Well, thank you again, Jen. Notice how I don't actually write until someone- you- prompts me to? Well, I completely forgot what I *had* written, and it turned out to not be the awful situation I thought it was. Yay!

This *was* going to be two chapters, but then I realized that there was no point to that. So guess what? You guys now are going to read the final chapter to "Open Your Eyes"- one that I think you'll all like. Read and
review please. ^ _ - v

Chapter 10

Face to Face With the Devil

"Hoshi," the man said, his skin sickly pale against such color behind him, and his hair soot black, death black, endless darkness black. His human impersonation would have been accurate if it weren't for his corpselike appearance and his yellow eyes, a putrid yellow that did not shine life but seemed instead to draw it from whatever surrounded him.

She was so mesmerized by those eyes that she was unable to move, unable to comprehend that his hand was wrapped tightly around her throat.

"You are foolish to think you can save yourselves," he told her. "You humans have given all that you are worth to me. I no longer need you- Heiin is far too weak to resist me any longer."

Hoshi could not move. She could feel the coldness flowing through her blood like ice, his eyes staring into hers, stealing her life from her, and she could only stare back into them as the darkness crept in around her body.

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Whirling images, unclear and gray, whipped around T'Pol, dizzying her as they spun. Her eyes could not focus, but closed or open, they stayed seeing of this nightmare. She felt around behind her for the tree on which she leaned against, and managed to pull herself up, the colors still tipping as they spun, causing her to weakly fall into the tree, her arms barely grasping it as they hung nearly limp at her sides.

There was no longer anyone or anything there to restrain her, as there was before, but she still clutched to the safety of the tree. No matter how much she wanted to get away, she would make it no more than a meter, she knew, without taking a fall.

"Please..." she pleaded, her voice barely a noise at all, "stop...."

She knew that there was nothing that could be done, nothing that would save her now. She stood a moment longer, but feeling the air become too thin to breathe, her knees buckled beneath her.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*

"Is that all ya know?" Trip asked Malcolm, almost unable to fathom what it all might mean, not to mention *accept* it all for the truth.

Malcolm nodded. "Everything else... I just can't remember. It's too vague in my memory."

"But *why*? That's what I wanna kno-"

Trip stopped suddenly, gripping his head as a throbbing headache overpowered him.

"Commander?" he could hear Malcolm ask, but it was as though he were underwater. Malcolm asked again, but his voice sounded hollow and was so horribly painful to hear, he couldn't take it.

He knew he was shouting, he knew he was trying to tell Malcolm to help him, but he could hear nothing. His head pounded as light and emotions were being forced into his mind, all of it a tumultuous cacophony until it all became clear, and even then it was still too much for him.

Not much was visible, nothing more than light, but there was pain. His mind felt invaded as the strength of a life that was not his own was being drained, and he felt like he was drowning. His mind screamed, trying to resist the impending death creeping up on him, when a sudden ear- piercing screeching noise shot through the darkness and the light and cut through him like knives. He pulled away from the pain, but the screeching continued. He could feel the other entity that had caused him pain was crippled, unable to grasp him again, but coming close. He approached the noise, not quite understanding what it was, but it had saved him. Fighting through the immense agony, he managed to get as close as he could, and found that he could hear specific thoughts.

//I hate being on the graveyard shift....//

//Not another blown relay- Jennings, do your *job* for once!//

Who *were* these people? What are they doing? ...Humans. I... don't know if they can hear me....

"Commander?! Please tell me if you can hear me!"

Trip looked up at the blurring face of Malcolm Reed, trying to get him to come into focus. "What the... hell was that?" he managed, every ounce of light burning his eyes. It was only then that he realized he was on the ground.

"...You looked like you were having a seizure...."

He tried to sit up but the world spun- even lying flat on the ground, and only managed to actually sit with Malcolm's help. "I couldn't tell ya.... But it felt like someone was rippin' apart my brain."

"We have to get out of here," he said, beginning to panic. "Or this whole place is going to kill us."

The two hurried to try to get back to T'Pol, but their legs felt weighted down, and they both found themselves collapsed within seconds, unconscious.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*

Hoshi could feel everything being taken away, her emotions, her memories, her awareness. It was all nothing. She could see the world flicker around her, the bridge of Enterprise fading in instead, then fading out. She was completely and devastatingly alone, the eyes of her killer staring into her and tearing her mind apart.

