Waiting was not his strong suit.
His impatience concealed behind a practiced mask of calm, Soval schooled himself to stillness as he silently observed T'Pol gradually regain consciousness. He had roused himself from meditation the moment his sharp hearing detected the change in Captain Tucker's breathing patterns, recognizing at once that the human sensed his bonded mate about to wake. Rising to his feet, Soval took several steps away from T'Pol's biobed, coming to a halt beside the now alert Commodore Archer; knowing that the commander would be at least momentarily disoriented, Soval did not wish a Vulcan male to be the first face she saw.
T'Pol opened her eyes slowly, still groggy from the sedative that Phlox had given her earlier, and almost immediately looked to the captain. Tucker let out a relieved breath as he leaned forward to within centimeters of his mate's face.
"You had me worried," the captain said softly in oddly accented Vulcan. He offered his left hand, fingers extended, and T'Pol reciprocated without thought or hesitation. As they touched, Soval thought that he could see the barest hint of a smile on her face.
"That was not my intention," she replied before pausing and continuing in English, "darlin'." The endearment was spoken in clear imitation of the captain and Tucker's sudden grin lit up his face. Glancing away from the intimate moment, Soval found himself fighting an inappropriate smile.
"You know," Commodore Archer whispered as he slid off of his bed, "if you would have told me they'd end up like this based on their first meeting, I'd have said you were crazy."
"They were antagonistic?" Soval asked, already suspecting the answer. He recalled T'Pol's first report on the command staff of the NX-01: she had singled Tucker out as an example of nearly everything wrong with humanity, citing only his sense of loyalty as a positive feature. Soval realized that he should have suspected her interest in the human even then.
"Oh yeah," Archer replied, chuckling at the memory. "Trip offered her his hand and she turned her back on him." The commodore gave another shake of his head. "For a while," he confessed to Soval, "I wasn't exactly sure what they really thought about each other." Doctor Phlox chuckled softly from where he stood as Archer continued with a smile. "Meeting their son kind of cleared it up for me."
"I would imagine so," Soval remarked dryly. He had analyzed nearly all of the classified reports from Enterprise's time in the Expanse, and their encounter with the future NX-01 had been fascinating to read. Though he still found the concept of time travel difficult to fathom, the evidence was far too conclusive to dismiss. A stray thought occurred to him: he would very much have liked to have met the half-Vulcan, half-human captain.
"Do you remember T'Pol's expression when you told us that Trip was Lorian's father?" Archer asked Phlox with a smile; the Denobulan returned it with one of his own.
"Indeed I do," the doctor replied. "She appeared..."
"Freaked out?" Archer suggested. He and the doctor chuckled.
"That is hardly an accurate assessment, Commodore," T'Pol commented abruptly as she sat up on the biobed. "I was merely ... unprepared for the revelation." Soval inclined his head slightly to her in greeting, noting that she and the captain once more appeared as nothing more than fellow officers.
"You had us worried there, Commander," Archer said, unknowingly repeating the captain's earlier words. She exchanged a brief amused glance with Tucker before replying.
"That was not my intention, Commmodore," T'Pol responded as her mate smirked. Once more, she looked into Tucker's eyes and Soval could feel the force of their bond.
"Trip's got people hunting for Tolaris," Commodore Archer said quietly, his tone mirroring the guilt in his eyes.
"I know," she replied simply. For a moment, the commodore looked confused, going so far as to open his mouth to question exactly when Tucker had filled her in, but understanding flickered suddenly in his eyes. Phlox, who had unobtrusively approached the bed to monitor its readouts, cleared his throat.
"I will release you to quarters," the doctor said with a slight smile, "providing you agree to rest." The Denobulan's eyes shifted to Tucker for a heartbeat. "Just rest," he insisted. As the captain flushed with embarrassment, Commodore Archer snickered and Soval glanced away to hide his own amusement. Tucker opened his mouth, no doubt to defend himself, when the intraship comm suddenly sounded.
"COB to Sickbay; prepare for incoming wounded."
