was on fire.

Selek's eyes were wide with terror as he shouted up:

"Do not let go, Marc! Do not let me fall!"

"I won't," Marcus promised, feeling something in his elbow twinge, and pain shot from his fingers to his shoulder. "There is a two meter wide ledge, one point five meters below you," he said. "You have to drop down to it."

"I cannot," Selek shouted back. "Do not let me fall!"

"I won't let go," Marcus promised. "But my arm is injured, and I don't know how long I can maintain my grip. You must cut your drag line and drop the kit, or the weight will pull us both to our deaths. You must hurry and regain your footing."

"I cannot!" Selek insisted, before admitting: "I am afraid!"

"Calm your mind!" Marcus insisted. "Fear is a choice, a decision. You must control it so it does not control you. If you do not drop to the ledge, we will both fall. You must calm your mind. Focus on your breathing: On the expansion and contraction of your lungs. Feel the calm replacing your fear."

Selek nodded and closed his eyes. For what seemed like an eternity, he remained suspended by Marcus' vice-like, but rapidly weakening, grip.

"I am in control once more," he declared, pulling a forward-curving knife from his belt and severing the drag line. Immediately, some of the strain on Marcus' arm was gone as the equipment bag dropped lazily toward the canyon floor, bursting open on impact, and scattering the contents across what had been their campsite. "I see the ledge, and can safely drop to it."

Selek released his grip, and Marcus did likewise, before sliding down the rock face to the ledge.

Immediately, Marcus released his grip on the rope, but was unable to raise his arm again to regain purchase, and he was forced to drop clumsily to the ledge.

"Now we're really in trouble," he sighed, leaning against the canyon wall.

"How severely are you injured?" Selek enquired, noting how Marcus' left arm hung grotesquely, his fingers contorted, stiff and claw-like.

Reaching across his body with his right arm, Marcus fumbled clumsily in the thigh pocket of his shorts and pulled out his PADD.

"There's a rudimentary medical app on here," he said, passing the PADD to Selek. "It's not as good as a medical tricorder, but it will give you a simplified diagnosis."

Scrolling through the apps, Selek activated the correct one, and held the PADD close to Marcus' torso.

"Your left shoulder is not only dislocated, but the muscles of the rotator cuff are torn," he announced. "The ligaments in your elbow have separated from the humorous, and there is damage to the tendons in your wrist. You have similar damage to your right wrist, but your right elbow and shoulder are merely sprained. I apologise for having caused you such harm."

Marcus shook his head, dismissing the apology as unnecessary.

"I couldn't let you fall."

"Your oxygen saturation is at ninety percent, you require tri-ox."

"I've not had a shot of that in -- how long have we been friends?"

"It has been nine hundred and eighty five days, since I intervened in your beating from Vonik," Selek replied. "I believe that would constitute the beginning of our friendship."

Marcus nodded.

"Then that is how long it has been since my last shot," he replied. "And even if we had any tri-ox, it would not enable me to climb down to ground level, my shoulder is too severely damaged. Use the PADD's communication app to send an emergency beacon."

Selek lowered his gaze to the status icons at the top of the PADD's screen, then looked back to Marcus.

"It has no data net connection," he said. "The geomagnetic instabilities in the region are notorious for interfering with technology at ground level. It is indeed an irony that the device functions, but is blocked from accessing communications frequencies."

"Every problem has a solution," Marcus rationalised. "Do you know how high the range of the interference extends above the ground."

Selek shook his head.

"Observation craft overfly the region, but at considerable altitude," he said.

"So we need to get a beacon off the ground," Marcus mused, looking to where his hoverboard had fallen from his rucksack onto the ledge.

"Could you modify the hoverboard to reach a higher altitude?" Selek asked, following his friend's gaze. "It could lift the PADD above the interference."

"We need to keep the PADD with us, to provide a visual beacon," Marcus replied. "But we can certainly raise a beacon above the interference."

Selek raised an eyebrow.

"What did you have in mind?" he enquired. "My PADD was in my pack, it was probably damaged beyond use in the fall.

"My watch is synchronised to a timing pulse from a beacon in the city," Marcus explained. "If you can reverse the polarity of the transceiver, we can use that to act as our beacon."