She tried to turn her eyes, gathering all her strength in her attempt, but the thing bound her tighter, staring deeper into them.

"Your efforts are in vain, Ensign Sato," he stated. "Your crewmates have supplied me with strength- enough strength to force Heiin to me. Enough strength to have no more use for you all."

//Heiin.... He keeps mentioning that name.... Heiin must be the girl.//

She writhed beneath his grasp, trying still to get away. She wasn't about to give up yet.

The thing laughed cruelly. "Ensign, when is it you are going to realize that here... you are nothing? Your actions are under my control, your thoughts are influenced by what I *tell* you to think. You have about as much control over your own self here as a caged animal." A smug smile crept over his decaying looks. "You don't *exist* here. Nothing does. Nothing is real. Except for your mind."

As his eyes seemed to burn her from inside, she hung limp at his mercy. She could struggle still, but what would be the use? As he said, she wasn't real here- she could hit him and never touch him at all.

Then it hit her.

Nothing was real.

It was all an illusion, even this. His taking her life was no more real than his appearance. He had deceived her into thinking it was all real, but now it all made sense, and none of his tricks were going to fool her any more.

Hoshi allowed a smug smirk onto her lips, and stared right back down at him.

His face slowly fell into a look of terror, realizing that he no longer had control over her. But he fought to regain that control. "No!" he shouted. "You cannot fight me.... Your demise is inevitable...."

She just shook her head, unsure of what to do. Sure, he couldn't hurt *her* anymore, but who else? There were three other crippled humans he could still hurt, and what then? Though she knew it was all an illusion, it was not *her* illusion to take advantage of. She could not just appear to one and then the other like *he* could. ...Could she?

But instead of disappearing to attack another of them, as she thought, the infuriated being vanished, taking the illusion with him.

For a second, everything went completely black, and no sound or light existed in whatever nowhere she found herself in. She was nothing, falling into and in with the rest of it, and fear surfaced in her.

But as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared, and she was standing on a hillside with the rest of her crewmates, all of them looking just as confused as she. T'Pol at last looked herself, and the others- though on edge- were much the same as she last saw them on Enterprise.

"What the hell just happened?" Trip muttered, looking around at all of them.

"Neir has left to recover," came a voice, and all of them looked up to see the girl- her golden hair and green eyes as bright as ever. T'Pol was right. Hoshi *was* closest to her. The other being had given up when he realized he couldn't kill Hoshi. At least. he had given up for the time.

"Heiin," Hoshi said mildly, receiving a slight nod from her.

"Thank you, Ensign. I was sure you would overcome his disillusions to realize that neither you nor he could harm each other in a false world where neither existed beyond your thoughts."

"If you were so damn sure she'd be able t' do this-"

"Then why didn't I explain to her what he was doing?" Heiin interrupted, finishing Trip's sentence.

He was silent.

"In the time it takes for my mind to connect with one of you, he would already find you, would already scan your mind, and would know just how to bring you to your death." She took a moment of pause. "I barely had time to appear to Hoshi and begin telling her what she would face before he realized that he was chasing the wrong people. He assumed it was T'Pol that I had stayed near- she having the strongest, most disciplined mind, and he believed that I chose her to protect me."

She shook her head. "He soon realized that we were not mutually protecting one another, as her mind was easily scanned. What he did *not* prepare for was my contact with her and her eventual understanding of how to overcome him."

"You knew, T'Pol?" Malcolm asked her, somewhat distressed that she never shared that information with any of them.

"I had made several hypotheses, Lieutenant, and though one surmised that the Ensign could withstand any and all of his encounters merely because it was impossible for this being to kill through the power of suggestion if she disbelieved in it... it was nothing more than a hypothesis. It went unsupported by the events thus far."

Malcolm was a bit angered that the Vulcan refused to explain her findings only because it was "unsupported"- never taking into account that up until now, everyone had still believed it was all real, not just manipulation and suggestion.

