It was an agonising eight hours before Phlox reported to Archer that Reed had survived the surgery and ought to make a full recovery. It was a further seventeen hours before the doctor called again to report that the lieutenant had regained consciousness.

Feeling all the better for some sleep, a hot shower and a clean uniform, Archer practically ran down to the sickbay. He came through the doors and was immediately greeted by Phlox, who held up a cautionary hand.

"He is still very weak, captain," the doctor warned, "his system is fighting the infection but it will be a few days before I can release him. He needs to rest – please keep it brief."

"Understood," Archer flashed a quick smile, "thanks, doc."

"Any time, captain, any time..."

The doctor bustled away to give them some privacy, as Archer approached the occupied bed quietly. Reed's eyes were closed; his face was still deathly pale, but there was a hint on colour to his lips at last, and the hand that rested on his chest atop the blanket covering him was relaxed as he breathed evenly and deeply. Archer managed a small smile as Reed's eyes opened slowly, alerted by his soft footsteps.

"Captain..." Reed made as if to rise, but Archer gently pushed him back down onto semi-reclined bed, pulling up a chair as he did so.

"Take it easy, Malcolm," Archer told him, "how are you feeling?"

"Better, thank you, sir – I should be back on duty in a day or so."

"Wait and see what the doctor says first," Archer laughed, amused, "Malcolm, there's something I need to know. When we brought you back to the ship, you entered a large amount of data into the computer. Do you remember?"

"Not much, sir," Reed admitted, quietly, "only fragments, really – the T'ch'ra'kai language, I think – odd things. Things Tai'chu'un and K'ta'tur'ai'sen told me..."

"They told you these things?"

"Well..." Reed's face screwed up in thought, "not so much told me as... sort of... left in my head. It's hard to explain. They both seemed to think I had a... 'receptive mind'... But I had to get it down into the computer – my brain wasn't big enough to hold all of the information for very long. K'ta'tur'ai'sen was surprised I could understand and retain any of it at all."

"Hoshi thinks it's going to take several months to go through all of the data," Archer told him, with a grin, "she's doing her nut over the linguistics elements alone. There's an ensign in palaeontology who's threatening to resign her commission to move to a tropical area on just one of the planets you added to our database to spend the rest of her life studying it, and the two archaeologists on board almost came to blows over which of the historical T'ch'ra'kai sites we ought to schedule for investigation first. I'm getting requests from a dozen different departments to go to as many different places to explore sites of potential interest..."

He trailed off, realising that Reed was staring at him in shock.

"I... I had no idea there was so much..." he stammered.

"Don't worry about it," said Archer, reassuringly, "it's a fantastic boon to our database and it certainly warrants further study. I've contacted Starfleet and it's caused quite a buzz – we're transferring a copy of the data via subspace and they're going to launch a deep space exploratory vessel to come and investigate the area further."

"What about K'ta'tur'ai'sen and Tai'chu'un?" Reed asked, tiredly, rubbing at his eyes.

"It... it seems that they destroyed themselves," Archer replied, regret evident in his tone, "Malcolm... When we were in K'ta'tur'ai'sen's chamber, you, you said something to it... Something that made it angry. What was it? What did you say?"

Reed frowned, thoughtfully; "I don't know, exactly - there's no direct translation... Only that Tai'chu'un was going to destroy all of the Watched in revenge for his imprisonment. The Watched are the various species the Watchers monitored... K'ta'tur'ai'sen could not allow that to happen, even at the cost of it's own existence..."

Archer nodded, and then held up his hand, stalling any further conversation as he saw Reed shiver slightly, clearly exhausted; "Okay. You need to get some rest, Malcolm. We'll talk more when you're feeling up to it, okay? Get some sleep."

"Aye sir," Reed replied, drowsily.

Archer relinquished his seat, and got to his feet. Phlox, obviously hearing the movement, returned from feeding one of his creatures.

