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Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 3,760
# 5
03-06-2013, 07:52 PM
Literary Challenges 1 and 32 - Prized Possessions and Into the Hive Pt II:

The Mathematics of Tears


Selek strode through the entrance hall of his home, the reassuring weight of the leather-wrapped ka'athyra tucked in the crook of his arm, and into the spacious living area which afforded a panoramic view of ShiKahr. A slender figure sat on one of the low couches, their back toward the entrance and their head bowed, but Selek immediately recognized his daughter. He was simultaneously gratified for and concerned by her presence in his home.

"I was not expecting you to be here, T'Marc, I apologize for disturbing your meditations," he said, moving into the living area properly. Lowering the ka'athyra almost reverently onto a couch, he sat beside it.

"It is a welcome interruption," T'Marc admitted, her head still lowered. "I had hoped to discuss a matter with mother, but she is teaching, so I chose to wait for her to return."

Selek's brow furrowed. To a Human, the expression would have been imperceptible and gone un-noticed. To one familiar with Vulcan behavior, it was a clear indication of angry concern.

"I do not mean to pry, but I am a concerned father," he said. "Have you and Sulak had words again?"

T'Marc looked up and regarded her father, her hands remaining serenely folded in her lap.

"We have, father," she admitted. "You are right to be concerned, I am in quite a predicament. I am still without child, and it is clear that Sulak is... that he prefers the company of men."

Selek raised an eyebrow.

"Indeed?"

T'Marc's head dipped in assent, her short bobbed hair briefly rippling.

"Even during the pon farr, his... ardor... does not last, and we have to... satisfy our own desires," she admitted, shamed to have to speak to her father about such things.

"That is unfortunate," Selek acknowledged, rising to his feet and crossing the lounge to the food replicator in the kitchen area.

"Unfortunate?" T'Marc repeated, agitation clear in her tone. "It is utterly illogical! For one to be attracted to one's own gender serves no purpose! What good is two males undergoing the pon farr together? One cannot rub two sticks together and make fire!"

Inwardly amused by the metaphor, Selek momentarily considered correcting his daughter, but decided against it. Instead, he tabbed a control on the replicator and while waiting for the two spherical glasses to materialize before him, gathered his thoughts.

"Love and attraction are rarely logical," he admitted. "Your mother and I were not originally betrothed, yet we were attracted to one another. I issued the koon-ut-kalifee to prevent her marriage to Sokar, and we married for love."

Returning to the couches, he handed a glass to T'Marc.

"K'vass?" she exclaimed, "It is barely noon, father."

"When meditation fails to provide solace, intoxicants can provide release," Selek replied. "You are a grown woman, T'Marc, not a child, a drink will not harm you"

"It cannot make things worse," T'Marc acknowledged, sipping the sweet beverage. "I see you have reclaimed grandfather's ka'athyra. Was the ceremony appropriate?"

"As appropriate as possible for one conducted by k'shatrisu," Selek admitted. "Caladan is certainly a very different place to Vulcan. For it to rain constantly... It was as if Natara Himself mourned."

"You miss him," T'Marc stated, to which Selek nodded.

"Indeed I do," he replied. "Marcus may have been born a Human, but he was also family, and I can still think of no finer man to have stood as your en'ahr'at."

T'Marc raised the curved glass to her lips and sipped the k'vass, the first buzz of the sugar intoxication starting to sooth her turbulent emotions, and her thoughts drifted from her troubled marriage.

"You have never explained why you and mother chose to name me after a Human," she said.

"That is a story which begins thirty years ago," Selek replied.

Settling himself onto a stool infront of T'Marc, he raised his hand to her face, his fingers pressing against the katra points.

"My mind to your mind," he said. "My thoughts to your thoughts."

******

The shiver of the transporter beam gave way to the cool chill of a Federation transporter room. Standing by the transporter platform, Selek immediately saw his childhood friend, Fleet Captain Marcus Kane. Standing beside him, was an equally tall, slender woman with a jaw-length bob of dark hair. One side was neatly tucked behind her ear, revealing the delicate brown spots at her temples which marked her as a Trill. He recalled meeting Jedda Tobin eight years previously, when Marcus and his new bride, K'm'rn, had held a ceremony to give their bond legal status in Federation law.

Raising his right hand, Selek automatically made the ta'al.

"Nashaut, t'hy'la Marc," he said.

Kane automatically raised his hand to return the Vulcan salute, noting that Selek wore the brown and grey uniform of a Master Scientist beneath his floor-length robe.

