(Continued from "Morning Dreaming")


"We do not know the true value of our moments until they have undergone the test of memory."
-Georges Duhamel


Setting: NEW ALEXANDRIA, Section I, Medical level
Stardate: 30151.0800

The ILO stood at attention, her eyes locked directly ahead into the surrounding while the aged man paced around her.  Although she could not see him, Shar'El could follow his progress as he circled like a vulture, the clicking of his heels on the hard floor sounding all too familiar.

"How do you feel?" the question came from the darkness and into the single bright beam of light in which the black haired woman had been standing in the middle of.  The word had been perfectly timed with the man's steps, adding an eerie emphasis to the query.

"I am feeling fine, Sir." The reply had been simple but more militaristic than the woman had thought it should have been.  She recalled the extent of her training and how important the chain of command had been made to be.  She also remembered a group of people who had showed her a different side of things, a group that she had grown to be closer to than she had ever expected to be.

"I do not believe you," the aged man said, his voice as cold as the surrounding darkness.  Even the clicking of his heels seemed to reflect his mood, having increased ever so slightly in loudness.

"I have no reason to lie, Sir." Shar'El remained perfectly still having figured that this had been some sort of test to gage her emotional responses. That this had been nothing more than a test had not bothered the ILO, what did bother the black haired woman though had been her ability to see through the aged man's attempt so easily.  From what little she recalled of him, he had been someone who excelled at this sort of thing able to play this game at a level that she should not have been able to match.

"Do you believe yourself to be ready to return to duty?" The question seemed to originate not from a single location but from all around the woman which made Shar'El instantly straighten her posture.

"I am, Sir." the ILO replied with assurance, again her answer having sounded far more militaristic than she had expected herself to sound.

A deep sigh filled the darkness as the clicking of the heels continued to circle the ILO.  After a few moments, the clicking began to move away, growing fainter with each step. "Report to Captain Morningstar in the ANUBIS' Observation Lounge at 0900."

When the lights came on to full illumination, the ILO found herself alone in the center of the room.  The test had been completed and apparently she had passed, whatever that meant.

Setting: USS ANUBIS, Deck 7, Corridor
Stardate: 30151.0820

The black haired, grey uniform wearing officer wandered the corridors of the ship as if searching for something, something that she did not know.  As she rounded a corner, a faint smile formed on the ILO's lips having recognized the section.  Somehow she had found her way to the Medical and Counseling area, and without a second thought she moved towards the door of Counselor' Dalziel's office.

Setting: Cns' Office

Eve sipped her coffee and sat behind her desk, her eyes almost half closed. She couldn't tell if she were just exhausted due to the lack of sleep last night, or all the upheaval over the combination of the disappearance of Shar'El and Lillie and the strong difference of opinions on Shar'El's medical care.

Her porcelain complexion looked even more pallid than usual as she thought ahead to the evening's plans. Formal diplomatic events were normally something she looked forward to, but she was in no mood to deal with anything other than the ship and the crew that she had managed to mesh with for the most part over the past several years. There were enough problems and concerns to keep her happily occupied. They could have used a vacation, not some pomp-filled evening of protocol. She heard they were offering spa treatments in preparation for the gala evening, but she wasn't sure if she was up to that sort of thing. Going back to bed, however, was a distinct possibility.

The door chime rang, which startled Eve. She didn't have any appointments for today. "Come in," she said, carefully putting down the cup she had almost spilled.

"Morning," Shar'El offered to the familiar woman as she stepped through the doorway, much more casually than she had the right to given her mysterious departure at the hands of Koniki.

Relief flooded the Cardassian born woman's features as she ushered the ILO inside. "What happened? Are you alright?"

Shar'El was wearing a nondescript gray uniform, and no rank insignia, but otherwise looked unharmed. "I'm... better."

"Do you need to go to Sickbay?"

The petite woman shook her head. "I've been cleared." She was having a little problem finding the words to fully express her feelings, but she felt a sense of home and comfort while on the ship and in Eve's office.

Dalziel watched the Intel officer carefully. As much as she wanted a medical scan or some other kind of test to back up Shar'El's claims, she could tell the ebony-haired woman needed a friend a lot more than a physician.

"Cleared for what, exactly?"

"I don't know," Shar'El responded with a slightly troubled expression. "I'll find out at the staff meeting at 0900."

The Counsellor realized that the woman seated across from her was different somehow than the calculating hermit she had been when she first arrived aboard the ANUBIS, and she was also different than the overloaded woman who had linked with the machine in the depths of the subterranean moon caves. Dalziel was pretty sure either of them wouldn't have willingly come to visit her in the small hours of the morning. But there she was, the carefully crafted mental wall she always held around herself nearly gone. But it had somehow been replaced with a unique coldness, a strange distance that Eve could sense but not understand. What had they done to her on NEW ALEXANDRIA?

"Well then, how about some breakfast? Maybe some oatmeal or fresh fruit?"

The Ullian hadn't realized how hungry she was until the suggestion was made. "Yes. Both. And some really strong coffee."

"Okay," Eve said, wasting no time in replicating a solid meal for both of them.

"You sound like a mother hen sometimes," Shar'El said, but followed with a confused look. It was as if she didn't understand where the assessment was coming from. Like she was saying someone else's words or reading from a script.

Eve raised an eyebrow. These snippets of blunt honesty from the ILO weren't typical either, but reminded her of their time in Sickbay while Mizore was being checked out after her own 'experience' with the device.

"Did they manage to free your neural pathways of the extra information?" Eve asked delicately as she set a tray of food and coffee in front of them.

Shar'El paused. Flashes of bright institutional lighting and disembodied voices blurred before her. It didn't frighten her; somehow she felt that they had taken care of her somehow. But she could not piece together the entire process. That was the part that concerned her. "I think so?"

"I'm sorry... I shouldn't have asked. It's just that you were whisked away so quickly-"

"The only thing that matters is that I'm back now." Shar'El tried to sound reassuring, but it seemed like she was trying to convince herself as much as the Counsellor.

Susan Ledbetter

Lieutenant JG Eve Dalziel