And just like that, the atmosphere of levity was broken.
Within minutes, a squad of soldiers entered, bearing three stretchers. Soval recognized Lieutenant Commander Eisler upon one of the litters and the Vulcan Tolaris on a second, but the third defied identification. Phlox gave the unidentified human less than a cursory look, easily recognizing a lost cause, before quickly directing the soldiers to place Eisler and Tolaris on separate biobeds. He exchanged rapid words with one of the soldiers - a medic, Soval presumed - before turning his attention to the two patients.
Glancing briefly at T'Pol, the ambassador was momentarily startled to see that she had taken Captain Tucker's hand and clung to it as if it were a lifeline. Though her face betrayed no hint to her emotional state, her eyes were riveted on the face of Tolaris and Soval felt emotion stirring deep within him. With an effort, he let the anger flow over and through him, let his inner balance reassert itself.
It proved to be considerably more difficult than he anticipated.
The human medic dropped his gear and, pausing only long enough to run his hands through the sterilizing field, slid into the role of nurse with an ease that impressed Soval. Minutes passed in near silence, broken only by the occasional grunt or sigh from the Denobulan as he worked.
Finally, Phlox stepped back from the unconscious Vulcan, a frown on his expressive face. He gave the medic a nod of dismissal as Commodore Archer spoke.
"Well?" the commodore asked, and the doctor sighed.
"He's dying," the Denobulan said simply, and Tucker gave him a look of frustration.
"You're a miracle worker, Phlox," Captain Tucker replied sharply. "Can't you do anything?" The doctor's face was grim.
"None of his injuries are life threatening," Phlox explained as he brought up different readouts on the overhead display. "Painful, yes, but not terminal." Pointing to a new display of characters, he continued. "However, he received an injection of pain suppressors approximately six hours ago and this ... eh ... pain relief was contaminated with an aggressive strain of the Mu'barin plague."
"So," Archer said with surprise, "whoever treated him wanted him to die?"
"It would appear so, Commodore," the doctor said glumly.
"We need to know if he was working for the Romulans," Tucker pointed out. "Can you wake him up?" Phlox shook his head.
"Captain," he said with another frown, "his entire body is systematically shutting down. I couldn't wake him up if I tried."
From where he stood, Soval could see the effect of the doctor's words upon the three Starfleet officers. Archer and Tucker both shot nearly identical glares at the still form of the apostate, their eyes betraying the raw hatred they held for the man, even as T'Pol visibly relaxed. She had yet to release her mate's hand, though, and that was telling to a fellow Vulcan. Anger pulsed within Soval but he pushed it down.
"Captain," Soval said softly, his voice carrying across the room, "there is another way." Tucker glanced at him, understanding flickering quickly across his face.
"You sure?" he asked and Soval gave him a flat look. Had the situation been any less dire, the ambassador was sure that the captain would have smiled. Instead, he nodded and gave a discreet hand gesture to Commodore Archer, an unspoken "suggestion" to move out of the way, as Phlox drew the privacy curtain forward.
Without a word, Soval approached the unconscious Vulcan and placed his fingertips to the appropriate contact points. He took a steadying breath before whispering the ritualistic words that would allow him to access the wounded Vulcan's inner thoughts.
"My mind to your mind," Soval whispered, and felt the expected sensation of motion without movement. "My thoughts to your thoughts." It was as if he were falling from an impossible height, or flying through an endless void at an inconceivably vast speed. "Our thoughts are joining." Faster, his fall accelerated and he could sense the younger Vulcan's katra nearing. "Our thoughts are one," Soval finished and opened his mind's eye.
To his surprise, Soval faced the Fire Plains ... or rather, a memory of them. He breathed in the smell of home, felt the agreeable heat of the sun upon his skin, heard the distant sounds of life. Blinking away the moment, he returned his focus to the purpose of the meld.
"You are Tolaris." He identified the ghostly half-image of the younger Vulcan as it took shape in his mind's eye.