"Nashaut, t'hy'la Selek," he replied, before turning his attention to the slender blonde Human woman who stood at Selek's side, clad in a metallic silver bodysuit. "Hello, Professor Hansen, it's good to see you again."

Beside Selek, Seven of Nine frowned, momentarily confused by the input from her occular implant. Since Voyager's return from the Delta Quadrant, she had spoken to Kane via subspace communications several times, but had not seen him in person, and the viewscreen's sensor had been unable to pick up what her occular implant immediately detected.

Atop the normal layers of Human perception, was superimposed a pulsating, coruscating energy signature which she could not immediately identify.

"Annika," Kane said, regaining Seven's attention with the verbal equivalent of a snap of his fingers. "Is everything alright?" Her full lips parted to speak, but for a moment, Borg neuro-processing took over.

"Species five six one eight Alpha: Homo sapiens immortalis," she stated flatly, attracting a wary look from Tobin.

"Yes, that's right," Kane replied guardedly. "I thought you were... aware of my condition. Did it not strike you as unusual that our biological ages appeared so similar?"

"My apologies, Captain," Seven began, recovering herself and stepping forward to shake Kane's hand with a smile. "Indeed, I knew why you appear considerably younger than your chronological age, but my occular implant affords me access to much of the EM spectrum, and I was unprepared for the difference in perception. The energy patterns within you are remarkable to see."

Kane nodded gently, realizing how different the Quickening must appear to a sensor array such as Seven's.

"Professor Annika Hansen, my first officer, Commander Jedda Tobin," he said.

"A pleasure to meet you, Professor," Tobin said, extending her hand.

"I prefer the designation Seven of Nine," replied the former drone.

"You didn't mind the Captain addressing you by name," Tobin pointed out, somewhat offended by Seven's brusque demeanor.

"The Captain studied under my father when he lectured at Starfleet Academy, and became a friend of the family," Seven explained. "Our last meeting in person was on my fifth birthday."

Tobin's eyebrows quirked in a barely repressed shrug.
"Welcome aboard, Professor," she replied, before turning to Selek. "And likewise, welcome aboard, Master Selek."

"Thank you, Commander," Selek replied as the group left the transporter room and entered the corridor.

"Master, may I make an observation?" Tobin enquired.

Selek inclined his head, indicating his assent.

"I was lead to believe that the Vulcan term 't'hy'la', was only used between those in an intimate relationship, yet you and the Captain both used the term, was my understanding incorrect?"

Before either Selek or Kane could reply, Seven answered:

"The term has many meanings, Commander," she said. "It can indeed mean life-long companion or lover, but it can also mean a soul-mate, or what Humans would refer to as blood-brothers, without reference to sexuality."

"Absolutely so," Selek confirmed. "Marc and I have known each other since childhood, and while climbing in Vulcan's Forge in our thirteenth year, he prevented me from falling to my death. No other term of address is fitting for such a friendship."

"Ahh, thank you for clarifying," Tobin replied as they entered the turbolift.

***

In the Endeavour's observation lounge, Seven stood by the wall-mounted display, while the senior officers sat around the long table.

"It has come to the attention of Starfleet Command, that a Borg cube has been observed in the Romulan Neutral Zone. As this is the known terminus for many Borg transwarp conduits, that in itself is unremarkable. What is unusual, is that the cube has taken no hostile action against any nearby planets or shipping lanes, and would appear to simply be drifting."

"I presume our orders are to make contact and investigate?" enquired the Endeavour's chief of security, Lieutenant Commander Roger Hunt "Does Command want the cube destroyed?"

"Only in extreme circumstances," Seven replied. "It is the hope of Starfleet Command that the ships vinculum can be salvaged, and with Master Selek's assistance, integrated into a long-range sensor array he designed to assist with detecting approaching Borg vessels via their communications network."

"Are there any indications of the resistance which a boarding party might experience?" Kane asked, folding his arms across his chest and stroking his beard.

Seven shook her head.

"Impossible to tell, but I would recommend a minimal away team," she replied. "I have been asked by Starfleet Command to provide what guidance and intelligence on the Borg I can, but I would prefer to remain aboard the Endeavour for the duration. I am concerned that my presence aboard the cube could prove a liability, especially if we were to encounter the One who is Many. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that my cognitive systems could become compromised."

"At maximum warp, we can be at the Neutral Zone by noon tomorrow," said Tobin.

Kane nodded, steepling his fingers.