"You are the engineer, Marc," Selek said. "I cannot perform such modifications."

"You're going to have to," Marcus replied, pulling his sonic screwdrivers from his belt pouch with observable difficulty. "I can't use these with my hands messed up like this, but I can talk you through the procedures."

Selek nodded.

"Where do I begin?" he asked.

"Compress the sides of my watch, at the three and nine o clock positions, for three seconds," Marcus said, raising his right arm toward Selek.

With a nod, Selek took hold of the seamless black bracelet, and depressed the sides as instructed, counting silently. As he counted three, the turquoise hands and markers of the digital dial flashed twice, and the bracelet separated above the twelve marker. Selek took the watch from Marcus' wrist.

"You'll need to adjust the oscillating aperture of the sonic screwdriver to point four microns to open the casing," said Marcus, as Selek picked up one of the slender tools. "Then recalibrate again to point one micron, to reverse the polarity of the timing transceiver."

Selek nodded, and began to rotate the control collar of the sonic screwdriver.

***

Opening his eyes from his meditation, Sovak glanced about him. T'Reya was changing the oil in the torches which provided light in the rough-hewn rock walls of his sanctum, which allowed Sovak to know the time.

"Is Marcus outside in the monestary?" he enquired.

The slender priestess initiate turned to face Sovak, her head lowered deferentially to the kohlinar master.

"He is not, Master, nor have I seen him today," she replied. "His punctuality is usually impeccable."

Although he did not experience the emotion of concern, Sovak appreciated the gravity of the situation."

"Go to his home and ascertain the nature of his delay," he said. "He would not be late for a lesson without good reason. It is only proper to offer assistance."

T'Reya dipped her head in assent.

"Yes, Master," she said. "I shall leave for ShiKahr immediately."

As she left the meditation chamber, T'Reya experienced a pang of worry. In the three years she had known him, Marcus had proved to be a worthy pupil, absorbing Surak's wisdom through Sovak's teachings, like a sponge absorbing and retaining water. That he appreciated T'Reya's company was clear. He treated her attentively and with respect, never ogling her body, despite the diaphanous gown her position required her to wear. He was always willing to accompany and assist her as she performed her duties, both in the monestary, and in ShiKahr, frequently, and illogically, offering to perform deeds of heavy lifting, which with her superior Vulcan strength, she was not only more than capable of performing herself, but indeed better able to perform than the Human boy. Nevertheless, his sincere offers to assist T'Reya were endearing, and as she began the mile long hike across the desert from the monestary to ShiKahr, she found herself hoping that no misfortune had befallen her young admirer.

***

At the sound of the door chime, Alix got up from the sofa in the lounge, and made her way to the appartment's door. Reaching out, she tapped the control pad, and the door slid aside to reveal a Vulcan priestess standing in the hallway.

"Yes?" she said in Federation Standard. "What do you want?"

"I am T'Reya, of the Folu monastery," T'Reya replied in the same language. "Marcus has failed to attend his lesson with Master Sovak, and I have been tasked with locating him and discovering the reason for his absence. Is your father present? May I speak with him?"

Alix scrutinized the Vulcan woman before her -- She was slim and toned, considerably taller than Alix, with long limbs, and firm breasts which seemed almost over-sized for her slender frame. She was incredibly beautiful, but carried herself with a serene dignity completely oblivious of the fact.

"Dad's been working away, but should be home soon," she said. Her stomach knotted at the idea of Marcus being in trouble, but there was something soothing about the priestess' demeanour which Alix found strangely reassuring, and she made a sudden decision. "I like you, you can wait for him inside if you like?"

T'Reya dipped her head in acknowledgement of the hospitality.

"That would be most agreeable, thank you," she said, following Alix into the apartment.

When we have a guest, we offer them a beverage... Mama's voice echoed from her memory, firmly imparting simple but fundamental social niceties which Alix would otherwise have been incapable of considering.

"Would you like something to drink?" she asked. "We have loads of non-replicated stuff: Mountain Dew, Pepsi, RedTarg, Sprunk, uh, various blends of coffee, teas, bourbon, vodka, Dad even has a stash of Romulan Ale in his study."