"I had also believed that, since this being had invaded our minds, if I had explained to Ensign Sato each of my speculations, a few of which contradicted one another, the being would find that she knew as well and disable her. I knew one of these conjectures was correct, as I was being crippled, so I was not about to put her in danger when any one of my solutions that she chose to believe could be wrong. I would be leaving her vulnerable to the being, and I did not wish to do so."

"But Neir had *not* known of Hoshi, not well," Heiin told them. "He was only able to scan her briefly as he scanned you all when I had first connected with your minds. He only knew of her claustrophobia- but had only ever indirectly tried to hurt her."

She turned to Hoshi. "If you recall, Hoshi, you were led into the woods by a trail of blood- human blood- that you felt the need to follow. That was his only way to trap you, through a weak trap with an even weaker mental pull, so to speak. He was unable to fully grasp your presence until I appeared to you and made it clear to him where I was and whom I was connected with."

They were all silent, taking in all of the information. It all seemed so surreal. And in a way, ironically, it was.

Finally Malcolm spoke up. "Heiin.... Do you know why Neir was after you?"

She paused a moment, then nodded once. "I know now. It is very complicated to explain, but... in short, he wishes my position for himself. It is one that I knew would earn me both like and dislike- because of envy- but I was prepared for it. ...Or so I thought."

Trip wondered then, "Where *is* Neir? He can't be dead, can 'e?"

Heiin shook her head sadly. "You will need to be back on Enterprise to succeed in that."

Hoshi eyed her curiously. She looked so gloomy for something that should have been celebrated. "...Heiin...?"

"There is no other way," she told them with a sad smile.

"I'm afraid I don't understand," T'Pol told her.

"I know," she said simply. She turned to Hoshi. "But please, trust me, Hoshi. I must ask you to send out a hail on one of the high-band frequencies- any one will do. But please do it. I know he is gathering strength and he needs to be obliterated."

At hearing that, Trip remembered sitting with Malcolm when a sudden memory arose in his mind. He could remember the feeling of being torn apart that came with a loud noise- a hail from Enterprise. It had to be.

"No, no, you can't," Trip insisted. He turned to Heiin. "This whole time, all you wanted was t' get away from him, t' live! Yer just gonna accept that it's alright now t' die?!"

The others looked in fear and sorrow at her, horrified that she so readily approached death. But Heiin did not falter in her determination.

Heiin stared off into nothing and said quietly with the same sad smile on her face, "I wanted.... I wanted Neir to fail in taking my place. With Neir as mediator, he would destroy everything we have created. He would be corrupt, and give in to those we have resisted for so long...."

Though everyone stared at her, wondering just whom she was talking about, she said nothing more about them. They all supposed it was far too dangerous to share.

"I only wanted to succeed in stopping Neir," she explained. "If this is how I must do that... then I must."

No one knew what to say. She was ready to face her death, just as long as she knew Neir was stopped.

"Go now," she told them. "It is up to you now."

She closed her eyes and they all could feel the darkness returning.

As they drifted deeper and deeper into the endless night, they all began to recall the events leading up to being "taken" to the planet, and realized quickly that it was Heiin who was showing them.

{{Archer could feel the room grow tense. Was it an enemy or just a curious explorer? An enemy, he decided. An explorer would show himself.

"Captain..." he heard Malcolm say, sounding very light-headed.

He snapped his head around, only to find his armory officer on the floor by his console. He would have assumed it to be a fainting spell caused by lack of sleep- considering he had not only woken the lieutenant up in the middle of the night but also because everyone onboard knew of Malcolm's work ethic and tendency to go without sleep- however, right beside him was Trip. And the odds of two of his officers passing out at the same time were slim.

"Hoshi, get Dr. Phlox," he commanded while taking Malcolm's pulse, now becoming extremely worried.

When he received no answer from her, but instead heard the voice of a concerned Travis, he turned to see Hoshi slumped over on her console, and T'Pol hanging limply in her chair.}}

*^*^*^*^*^*^*

Dr. Phlox loomed over Trip for the third time as he went back and forth from the four unconscious officers, his scanner out and checking for any sign of their awakening. As vital signs began their rise, signaling the returning of consciousness, he declared, "Captain, he's waking up."

Trip sat up, wobbling slightly while the room proceeded to spin.

