Chapter 2 <cont'd>
Counselor’s Office, Deck 4
Counselor Liu sat comfortably in his chair, looking across the compartment at Donald Sandhurst who reclined somewhat listlessly on the couch facing him. Sandhurst had checked out medically, and intensive genetic analysis had conclusively identified him as being the genuine article, and not some kind of clone or shapeshifting doppelganger. However, it was apparent that something was still ‘off’ about the captain.
“I know you’ve been through all this before, Captain,” Liu began. “But before Starfleet Command is willing to even consider allowing you to return to duty, they want to make sure you’re not under the influence of any kind of external stimuli that might pose a threat to Federation security.”
Sandhurst nodded soberly. “I’m familiar with the many return-to-duty hoops I’ll have to jump through.”
“So, this is the part where I ask you how you’re feeling,” Liu said light-heartedly.
“Fine,” was Sandhurst’s concise response.
Sandhurst looked out the viewport for a moment, his eyes registering the passage of star-streaks as Europa
warped towards her stricken comrades aboard Galaxy
. “I don’t really know how I feel, Counselor. That’s the problem.”
“Can you elaborate on that?” Liu prompted.
“Being with the Amon, absorbing their ‘holy’ energy matrix… it gave me a feeling of complete and utter belonging, a peace I haven’t known in years. Hell, maybe ever.”
“You believe this energy source altered your perceptions and thought processes?”
“Absolutely,” Sandhurst confirmed. “That’s the most troubling part of it all.” He rubbed his forehead absently with one hand. “After my abduction and torture by the Baron, I felt lost and adrift because he’d intentionally altered some of my oldest and most fundamental memories. Despite that, I still managed to feel like myself, even as I was working on Betazed to recover my actual memories. The Baron planted false recollections in my head, and although they seemed absolutely real, they felt wrong because the actions I remembered carrying out were so fundamentally unlike me.”
Liu remained silent, allowing Sandhurst to continue at his own pace.
“But with the Amon, I had access to all my own memories, to my training, my sense of duty as a Starfleet officer the whole time. But despite all that, everything I’d held to be important… of value… it all seemed to matter less and less with each passing day. I felt such a deep kinship with the Amon that I’d have willingly joined them, left my life, my career, my family all behind without a second thought.”
Liu offered, “That has to be deeply unnerving.”
“Just a bit,” Sandhurst said, intentionally underemphasizing the point.
“Do you think the energy source you were exposed to is what the Amon believe it to be, actual life-energy from sentient beings?”
Sandhurst shook his head. “I can’t say, Counselor. They themselves refuse to speculate as to the potential religious implications of it. But based on what I felt, I could easily believe it’s true. It’s like being saturated with life itself. Physically I was stronger and faster, my thoughts were clearer and more intuitive. The artwork the Amon claimed to have infused with life-essence almost seemed to vibrate with a kind of consciousness, just below the surface of my perceptions. I could feel
what I’d articulate as ‘life’ coming from them.”
“’I feel’, ‘it felt’,” parroted Liu. “It’s important you understand that people’s perceptions can be altered. You may well have been intentionally manipulated into feeling a certain way.”
“Oh, I understand that completely,” Sandhurst answered agreeably. “I’m just saying that while under the influence of the life-essence, I could rationally understand and acknowledge that I was being manipulated, and still not care.”
Liu’s eyes widened fractionally. “Potent stuff, then.”