"When we arrive, Master Selek and I will transport over to the Borg ship," he decided. "I know my way around a Borg cube, and between us, Selek and I have the engineering skill to disconnect the vinculum from the surrounding systems."

"Captain," said Hunt, his mahogany skin contrasting against the vibrant mustard of his uniform collar."Regulations prohibit a flag officer entering a potentially hazardous situation without armed escort."

Kane nodded.

"Selek can handle a phaser as well as you or I, old friend. He will constitute my armed escort," he replied. "Given that there is nothing we can do until we arrive at the Neutral Zone, I suggest we adjourn until oh seven hundred hours. Commander Tobin, set a course for the Neutral Zone."

***

Extending his finger, Selek activated the door chime. The doors slid aside, and Selek found himself greeted by Cameron Kane. Against the low light of the room behind her, the light from the corridor reflected back off her tapetum, momentarily making her purple eyes appear luminous.

"Good evening, Selek, come in," she said, her Pentaxian accent reminding Selek of that of Humans from Australia. "It's been a while, how are you?"

"Very well, K'm'rn, thank you," he replied, using the correct pronunciation of her name which eluded most Human tongues.

As he stepped into the spacious quarters, Selek noticed that the temperature was easily ten degrees higher than ship's norm, and he could hear the subtle chiming sounds of Pentaxian flow-music. He passed a platter of syrup-glazed plomeek to Cameron, and saw Marcus and Seven talking casually by the dining table. While Seven still wore her silver bodysuit, Marcus had changed from his uniform into a cream-colored civilian shirt, which reminded Selek of a short Japanese yukata. His attention was drawn to the three dimensional chess set on Marcus' desk as Cameron put the platter on the dining table. Crossing over to it, he scrutinized the pieces, which were of course, exactly where he knew they would be.

"Bishop to Queen four, level two," he said, moving the pieces accordingly and then turning back to the gathering.

"I'll have to get back to you on that move another time," Kane said pouring Selek a glass of Romulan Ale. "I am under orders that we are not to get wrapped up in our game..."

"Understandable," Selek acknowledged, as they took seats around the dining table.

"This looks delicious," Cameron said, putting some of the plomeek on a plate and passing it to Seven, who nodded her head towards a stand by the low sofa.

"Who plays the instrument?" she asked. Selek followed her gaze, and immediately recognized his father's ka'athyra, a diffuse spotlight firing rich colors in the rust-colored wood.

"It belonged to my father," he said simply.

"I was deeply moved when Sotek bequeathed it to me following his passing," Kane added, taking the plate Cameron handed him and placing it before Selek.

"I shall never forget the look on Sotek's face when you played All Along the Watchtower on it," Selek recalled.

Kane chuckled inwardly at the memory.

"If I remember, it was the first time I had been invited for dinner," he said. "I believe your mother's words were 'I have never heard a ka'athrya make sounds like that before...', although I remember your sister was somewhat more impressed. How is T'San?"

"She is well," Selek replied. "She is still living in ShiKahr, and married to Tonax, an architect."

Kane's brow furrowed in thought.

"Tonax," he mused. "He designed that spire down the street from my father's office complex didn't he?"

Selek nodded, and took a mouthful of the plomeek.

"Indeed he did, they now have two sons. Which brings me to a subject I had not mentioned in our last communique. As you know, T'Laya is with child, and we would be honored if you and K'm'rn would stand as en'ahr'att."

Kane was momentarily taken aback by such a request, and Cameron's eyebrows drew together in confusion.

"The Vulcan equivalent of god-parents," Seven said helpfully, before taking a bite of the plomeek.

"I would be honored, Selek," Kane replied. "Are you expecting a son or a daughter?"

"T'Laya has chosen not to enquire," Selek replied. "My mother is sure it will be a daughter, but I am not sure, it is frequent for the first born in my family to be male."

"To a healthy child," Kane said, raising his glass in toast.

***

At the helm of the Delta-Class shuttle Equinox, Kane reached up and tapped the comm badge affixed to his tactical armor.

"Kane to Endeavour," he said. "We are within sight of the Borg cube, and will be attempting a low-power approach before beaming aboard."

"Understood, Captain," replied Tobin. "We're still within transporter range of the Equinox, so if anything does go wrong, if you can extract yourselves back to the shuttle, we will be able to beam you back. Seven will be monitoring you, and has direct access to the communications console."

"Acknowledged, Commander," Kane replied. "Engaging frequency modulation and initiating radio silence."

In the forward viewport, the slowly rotating hulk of the Borg cube loomed ever closer, blocking the view of the stars as the Equinox drew closer, before matching the drift and rotation of the cube.