"Are you alright?" Archer asked.

Malcolm sat up then, and while their attention was on the armory officer, Trip began to stand.

He stood up shakily, not paying any attention to the doctor's orders to stay seated, and fumbled to Hoshi's console. The buttons he was already unsure of how to use were blurring together, but coming into gradual focus.

Archer tried to get him to sit down, but he barely finished saying "What the hell do you think you're doing?" before T'Pol had stopped him.

"T'Pol-!"

"Captain, we must do this. I ask you to trust me."

Archer looked at all of them, and then at T'Pol. She, of anyone, would not disobey direct orders, and *certainly* would not allow anyone to go about doing something as seemingly ridiculous as this. He neither nodded nor ordered them to stop, he just allowed it to continue.

Hoshi, who had also woken up, shakily and sadly keyed in what she needed to, and let her finger hover over the button to complete sending out the only hail she knew she would ever feel regret sending out. She wondered if she had really done all that she could, and if this was the only way.

She looked up at Trip, who nodded sorrowfully, urging her to be strong enough to go through with it. His eyes were just as sad as hers, but they all knew it had to be done.

She took one last look at the button, and her heart sunk. "I'm sorry," she murmured quietly, then pressed the button.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*

Heiin could feel Neir's strength returning, and hoped that the crew would know she was ready. As long as Neir would die with her. She could feel his presence inching up on her, ready with his invisible claws to tear her life from her. She could hear the echo of his arrogant laugh resonate through her mind.

But then she heard a sound. An excruciating, burning, wonderful sound.

She could feel Neir shrink away from her, caught in the torturous noise. She could feel him, in his weakened state, unable to defend himself against it. The electromagnetic waves were disrupting him, for it was all he was. She watched as she could sense him fading, fading, until he was torn into nothing. Heiin at last knew Neir was gone- they were safe. It was over.

A bittersweet happiness came to her. Oh, it truly was a wonderful sound.

As she sensed Neir's presence disappear completely, she could feel the agonizing noise tear her apart as well. But she needn't scream- it was screaming *for* her. Why cry? She had won. But pain came to her quickly, found its way past her joy. She would soon be lost, she knew, but her life was worth what she had accomplished. A thousand knives cut into her, a thousand rays of light shot through her, a thousand memories she so loved exploded from her. With her last scrap of energy, she managed to give the humans the only thing she knew how, for nothing more would express it.

She took in contentedly the sweet sound of her demise, at last at peace, for she was now forever a part of the universe.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*

Hoshi, T'Pol, Trip, and Malcolm looked from one to the other, not quite sure what to do. Had they really done anything? Was it really over?

Suddenly, there was a beeping from Hoshi's panel. Everyone eyed each other, unsure of what to make of it.

Hoshi was suddenly not so sure that they had done anything except for hail a ship nearby. A confusion of joy and anguish filled her heart. But she still needed to do her job, despite what had happened. "Someone's hailing us, sir," she told Archer, her voice laced with the sadness that she refused to show as tears.

"Where's it coming from?" he asked quietly, somewhat respecting and somewhat fearing her and the others.

She swallowed back tears, and looked closely at the description. That didn't make sense.... She blinked a few times, confused at what she saw, and said, "Sir... it's not coming from anywhere."

There was an eerie silence on the bridge as Hoshi opened a channel for the sender. Rather than a voice, a typed message appeared on her console. Hoshi's face softened from the melancholy look it once held as she read the simple, two word message.

Archer waited expectantly for her to explain, and asked, "What does it say, Hoshi?"

She looked up at everyone on the bridge, all eyes focused on her. Everyone was waiting, wondering what could possibly be going on, but she knew. She knew only she and three others would ever know the full meaning, but they all still sat in anticipation, as though they were going to understand. They knew nothing of the planet, or the girl, or anything, but she, T'Pol, Trip, and Malcolm shared that experience, and knew the depth of the transmitted words she then spoke. "Thank you."

Fin

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*sniffle*.. Well, it's sad to let go of a story- especially considering that this is the first story I've ever finished (okay, no comments), and
I've written way to many to be saying that.

I hope you all liked the story. Have a Happy Holiday and a wonderful 2004.