Mar 21, 2021, 10:32:31 PM3/21/21
to StarBase 118 Ops – UFOP: StarBase 118
((Starbase 118 Ops - The Black Tower))
Words were not the only way to communicate, particularly through such a
medium. Her immediate response wasn’t an attempt to formulate any sort
of consolation. Instead, her emotions parsed through, the sensations
surrounding his conscious, whispering threads of sorrow and heartache
for him, for what he had to endure twisting and braiding together as
they settled into a current before she finally managed to conjure some
DeVeau: ~It must be so lonely.~
Lonely. It had been, at first. Missing the touch of another’s mind.
Missing the sharing of thoughts. And slowly he had adapted, like any
creature would when faced with adversity. Empathy replaced telepathy.
The feeling of the presence of others, their emotions had filled that
void. He had gotten used to it and eventually come to enjoy it.
Taybrim: ~No, not anymore. I can still feel the presence of others in a
different way. But I never want to hurt another person I care about.~
Really Sal didn’t want to hurt anyone. But he knew that at times he
needed to make a choice to hurt someone cruel to protect someone
innocent and he had already come to peace with that decision.
DeVeau: ~You don’t have to be afraid with me.~
Many things could be said about Sal Taybrim, and from her perspective,
all of them were positive. His love and care for others, however,
outshined them all.
Taybrim: ~And yet I am. You are valuable to me. As an officer. As a
person. As a friend.~
She hesitated then, the stirring of the shadows giving a low and
resonant warning, though she didn’t wish to listen to them. Alora was
so tired of them, so tired of the misery they carried with them. She
pushed them back, reorienting herself, breathing deeply.
DeVeau: ~Friends share in each other’s burdens.~
Friend. There it was. That was safe.
He considered. Could he open just one box of his mind, allow a small
part of what was carefully controlled to be let loose? Was that possible?
Taybrim: ~What do you want to see?~ ::he asked hesitantly::
DeVeau: ~Whatever you wish to show me.~
She knew it was hardly an answer, too open for some, but neither did she
want to exactly dictate his actions. Alora knew he was hesitant, but
she was confident in her own abilities, even if they weren’t acquired in
exactly the same way, or manifested themselves in the same fashion.
Taybrim: ~What I wish to show you is what I have already shown. In that
way I am sure that you stay safe and I remain as I am, stable and able
to stay that way.~
The words were deeply earnest. This was safe. It was the best
protection for the mission. It was duty.
Sorrow ringed her thoughts, though not because he hesitated and did not
want to show what had been passed to him. No, it was for the idea, the
knowledge that he felt he had to bear such a burden, a yoke thrust upon
his shoulders that was far too cumbersome for one. Fear held him back.
Not fear of the repercussions on himself, but fear for the safety of
others. It was always about others for him. Though she did not
question his motives, her sadness a product of what he had suffered
rather than his refusal, Sal must have thought otherwise, for he tried
to reassure her, his need for her to understand paramount.
Taybrim: ~I do trust you. I do not trust my own abilities. Like water
running down a riverbed, it can be the barest trickle. It can be a
healthy flowing river. Or it can be a raging torrent ripping out
foliage and flooding the surrounding lands. It is the same with
thoughts. And like a dam, it can be sturdy, it can be faulty or it can
be nonexistent. And that is my telepathy. It has been damaged. I may
not be able to contain the river.~
He was given an opening and now Sal was backpedaling, second guessing
himself. On one hand his Betazoid upbringing pushed him towards
openness and honesty and his mind craved that telepathic contact. On
the other hand he was a Starfleet Commodore touching the mind of his
first officer and he needed her to be mentally healthy going into a
dangerous and extremely important mission. And he would be crushed if he
It was too risky. Duty pulled his mind back.
She could feel his reticence grow, his fear, his concern. With their
connection, she had that insight into his emotions that was denied her
otherwise, born simply human without such natural capabilities. Alora
didn't want to vex him, didn't want him to worry, yet worry he did, his
concern growing stronger as he continued.
Taybrim: ~Please don’t ask me to do this.~ ::The words took on a raw,
pleading tone.:: ~Please. I have already processed these thoughts.
Come to terms with them.~
There it was, fear: fear of hurting someone else. No matter how bad the
pain was when he originally received the telepathic sledgehammer of
everything Ambassador Vananth had pulled from the cultists that tried to
kill her, it had been a year ago and he had endured. Endured, processed
How could he possibly inflict that on someone else?