"Are you ready?" Kane asked, turning to face Selek.

The Vulcan nodded, hefting a set of transport enhancers over each shoulder.

"Initiating site-to-site transport," he replied.

***

Vision resolved itself into the dimly lit humidity of the Borg cube. Both Kane and Selek had their phasers drawn, but none of the drones took any action towards them.

"It would appear the bio-dampeners are working," Selek observed, holstering his weapon and stooping to set up the first set of transport enhancers.

"Annika warned us that they only have a limited operational lifespan," Kane replied. "We shouldn't delay in making our way to the central plexus and locating the vinculum."

"I have noticed that despite her preference to be referred to by her former Borg designation, you insist on calling her Annika," Selek said, as they headed down a corridor passed a series of regenerating drones.

"When I see her, I don't see a former drone," Kane replied, looking over his shoulder to ensure the transport enhancers were not being investigated. "I see the child of my Academy mentor, the man who sparked my interest in the Borg, and I see a life which she had stolen from her because of his arrogance."

"You disagree with the necessity of Professor Hansen's work?"

Kane shook his head.

"Of course not, it frustrates me how little opinion was given to Magnus and Erin's theories, and how many lives could have been saved had the earliest reports of the Borg been properly investigated, rather than just passed off as ghost stories to scare green cadets on their training cruises-" he paused as a drone passed them in the narrow corridor, almost close enough to touch. Close enough to see that it had once been a Napean female.

"But it frustrates me more to see that," he continued. "To see a life stolen. Usurped and re-purposed into an unthinking automaton. To think that that drone was once someone's daughter, someone's sister. It's... a violation. And to think that Magnus willfully subjected his child to that danger..." he shook his head. "To call her Seven would be to forget the little girl who wanted to be a ballerina... But I think we should postpone this debate until we have successfully removed the vinculum."

"I agree," Selek replied as they reached an ante-chamber.

Ahead, they could see the pulsating green diamond forms which marked the termination points of the vinculum. As Selek began to position the transport enhancers, Kane took a sonic screwdriver from his tool kit and began to adjust its resonance.

Suddenly, he became aware of the clanking of exo-armored feet on deck plating, and then he heard the voice he had been dreading. The soulless chorus which had haunted his nightmares for nearly two decades.

WE ARE THE BORG. WE WILL ADD YOUR DISTINCTIVENESS TO OUR OWN. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

"They can see us," Selek noted, drawing his phaser.

"They can't," Kane replied. "They've detected our actions, not us specifically. Keep working, if we can disable the vinculum before they reach us, we'll disable the ship and the drones."

"I do not think we will get that opportunity," Selek replied, as a trio of drones entered the ante-chamber, upper-limbs raised, ready to release their assimilation tubules.

Covering Selek while he worked, Kane raised his phaser and fired. Once, twice, three times. Each time, the golden beam hit its mark, and the drones dropped to the floor.

"There are more drones approaching from the other corridor," Selek warned, aware of the footfall before Kane. He heard the phaser's distinctive hiss again then again, but followed by a dull humming.

"They've adapted!" Kane shouted over the chorus of echoing footsteps. He slapped at his comm badge, but it only buzzed dully beneath his armored fingers."They've activated a dampening field, I can't contact the Equinox. Fall back to the transport site!" Holstering his phaser, Kane's left hand reached round to the back of his armor and drew his tajtiq from its sheath.

A drone blocked his path, reaching out with its cybernetic limb.

Kane slashed the tajtiq horizontally from right to left, severing the prosthesis, and then rammed the blade forwards into the drone's thoracic assembly. Behind him, he could hear Selek following him, using his phaser to destroy regeneration alcoves as they went, using the plasma discharges to disable the drones within.

Then the drones started firing back.

Inbuilt plasma weaponry Kane had not heard of the Borg utilizing since reading Jean-Luc Picard's report on Hugh and his band of isolated drones.

He ducked beneath the reach of one drone, driving the tajtiq in a disemboweling movement, then preparing to move forward, when he felt something collide with his back, momentum taking him to the deck.

He looked back, and saw Selek laying face down, smoke curling from a hit to the middle of his back.

"Selek! Are you alright?" he demanded, reaching for the tricorder on his belt.

"I am -- incapacitated," Selek admitted, the tension in his voice betraying the agony he must have felt. "I cannot feel my legs."