"Mountain dew sounds quite acceptable," T'Reya assured Alix.

"Okay, I'll have that too," she said, opening a large bottle which hissed viciously with released carbon dioxide. She filled two highball glasses of the effervescent fluid and handed one to T'Reya, who took a sip, then inclined her head.

"Most refreshing," the Vulcan said, before taking a longer swallow, and another and another, rapidly draining the glass.

Alix smiled and raised the bottle.

"More?"

"Please,"

***

Allowing the autopilot to maintain his position in the air traffic, Paul Kane tapped his fingers against the steering wheel of his mid-22nd Century open-top air-speeder, in time to the syncopated beat of Take Five.

After two weeks on Storm Station, he was glad to be back on Vulcan, and looking forward to a quiet evening with his children -- not that they could truly be considered children anymore. Alix had started using cosmetics, and Marcus now had the demeanour of a two hundred year old Vulcan. Either way, they were still his babies, and while he had been off-planet, he had missed them immensely. He had attended the design briefing as a favour to his closest friend, Admiral Wesley Cooper, who had wanted Paul's input on a new torpedo system. The STS Program Manager, William Sander, had been convinced that a 'quantum' torpedo was merely an exercise in theoretical intellectualism, but Paul's equations and simulations had proven otherwise. Even though the Kane family had left Earth in the early 22nd Century for Caladan, their roots were from Boston high society. Sander, despite his position, was still very much the Seattle hipster, and an immediate East Coast-West Coast rivalry sprang up between the two engineers. Paul knew that Kane Industries had been a professional thorn in the side of Star Enterprises for decades, but now, that rivalry had become personal. To have an outsider come to his home field and make him look like a grade-schooler, had definitely not sat well with Bill Sander, especially not when Admiral Cooper had supported Paul's proposals...

The chirping of the onboard comm unit caught Paul's attention, and he reached out to tap the screen of the comm. A section of the forward windshield projected a translucent hologram of an attractive, but sharply-featured Vulcan woman.

"T'Jenn, what can I do for you?" he asked, immediately recognising Selek's mother.

"Sotek and I wondered if Selek was with you and Marcus," she said. "He has not returned from their camping trip to the Sas-a-shar desert."

"I'm not home yet myself," Paul admitted. "I've only been back on planet half an hour. I haven't had any messages from Alix, but I am on my way to the apartment. I'll contact you as soon as I'm home and know what's going on."

"That would be much appreciated, Paul, thank you," T'Jenn replied, before cutting the comm line.

"Call Marcus," Paul said with a mild frown. Almost immediately, the comm unit bleeped disconcertingly.

"Unable to make connection," the synthesised voice said. "Receiving unit is not connected to data net."

Could still be in the Forge, could have his PADD on charge... Paul told himself.

"Call home," he said.

This time, the comm unit was able to make a connection, but the call went unanswered. After thirty seconds of the link chirping, Paul reached out, cutting the autopilot and assuming manual control of the speeder. Gliding out of the commuting lane, he opened the throttle and with a roar of power from the central turbine in the forward hood, the aluminum-shelled air-speeder raced forward toward downtown ShiKahr.

***

When he entered the apartment, Paul saw something he could never have imagined seeing.

Bottles of Mountain Dew were strewn across the floor, while Alix and a Vulcan priestess were jumping around and yelling into a karaoke machine.

"One way, or a-notha! I'm gon-na find ya! I'm gonna getcha getcha getchagetcha!" they screamed in a strangely perfect harmony.

"What the hell's going on?" he demanded, trying not to laugh out loud.

At once, they stopped singing, and spun to face Paul. Alix grinned broadly, and ran towards her father, while T'Reya attempted to regain her dignity and hold herself straighter, as the backing music continued.

"Mister Kane, my name is T'Reya. Master Sovak charged me with ascertaining the reason for Marcus' absence from his lesson," she said. "Your daughter was good enough to entertain me while we waited for your arrival," she said, attempting to overcome the sugar intoxication.

"We've had the best time," Alix said, throwing her arms round Paul's waist.

"So I see," Paul said, smoothing his daughter's hair. "Go to your room, Kid, we'll talk later."