DeVeau:. ~It shouldn't have to be this way.~
Why did he have to take upon.so much weight, so much sorrow and be
unable to lighten the weight upon him by allowing others to slip into
that yoke, to walk with him so the way would be easier, lighter? Alora
didn't respond with words, simply let her own emotions speak for her.
She didn't ask again, though she wanted to.
Even as he clenched his jaws the basic act of telepathic connection was
working to do as Alora asked, not what Sal wished. There was the damage
to his telepathy. Projecting was difficult for Sal, and once the
connection was made he had to divide energy between maintaining the
connection and maintaining his mental defenses. Even with intensely
practiced mental defenses, he was tiring and they were cracking.
The first thoughts that dribbled through unbidden were Ariwyn Vananth’s
The corridor of the Narendra. A small room or perhaps a closet. A
Klingon, tall and weedy with a scarred face and a Mek’Leth stained in
blood. A disruptor blast, bright orange, sizzling in the air beside her
ear. The scent of charred iron filled the air, iron and ozone. An
explosion of pain in her shoulder. Those black eyes, hungry for blood,
advancing to slit her throat. A rough, guttural klingon growl like
brass nails scraping across a chalkboard inviting her to dance in Greth’or.
The floor slick beneath her feet, like melting ice. But that wasn’t
ice, it was blood. Some of it hers. Falling backwards against a stack
of manifold coils, the brassy crackling as they hit the floor, the
painful fall backwards as metal jabbed into the small of her back.
The tearing open on another’s mind.
The weedy Klingon’s eyes widened and then rolled completely upwards into
his head as blood started to stream from his nose and memories started
to flood in.
A female klingon voice, harsh and unyielding. The crack of a laser whip
across tender skin. Small legs stumbling against a rough rock floor.
Skinned knees. A rumbling belly.
The screaming of Fenirth bats in the night, the scent of stale bloodwine
and urine. Pain.
With his hesitation, Alora had thought Sal was going to withdraw, so
when the imagery came to her, it slapped her in the face. The wave of
imagery, the emotions, the turmoil, the torment, the agony, it rushed at
her. As swift as it was, her reaction was more so, and her mind
deflected, not back at him, no, but to a safer place. Much like she had
done with that orb, she faced the challenge, focused on it. Oh she felt
it. The searing pain that was laced through the memory that he’d so
valiantly borne - but neither was she completely without her own
methods, without her own protections.
Kalin had taught her well. His methods had not been gentle, and his
determination to strengthen her psyche had not been in vain. Five years
ago, she would have been overwhelmed, consumed by what had come through,
but now? Too much had been taught, too much had been learned for her
not to withstand the barrage.
A new wave of pain shot through the connection. But this was not
Klempeth’s pain nor Ariwyn Vanath’s pain. It was Sal Taybrim’s very
real pain at trying to stave off the flow of thoughts before that flow
turned into a tidal wave.
She heard the cry of her Commodore...of her friend. She felt his
despair, his desperation. Compartmentalising everything, she breathed
deeply, her concentration unwavering.
DeVeau: ~It’s okay, Sal.~
The whisper of her mind voice caressed, tenderly touched, reassuring.
That gentle stroke of assurance underscored by encouragement.
DeVeau: ~You can let go.~
The thoughts were labored, coming through in a agonized trickle past
haphazard mental sandbags.
Taybrim: ~I can’t. This… this is a tiny fraction of what she shared. A
lifetime.. A lifetime of pain, anguish, hatred and torture. And that’s
after … after she… took away most of the worst… emotions.~
He hadn’t been tired before, but now the tinges of exhaustion were
creeping at the edges of the link.
She could feel that too, and now Alora was becoming concerned - not for
herself, but for him. Obviously, it was not the time, and he was
desperate to prevent the harm he was certain he would do her. As much
as she loathed to end it, she also couldn’t let him suffer because of it.
The break was quick, yet gentle. Alora continued to hold to the man’s
hands, her eyes searching his face, but he could no longer touch her.
That fortress was boarded up, the multitude of locks and chains put into
place, strong and secure, and the only thing left of her were the
emotions that were impossible to hide away. Worry was evident, not only
in her expression, and that overshadowed any other emotion she might
DeVeau: I’m sorry.