"And you are Soval," the apostate replied. "I know what you seek." And, for a fraction of a second, Tolaris' image twisted into something hideous, a bleak reflection of the corruption that tainted his katra.
"Will you surrender the information willingly?" Soval asked grimly, already aware of the answer. He was not disappointed.
"I will not!" Tolaris snarled and Soval almost - almost - smiled. The primal Vulcan in him exulted in that moment: a measure of justice and revenge would be meted out this day.
"Then you leave me no choice," Soval declared and, for the first time in his adult life, willingly let his control slip.
His fury at this Vulcan swelled within him, a raging torrent of winter that tried to sweep away logic, and Soval unleashed it all. It smashed into Tolaris' mental shields like a blizzard of ice, slicing through them as if they were little more than wet tissue paper. As his wrath swelled, Soval felt the dying Vulcan convulse on the biobed, heard Phlox's startled exclamation at the precipitous dive the wounded Vulcan's vitals abruptly took, but remained intent on his goal.
And yet, despite his pain, despite knowing that he was already dead, Tolaris rallied himself and erected telepathic defenses. Focusing his talents, the younger Vulcan became a sizzling inferno hotter than a sun's core and hurled his formidable strength at Soval in a last ditch attempt to keep his secrets. Fire met ice and was swept aside.
And Tolaris obeyed.
In seconds, Soval had found what he sought and, with great difficulty, forced his anger down. It was still there - a sphere of absolute zero that churned deep within his stomach - but his ruthless iron will contained it, keeping it suppressed. For less than a heartbeat, he flashed through Tolaris' memories, witnessing violations both mental and physical. T'Pol had not been the first. The fury pushed at his control, and urged to be let loose upon this ... creature, but Soval held it in check, maintaining his control. A cherished image swam up from Tolaris' mind then, an image from years past of a female struggling against a forced meld.
Soval's control faltered. Wrath exploded from him, and, in the moment before he could reassert control, raw emotion dictated his actions. The blizzard of ice slashed through everything that made Tolaris what he was, searing away identity and personality and katra.
He was still screaming when Soval pulled his fingers from the contact points, a wordless shriek of absolute agony and horror that echoed through the sickbay. His face creased in an angry frown, the ambassador glared at the dying Vulcan for a long moment, unaware of the ominous aspect he presented. Phlox moved into his line of sight, a hand-held scanner already buzzing. The Denobulan looked up, meeting Soval's eyes.
"Sedate him if you wish," the ambassador stated, his mask of Vulcan indifference firmly back in place. "He will not regain coherence before death." The momentary loss of control was gone, and Soval realized that he was unconcerned at his lapse. He looked up, locking gazes with Tucker.
"Did you get it?" the captain asked softly, his fingers yet interlaced with Commander T'Pol's. Tucker did not even give the screaming Tolaris a second look.
"I did." Soval drew a deep, cleansing breath as Phlox administered a hypospray to the dying Vulcan; at once, the screaming ceased. "He was, as you suspected, working for the Romulans." Tucker exchanged a grim look with Commodore Archer as Soval continued. "And there is more. They are coming."
"When?" Archer asked and already, Soval could see the three Starfleet officers planning strategies. As the ambassador opened his mouth to reply, the lights in sickbay abruptly flickered and an alarm began to sound.
"Tactical alert!" the intraship comm blared. "Senior officers to the bridge!"
"Guess that answers that," Tucker muttered as he extracted his hand from T'Pol's grasp. He narrowed his eyes at her. "Don't even think about it," he ordered and, in response, she raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Without another word to her or Soval, Tucker turned toward the door, Commodore Archer falling into step beside him. "Professor," the captain said to one of the soldiers as he passed through the door, "you're with me."
"Is it always like this among humans?" Soval asked softly, noting the flash of amusement in T'Pol's eyes as the three officers vanished through the doorway.
"Usually," she replied. The ambassador didn't move, but one eyebrow raised in consternation as he commented.
The End of STAR TREK: Endeavour: "Vigrid"
The story will be concluded in STAR TREK: Endeavour: "Ragnarök