"Okay, Dad," Alix agreed happily, before heading down the corridor, not thinking to give her leave to T'Reya.

"So you're T'Reya," Paul said, as if experiencing a realisation. "I've heard a lot about you."

"Marcus is an attentive student, I am gratified to have made an impression on him," T'Reya said.

"Oh you made an impression on him alright," Paul said wryly, deactivating the karaoke machine

T'Reya's cheeks flushed a deep bronze, and she was momentarily taken aback, realising that Marcus clearly spoke of her frequently.

"I did not realise he was so -- enamoured," she admitted, somewhat taken aback, but not offended by the revelation. "I must also say that Alix was an excellent hostess. I am sure she did not intend me to become intoxicated."

"Well, we've all been there before," Paul admitted. "I see no reason to make Master Sovak aware of this. It's nice to see Alix interacting well with people other than family. I've really gotta find out what's happened to Marcus. You're more than welcome to stay while I make enquiries. It'll give you time for your head to clear before reporting to Master Sovak."

"Marcus has frequently assisted me," T'Reya said. "I will assist you in locating him."

Paul nodded, and headed to the comm unit.

"Call emergency services," he said. A moment later, the screen filled with the head and shoulders of an elegant Vulcan female.

"I am Investigator T'Mell," she said. "How may I assist you."

"My name is Paul Kane, my son, Marcus, has failed to return home from a camping expedition to the Forge. He was accompanied by his friend Selek, son of Sotek, who has also failed to return home."

"Thank you for your report, Mister Kane, I shall despatch a shuttle to investigate," T'Mell said. "Please remember that the Sas-a-shar desert is vast, and locating your son and his friend may take some time. I would request that you remain at home incase he should return, and of course, notify me if he does so, or otherwise makes contact."

***

Marcus was floating. At least, it felt like he was floating. He could feel his mother's arms around him, see her face smiling down on him as she sang.

"Don't eh-ver, be lone-ly, re-mem-ber, I'll all-ways care. Where-ever, you may be, re-mem-ber, I will be there."

He may have been able to control his thoughts and emotions whilst conscious, but his unconscious mind still refused to be bound by the Vulcan techniques he had learned, and as always, there was a shift from being cradled, to the rocking motion of lying on the shattered trimaran, watching helplessly as the raptor sharks tore his mother to pieces -- sacrificing herself, that she may sate their hunger enough to save her son's life...

---

Selek looked up from his meditations as he heard Marcus moan fretfully. He had been asleep in a foetal position for hours, the adrenaline having finally worn off, and fatigue taking over. His eyes twitched beneath his eyelids, and tears rolled from his eyes. Unsure of what else to do, Selek reached out and pushed Marcus' knee, using just enough force to wake him.

"You appeared to be in discomfort," he said, attempting to spare his friend's dignity by not pointing out that he had been crying.

"I was dreaming about my mother," Marcus replied, rubbing his wrist across his eyes, before looking about and realising that night had fallen. "How long was I out?"

"Nearly eight hours," Selek replied. "I completed the recalibration of the hoverboard's gravitic compensator and graviton generator three hours ago, and it is now maybe a thousand feet above our location. I also tied your rucksack to the base of the hoverboard with a climbing rope to act as a rudimentary anchor to keep it drifting too far from our location. The PADD has been set to flash every one point five seconds, which should be visible for several miles at this time of night.

"Good thinking," Marcus said, adjusting his position to sit with his back to the canyon wall. "Perhaps I'll make an engineer of you after all."

***

Sitting in the back of the med-shuttle, Selek turned to the medic.

"Will he be alright?" he enquired.

"His injuries will respond well to regeneration therapy," T'Lami replied. "He should recover fully."

"You saved our lives, Selek," Marcus said, rising up on his elbows. Raising his right hand, he attempted to make the ta'al, but the damage to his ligaments made his fingers tremble and flex randomly, unable to correctly position.

"Ti pla' t'hy'la," Selek said, reaching across to take hold of Marcus' hand with both of his own, separating his fingers into the correct position, then making the ta'al himself. Lay back, brother.

Last edited by marcusdkane; 09-24-2013 at 01:16 PM. Reason: Final Revision