Time. It just took time to pack the flood back into its boxes, to get
the floodwalls back up and return back to baseline. How long? Sal
wasn’t sure. Time seemed to flow differently when one was lost in
thought and only the chronometer kept a steady pace.
The wait was over a minute. A minute of stillness, of tense muscles
slowly unwinding. Of breath going from shallow to deep. And finally a
sense of radiating calm.
Taybrim: Don’t be.
Like telepathy which could be receptive or projective, empathy was the
same way. Most betazoids preferred to use telepathy for both projection
and reception, relishing that exchange of pure thoughts. But for a
Betazoid who had by and large sectioned off their telepathy after damage
Sal preferred empathy. And he could sense as well as radiate.
And like he had so many times before, he was radiating calm. That calm
he had found after everything was back in its place. Calm he wanted to
share, if only to assure others that it was alright.
It helped, a little, and while Alora had no way of shutting that aspect
of herself off, she could tell what Sal was doing - had been the
recipient far too often not too. Slowly, she inhaled deeply, let it out
slowly, though her eyes held steady upon him.
DeVeau: Too late.
There was another pause, partially to give him more time to recuperate,
partially because she, herself, was mulling over what happened. In her
mind, the images he had passed on to her, all the pain, the misery, the
torment, it was there, but she’d captured it, held it within a
compartment and it was subject to her will, when she chose to deal with
it. For the moment, however, Sal was her focus, and as she ran through
what had occurred, she couldn’t help but comment gently.
DeVeau: It’s been a while for you, hasn’t it?
Taybrim: It is true, I have not tested my abilities or limitations in a
Now she regretted her request. Even if it had been done to find some
way to benefit, she’d only succeeded in making things worse.
DeVeau: I’ve hurt you.
He’d been so afraid of doing so to her, but that wasn’t what had
happened. She was unscathed, her mind as messed up as it had been
before, but certainly no worse. No. Instead, she’d been the one to
cause harm, and the fact that it had pained her.
Taybrim: It is an unpleasant fact of this mission that we must soldier
forward in the best mind possible. Only afterwards are we allowed the
chance to try something which could mend and strengthen bonds, but also
Silence met his statement and Alora finally released him, her hands
retreating, arms crossing over her stomach, as if she were fearful she
might hurt him further.
DeVeau: I should have never asked. I’ve only made things worse for
you. ::There was another brief pause, and when she spoke, her words
were almost whispered.:: I’m sorry.
Taybrim: You did nothing wrong ::he reassured.:: You were simply
asking. There is no pain in asking.
He spoke softly, compassionately and calmly. Very much his counselor's
Sal was trying to make her feel better. That was just like him. Even
though Alora had managed to cause him discomfort, he was the one trying
to comfort her.
Taybrim: It is easy to feel that you are the reason for pain when pain
surfaces; but the pain was carved long ago by people and things that
were very much not you. You are simply the person present at the
trigger. That does not make you responsible for the actions that caused
the pain. Especially when your intentions were good.
DeVeau: It doesn’t feel so good right now. I’m still sorry.
Whether or not she had been the originator of the issues that caused the
pain, the fact of the matter was, she had been a trigger. What she had
wanted was to help, and she’d done the exact opposite.
DeVeau: The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt you.
Taybrim: Funny enough, that’s exactly what I was worried about - hurting
It was true. Maybe in a way they were a little too similar, at least in
There was a hint of a smile and she shrugged, dropping her gaze with a
sigh. How could he know? Know what Alora had been trained on? Know
how much she’d already experienced? How much she’d already endured?
Her own hell, and somehow she was still trying to crawl out of the last
vestiges of it. There were worse things than what he had already shown
DeVeau: I’m not hurt easily.
Once upon a time, yes. Not anymore.
Taybrim: I do not deny it is something we can, and possibly should,
Her eyes darted back up to him and studied him. He was sincere. But why
wouldn’t he be? Sincerity was definitely one of his many virtues.
DeVeau: I would like it if I could somehow allow you to have someone to
share your burden with. That. And any other.
Taybrim: Then it gives us both even more reason to stay safe and return
alive and well after this mission. ::he gave the smallest of smiles.::
Alora returned it with one of her own. Small, guilty because of the
hurt she had caused, and yet sincere with the desire to somehow, some
way, make something better for him.
Commodore Sal Taybrim
StarBase 118 Ops
Lt. Cmdr. Alora DeVeau
Starbase 118 Ops