Author: JMK758 PM
Sequel to 'Small Time'. The Vulcans express particular concern about the Enterprise having 'bought' a new crew member. 5th story in the 'Tia Anlor' series.Rated: Fiction K - English - Sci-Fi/Angst - H. Sato & C. Tucker - Chapters: 6 - Words: 10,786 - Reviews: 4 - Published: 08-08-04 - Status: Complete - id: 2003261
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Captain?" Hoshi Sato looked at her Commanding Officer from her station on the slightly elevated outer deck. "Communication coming in from Starfleet Command, Admiral Forrest."
"I'll take it in my Ready Room." Archer stood, walking across the bridge, trying to ignore the eyes locked on him. Everyone knew that he had had two conversations yesterday with Forrest; knew what was going on. He knew there was no point in keeping this one from them, and he would not. They would hear the outcome.
When he sat down behind his desk, he purposely schooled his expression into one of neutrality. He would wait until he saw the expression on the other man's face.
When he pressed the button that illuminated the screen, he did his best to keep his face unchanged. "Hello, Jon." His friend began.
Out on the bridge, the minutes seemed to stretch as the Captain remained away from his chair. There was a measure of tension that was not felt when a Klingon warship or an unknown vessel of any kind was displayed on the viewscreen. This time, the tension that each felt palpably building was a personal one. Every person on the Bridge had, in the past month, been touched in one way or another by their alien companion; whether they would show it openly or not. The prospect of her being taken from their midst was one that each of them, in their own way, would have to deal with.
The feelings had to run a full range. T'Pol, at one end, if she felt anything at all, would not show it. Hoshi tried her best not to wear her feelings on her sleeve. But when the expected signal light at her board lit up, Hoshi felt a tight grip at her heart as she pushed it. "Yes, sir?"
"Would you have Miss Anlor report to my Ready Room?" In the grimness of his tone Hoshi had her answer.
"Sir, with your permission I would like to escort her, rather than send someone to get her."
When the door to Life Sciences hissed open and Hoshi walked in, there were six persons within, and each looked up at her. Elizabeth Cutler took one look at her friend's face and her own fell. She knew, in that way that close friends did, what had happened, and her own eyes went to the young Auran across the room.
"Tia?" At the sound of Hoshi's voice, everything in the room came to a halt. 'So,' she thought, 'they all know. Just as well.' The golden girl looked up at her in mounting apprehension.
"It that it decided is?" She whispered, unable to speak aloud.
"It's time." She found she had to swallow hard. "The Captain wants to see you."
Tia closed her eyes briefly, took a deep breath to steel herself; and stepped forward. She didn't get more than a step when a woman reached out, taking her hand. She turned, her eyes meeting the other's, and then the woman drew her into a hug. A man came over and embraced her briefly as well. In turn, each of the scientists exchanged what final expressions they would to their companion of so brief yet memorable a time. Last was Elizabeth Cutler, who drew Tia into a tight embrace, and there were whispered words no other could hear.
When Tia walked slowly up to Hoshi, the room was thick with restrained emotions. Tia looked into the eyes of her best friend for a long moment, and then nodded slowly.
They walked the long corridor to the turbolift in silence, a slow walk. Tia did not look at Hoshi during the walk, until they arrived at the shaft, the doors opened and they stepped in. As the doors closed tightly, Tia whispered softly: "Thank you for my friend being." Her voice was shuddering with barely restrained emotion, and Hoshi did not trust her own at all. She looked at the Auran, seeing tears edging the golden eyes.
"Aurans in public cry nyasi." She whispered, barely able to get the words out against her trembling voice. "Since occupied we were, dare nyasi. All my life could nyasi, now I would and can nyasi." She reached out, her hand shaking. "You most of all will I miss!"
Hoshi touched her hand, and the next instant they were clinging tightly to one another, bodies trembling with unexpressed emotion, one unable, one unwilling, both knowing that, if opened, that gate could not close.
When the door hissed open onto the bridge, neither could be the one to first ease their grip on the other.
When, after a very long moment, they could look out of the car, Charles Tucker was standing there.
Tia opened her mouth, and nothing at all would come out. She let go of Hoshi with one hand to reach for Charles, but knew that if they touched her barely contained control would be smashed.
"Your …" Her voice was an instant from shattering; she barely held her whisper together. "… Captain me see wishes to."
"I'll take you in."
"Remember … promise."