"When are you planning to release him?" Archer asked, softly, indicating the sleeping lieutenant.

"In a day or two," Phlox replied, with a slight shrug, "Lieutenant Reed seems to dislike being confined to one place for very long so I imagine it will be sooner than I would like, but I will insist that he be kept off active duty until he has made a full recovery."

"I'll see what I can do, doc," Archer promised, "Thanks again."

"You are most welcome, captain," Phlox beamed.

Archer nodded, and headed to his quarters. He had several log entries to catch up on, but there was a flagged message from Hoshi flashing on his screen which caught his eye. He could not help but smile and shake his head when he saw the contents; it seemed that some part of Malcolm's mind, while imparting the T'ch'ra'kai information, had also decided that he should make and submit his mission report as well. While lengthy, it was written in the Lieutenant's usual brief and efficient manner; there was little reference to the injuries he had suffered or the experience of being possessed by an alien entity. Even when half dead and not in control of his own actions, Reed's sense of duty had won out and he had submitted his report to the captain as soon as he could.

Archer read the report in detail. He then read it for a second time. He then summoned his steward, ordered coffee, and drank it while reading the report for a third time. If he were even to believe half of what Reed had written, the T'ch'ra'kai had been a truly phenomenal race; millions of years old, the race of natural telepaths had evolved beyond physical form before human ancestors had crawled out of the primordial ooze. They had travelled the stars using host bodies, until only a dozen remained. Old beyond reckoning, this council of twelve had assumed the role of watching over the evolution of a dozen emerging planets, sworn to protect the growing life forms and watch their development from afar. It seemed each of the twelve had taken different approaches, which had caused discord and battles; the T'ch'ra'kai had imprisoned Tai'chu'un after the entity had destroyed the majority of the sentient life on his assigned planet following a war which had raged for decades. Tai'chu'un had declared the species unfit for survival and wished to re-create life on the planet using just a handful of survivors. The other T'ch'ra'kai had disagreed and imprisoned him in a tomb, casting him down for his actions, though it seemed some had been sympathetic to his way of thinking. As the highly advanced beings each took different paths, there were more disputes, with some wanting to intervene directly and others, like K'ta'tur'ai'sen, favouring a more distant, observational approach. Rather predictably, in Archer's view, the arguments had led to fighting, and the T'ch'ra'kai had wiped themselves out; some had been killed by mutual destruction, as with K'ta'tur'ai'sen and Tai'chu'un, while others had simply ended their own existence, choosing death over watching their chosen peoples constantly living, fighting, suffering and dying.

Archer sat back in his chair, rubbing his tired eyes, considering the report once more. It was very detailed and cross-referenced a number of the data files that Reed had entered into the database. Archer simply did not have time to read them all; finally, he countersigned the report and entered it for final submission to Starfleet. He then called up a screen, and dictated his own report, a few short paragraphs confirming Reed's report to be accurate to the best of his knowledge, and was about to sign off, when he paused, considering his final step.

"Computer," he said, aloud, hearing the acknowledging chime, "begin recording..."

"Recording," the computer chirped, promptly.

Archer took a deep breath, and began; "In all of the excitement regarding the discovery of the T'ch'ra'kai, especially given the incredible amount of scientific, historical, linguistic and other data that we have been provided with, I think it is important to remember that Lt. Reed has acted above and beyond the call of duty in this matter. Despite suffering serious personal injury he risked his life to deliver this data, the value of which is incalculable when one considers the implications for the advancement of our mission and our developing relationships with other species. I will therefore be entering a formal commendation into his permanent record. End report."

The computer clicked off and Archer signed the report, submitted it, and swiftly entered the commendation he had promised. Reed would no doubt be embarrassed to receive it when he was released to his quarters, but Archer felt it was deserved.

With that, he got up, and decided to see if Trip was available – he really needed to know where the engineer kept those emergency supplies of Kentucky bourbon...


End.