Reaching down, Kane grabbed Selek's arm and threw it over his shoulder, gritting his teeth as he hauled his friend upright, and struggled to maintain balance against the dead weight.
"We need a diversion," he muttered, turning down a sub-corridor, and dragging Selek with him. Pulling a demolition charge from his belt, Kane primed it with a flick of his wrist, before tossing it toward the opening of the corridor. The resulting explosion flung Kane and Selek to the deck, their armor protecting them from the worst of the pressure wave and shrapnel. When the ringing in his ears stopped, Kane saw that the charge had caused enough damage to seal the corridor, leaving them enclosed with a partially-dismembered drone.

"Are you okay?" Kane enquired, remaining seated while scanning the area with his tricorder.

"I still cannot feel my legs," Selek replied wryly, pulling himself into a sitting position against the wall, a flicker of pain passing across his features. "You must leave me here and make your way to the transport site."

"That's not an option," Kane said, looking over to Selek. "I can get us out of this, trust me."

"I do trust you, Marc," Selek replied. "But logic states that I will only slow you down, increasing the likelihood of your assimilation."

"They can't assimilate me," Kane replied. "At least -- not quickly..." His voice trailed of as he recalled his experience at Starfleet Command nearly two decades ago, his eyes fixed not on his tricorder screen, but somewhere beyond:

The look of concern on Beverly's face as she watched him put the hypospray to his own arm, performing the action her Hypocratic Oath forbade... Injecting himself with the nano-probes removed from Jean-Luc Picard so the effect could be observed and studied under lab conditions...

"This is not a good idea..." she had warned, her tricorder raised, before he felt the cold rush flood through his body...

Waking up to be told that the nano-probes had asserted themselves and in his attempts to contact the Collective, he had killed five guards before he could be subdued. Omicron radiation had disabled the nano-probes, and his immortal biology had then eradicated them from his system. But nothing would eradicate the feeling of guilt from his waking moments, nor the whispers of the Collective from his dreams.

It was not an experience he wished to repeat.

"There is no significant increase to the possibility of me being assimilated regardless of if I carry you out of here, or make a break for it myself," he insisted, running his tricorder over Selek's wound. "Forth degree plasma burn, the charing to the spine has caused some nerve damage, but nothing which can't be healed. Fortunately, the wound is cauterized, and your blood pressure is stable. Focus on managing the pain, and leave me to think of a way to get us out of here."

"Marc, listen to me, there is no way out of here for me," Selek insisted. "I ask that you perform the tal'shaya, for I have no desire to become a drone. I taught you the to'tsu'k'hy when we were boys, the tal'shaya is merely an extension of that technique. Simply maintain the contact and increase the pressure, and it will be fatal."

"You taught me the nerve pinch so Vonik would stop bullying me," Kane pointed out, before chuckling. "The look on his face the first time I used it on his lackey Stann... But I have no intention of using it to dispatch you. I have no intention of letting my god-daughter be born without a father."

Selek raised an eyebrow.

"You think T'Laya will have a female child?"

"I think I know better than to disagree with your mother," Kane replied, clapping Selek on the shoulder as he got to his feet and moved towards the non-functional drone, his tajtiq held ready to strike, should the creature still have enough life in it to attack. "I also think I've found us a way out of here..."

Taking his sonic screwdriver, Kane began to re-polarize the drone's spatial nodes, then began to enter commands into his tricorder, his fingers inputting commands with a focused precision unhindered by the armored gloves.

"Marc," Selek called out. "What are you doing?"

"All drones are equipped with a built-in transporter lock and recall subroutine," Kane replied. " If I can synch my tricorder to this one's cortical node, I will be able to access the cube's own transporter system..."

***

In the Endeavour's sickbay, Selek looked up as the doors opened, and Kane approached the side of the biobed.

"How are you feeling?" he asked, drumming his fingers against the back of the PADD in his hand.

"I can feel my legs once more," Selek replied. "Although I must admit, it was considerably less painful when I could not."

"This might take the sting away," Kane said, handing the PADD to Selek.

On the screen, an open comm-link to T'Laya on Vulcan.

"Nashaut, ko-telsu T'Laya. What news do you have for me?" he enquired.

"Two days ago, I delivered our daughter into the world," T'Laya replied. "I thought we might name her T'Ren, after my mother."

"I know that was a name we had discussed," Selek admitted. "But we shall name her T'Marc, after my brother."

******

Sitting back, Selek moved his hand away from his daughter's beautiful face.

"Now," he said. "You know why you carry your uncle's name."

Last edited by marcusdkane; 03-25-2013 at 08:29 PM. Reason: Final polish...