"I'll take you in." He said more softly. She forced herself to let go of Hoshi, aware that Tucker was blocking the view of anyone on the Bridge from the car's interior. She straightened, smoothing her clothing, and nodded as carefully as she was able to.
Side by side with Trip she crossed the Bridge, unable to look at anyone, knowing there was barely anything at all left of her control. She would not embarrass herself before this assemblage. That alone was the only thing that held her during the last few meters, until the door to the inner sanctum slid open before her.
Captain Jonathan Archer was standing before his small workstation beside his desk as the door slid open and Tia stepped in, followed by Trip. He had long known how the man felt about the Auran, even if Trip himself did not seem to, so his presence came as no surprise. He reached down to pick up a paper from the table, and when he looked up it was into an unobstructed view of his Chief Engineer. Tia was gone.
He followed his friend's surprised gaze down with a measure of surprise as well, finding that Tia had fallen to her knees, bent low, her wrists crossed high behind her back in what was clearly an uncomfortable position, her long hair having fallen to curtain her face. "Miss Anlor?"
"Wrenaouq Archer." She whispered softly.
"Please get up."
She shook her head. "Nyas. The leaving of this ship the end of my freedom means. They otherwise would say, but so it will be. Kind or foul, I they will control. If to a slave return I do, behave as a slave must I again become used to."
"Stand up." When she did not move, he commanded sharply: "Stand!" Whether natural cooperation or a lifetime of induced slavishness, she rapidly stood up. "While I don't object to the occasional salute, a member of my crew will kneel to no one; not even me."
Tia gaped at him in shock, literally rocked back on her heels. Her lips moved but her voice had been robbed from her. She tried again, barely managing a whisper. "A what of your what?"
Archer held up the paper. "Well, not an actual member; you're not Starfleet, but as close as makes no difference. Admiral Forrest has been visited several times over the past day by different people, each and every one of them insisting that you be turned over to someone, either for morality's sake, science's or for your 'safety'. The most recent faction made the serious mistake of making it a demand. He realized that this was not going to end, that someone was always going to want a piece of you. So with the approval of the World President he has arranged that you be granted Diplomatic Immunity as an Ambassador, the sole Official Representative of the Auran people."
Tia tried to speak, but only her lips moved as she stared at him, stunned.
"I'm sure Commander Tucker can explain all about being an Ambassador and the Diplomatic Immunity thing, it can get long and complicated. The bottom line is that you are free; you can stay or go as you choose, no one can touch you." She was still trying to answer, but was stricken speechless. "Commander, if you please?" He said, signaling Trip that he could escort her out. Tucker actually had to turn her and guide her to the door. Archer was about to put the paper down and return to his desk, with a large measure of satisfied pleasure when, just as the door was sliding shut, he heard a piercing shriek.
"FREE I AM!"
He bounded to the door, which had to cycle through its closing and open again, and when it did he almost collided with Trip, who staggered back, catching himself against the bulkhead. Tia rushed wildly to Reed, catching the startled officer spinning in a dance of ecstasy. "Diplomat Immune Ambassador am I, whatever is that!" When she let go of Reed he almost spun into his console, catching himself in time as Tia leapt to the woman at the Situation Table in the rear of the bridge, clutching her and leaping up and down in laughing delight, obliging Ann Anderson to do so as well to keep up. "I can STAY!" Tia screamed in joyous abandon.
She made her wildly uninhibited way about the bridge, catching T'Pol before the Vulcan could dodge, embracing her rapturously, hugging her and laughing before leaping off the elevated platform and throwing her arms about Travis, who barely made it to his feet in time to avoid being tumbled over. Her unalloyed joyfulness was infectious as the bridge joined in the celebration, everyone crowding into a mass, regulations and decorum for a moment forgotten in the outpouring of relief and elation. Tucker, briefly forgetting rank, hurried in just as Tia grabbed Hoshi in a wild, leaping dance, and there was much backslapping and merriment all around.
Jonathan Archer could have restored order and discipline with a word, with a gesture. In fact, as he looked at T'Pol, standing aside now with a look of disapproval for her shipmates who were going mildly berserk, he knew that was what she expected. Looking then at his friends and companions, for a brief moment allowing order to degenerate into hugs and backslapping surrounding an ecstatic, laughing and bounding center, he smiled, crossed his arms, leaned against a bulkhead and settled back to enjoy it.